Finding the trail in the search for knowledge


Bird Droppings May 23, 2012

Finding the trail in the search for knowledge

 

“All things in the world are two. In our minds we are two, good and evil. With our eyes we see two things, things that are fair and things that are ugly…. We have the right hand that strikes and makes for evil, and we have the left hand full of kindness, near the heart. One foot may lead us to an evil way; the other foot may lead us to a good. So are all things two, all two.” Eagle Chief, (Letakos-Lesa), Pawnee

 

            A spiritual leader and elder of the Cherokees of North Carolina writes about in one of his books about the theory of opposites and how in Indian belief there is always an opposite to contrast and compare the other too. This also ties into circle of life that runs through this philosophy. Almost as a compass has opposing points within its circle life has its opposite aspects. Black and white, north and south, east and west, love and hate, wet and dry and the list continues on as we need each to understand and appreciate the circle of life. As I sat reading and writing the past few days primarily on various Indian philosophies and understandings I noticed that the main methodology of conveying of this knowledge had been word of mouth down through time. Within a given tribe or family group knowledge was past from elder to child. 

Continuing that idea further in today’s world how do we as teachers who in the now are considered to be the main purveyors of this transfer and parents convey knowledge to our students and children? It could be said that by following the established curriculum guides and maps and doing what is expected of a high school student you will learn this material. I think my frustration comes when students do not want to learn. I get very frustrated when I hear statements such as I know enough to get along in this world already or know enough about this subject. I think my favorite is why do I need this anyhow? It has been nearly ten years since I first met Frances Friedman at Loganville High School.    

 

“I do believe that with some students, if they are not ready, learning cannot occur. But I worry that some students aren’t ready because they are not aware of the full table that is set. There is rejection without knowledge. I think the challenge may be to try to get them to the full table and then let them decide.” Frances Friedman

 

 I have been sitting here thinking about this email from a dear friend for several minutes, pondering and reflecting. What if we do not provide enough information to a student? I spend much of my day doing academic support with emotionally disturbed students. Many times I will hear from students the teacher never taught us that. Trying to keep both sides in perspective I will discuss with the students teacher and with the student and work out a compromise of sorts, often just buying a bit of time. However often there can be learning curves on both ends especially with special needs students.  Over the summer I am gathering data on the ten percent of students who do not pass standardized tests. It is easy to look at scores of passing students and understand why they succeed in class. But why do others not succeed in that same class?

 

 “There is rejection without knowledge” Frances Friedman

 

“Knowledge is that which, next to virtue, truly raises one person above another.” Joseph Addison

 

 I have always been fascinated with information. It made my day when several years back the game Trivial Pursuit came out and became a big hit tiny bits of information questioned and answered. On TV the show Jeopardy is still a popular game watched around the world and it was here where a few years back Ken Jennings won over two million dollars with bits and pieces of information. He defeated opponents by answering over two thousand seven hundred questions correctly. It has been a few years since the final episode of his winning streak aired and no one has equaled his feat.  

 

“Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you: you must acquire it.” Sadie Black

 

“I think knowing what you cannot do is more important than knowing what you can.” Lucille Ball

 

We have to encourage active participation in students. We have to try and instill a curiosity and not set limits and parameters on learning. Far too often in today’s standards based curriculum there is a preapproved package of information that is taught because this is what is on the end of course test that we all have to pass. Anything else is superfilous. If students do not know something, then we should provide the means, the pathway, so that they can learn. Knowing where to find an answer can be as meaningful in the life of a student as the knowledge of that answer.

 

“It is not good to know more unless we do more with what we already know.” R.K. Bergethon

 

“Knowledge is like money: the more he gets, the more he craves.” Josh Billings

 

Trying to keep learners learning is the key to great teaching. It is about making learning something students want and need. I would borrow from a friend who teaches high school and teaches in Pennsylvania, “Make learning fun”. 

 

“To me the charm of an encyclopedia is that it knows and I needn’t.” Francis Yeats Brown  

 

“Never mistake knowledge for wisdom. One helps you make a living; the other helps you make a life.” Sandra Carey

 

When I was in second grade we got our first set of World Book encyclopedias. I thought I was in heaven and literally began reading the books cover to cover. My mother told my sons recently that I would go to bed with a World Book under my arm. As I now sit and remember minute details of the ancient past and try to instill knowledge to young folks, it is not to go read the entire encyclopedia but it is, in which room and on what shelve they are located. With modern technology it is now about what and how to find information on the internet. Knowing where things are is really more important than knowing every single fact, although the facts help. We in education get into a content and context sort of disagreement. Some teachers want to teach only content and others believe that context is the motivating force. It is true however that for information or knowledge to be useful and coherent, it has to have context. 

 

“It is not the quantity but the quality of knowledge which determines the mind’s dignity.” William Ellery Channing

 

“Knowledge of the world can only to be acquired in the world, and not in a closet.” Lord Chesterfield

 

We have to provide the venues and pathways to information, and to acquire knowledge, Ms. Friedman stated in the first quote. Students have to have access to the table. If we set a wonderful feast before them and don’t allow access to the table, of what good is all that is there. They will still starve.

 

“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.” Confucius

 

“Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass, the mere materials with which wisdom builds, till smoothed and squared and fitted to its place, does but encumber whom it seems to enrich. Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more.” William Cowper

 

Can there ever be enough knowledge? Should we ever limit what knowledge is available? In 1956 the great theologian Reinhold Niebuhr wrote this simple prayer as part of one of his sermons. 

 

“God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Reinhold Niebuhr

 

For many years that simple philosophy written on a card has been laying on my desk. I recall a scene from a movie; most folks will not remember one of my favorite films of all time, “Billy Jack” where this prayer is used. Imagine a school or society where we lived what Niebuhr taught in his prayer. What if we applied serenity, courage and wisdom to our lives daily? Today we are challenged by which way to go and why.  Thinking back many years to an old movie “Indiana Jones and The last Crusade”, “choose wisely” the old knight told Indiana Jones and he did.  It is about teaching our students and children to choose wisely in life and in learning. Today is the first day of my summer holiday.  Last Friday we graduated our seniors to go out into life and hopefully many will continue to learn to seek knowledge and understanding. Some will stop learning and simply exist by finding jobs that pay enough to survive and function. It saddens me when I think of how limiting some people’s view of life is.

As I read various postings earlier on Facebook, a former student wrote about dreaming about what if you knew you could never fail at what you did. I responded that it would make all of your effort less and of a lesser quality. Knowing you can fail is what drives us to succeed and accomplish our tasks in life. I go back to my starting quote.

 

“All things in the world are two. In our minds we are two, good and evil. With our eyes we see two things, things that are fair and things that are ugly…. We have the right hand that strikes and makes for evil, and we have the left hand full of kindness, near the heart. One foot may lead us to an evil way; the other foot may lead us to a good. So are all things two, all two.” Eagle Chief, (Letakos-Lesa), Pawnee

 

            In life it is about balance, we need failure to provide guidance and leverage for success. We need understanding to counter balance ignorance. We need on each side of the circle an opposite to provide the continuity that drives the life force of this reality. As I hear of death and illness there are new lives being brought into this world there are those being cured for everyone being found in sickness? How we cope with and deal with each aspect is with knowledge and understanding. I walk out into the darkness without fear knowing that soon light will permeate the dark. A dear friend’s father in law passed away and several I have known for years have in recent days been imposed the task of dealing with cancer and soon an end to their life’s journey. It is with these friends and their families I end each morning with please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts. Today so many here right beside are in need of support and concern. Keep each one with you as you go about your day and to always give thanks.

namaste

bird

 

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