Can we find truth in an untruthful world?

Bird Droppings April 30, 2013
Can we find truth in an untruthful world?

I went back to a book again for the third or fourth time, a book titled; every day is a good day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous women, by the late Wilma Mankiller. Mankiller was the past Chief of The Cherokee Nation and a Native American Activist, author, lecturer and several time cancer survivor. I borrowed my status for today on Facebook from her writings. My plans were to be writing this morning about this book but after a week of sinus issues and allergies and working on several new lesson plans this morning I was a bit side tracked with trying to get anything done today. I might need another dose of antibiotics and steroids a last resort of sorts although so far I feel better than I felt yesterday. Today I will be addressing an issue at the foundation of why so many issues of today even exist. The situation is there truth or a lack thereof in our society today.

“I don’t think anybody anywhere can talk about the future of their people or of an organization without talking about education. Whoever controls the education of our children controls our future. “ “In Iroquois society, leaders are encouraged to remember seven generations in the past and consider seven generations in the future when making decisions that affect the people. “ Wilma Mankiller
After pondering and reading more of Wilma Mankiller’s book I always find new pieces that just seem to mean more today than they did the previous time reading. One of these aspects is truth. When elected Chief many years back Wilma was the first woman to be elected head of any of the major tribes. She based her life and philosophy on truth. So perhaps it is appropriate today that I will be addressing an issue at the foundation of why so many issues of the day even exist, the truth or the lack thereof.

“A king asked a sage to explain the Truth. In response the sage asked the king how he would convey the taste of a mango to someone who had never eaten anything sweet. No matter how hard the king tried, he could not adequately describe the flavor of the fruit, and, in frustration, he demanded of the sage ‘Tell me then, how would you describe it?’ The sage picked up a mango and handed it to the king saying ‘This is very sweet. Try eating it!’” Hindu Teaching Story

Sometimes in the simplest way we can get a point across just telling the truth. Nothing can describe more adequately than truth. I have written about truth numerous times and talked with teachers and educational experts about that same subject. It is very hard to always be truthful in our society today. Many times we can question; what is truth much as did the great philosophers of old. As I read the Hindu parable above it hit me. Maybe truth is within the experience, borrowing from the great educator and philosopher John Dewey, truth is within the experience and it is being able to find it through a life event.

“It is a pleasure to stand upon the shore, and to see ships tossed upon the sea: a pleasure to stand in the window of a castle, and to see a battle and the adventures thereof below: but no pleasure is comparable to standing upon the vantage ground of truth… and to see the errors, and wanderings, and mists, and tempests, in the vale below.” Sir Francis Bacon

“It is unfortunate, considering that enthusiasm moves the world, that so few enthusiasts can be trusted to speak the truth.” Arthur James Balfour

As I read what these great thinkers have to say about truth it is sad that they see truth as an uncommon commodity, something that is few and far between. We watch news and read papers each day and choose to believe or not believe what we see. Bat boy is having plastic surgery to look normal was the title of a grocery store tabloid many months back. One of my favorites was when Bill Clinton was in office and he was having sex with an alien. Most of us see these doctored photos and total fabrications and pass them off as such but some people take to heart. There are many who believe Apollo missions were total fabrication due to for example the Van Allen Belts and numerous other events in history were fabricated as well. Conspiracy theories abound about daily happenings all leading to this or that conclusion. Many have been scientifically debunked including the attack of Nine Eleven yet they persist. A local science professor comments in class while teaching genetics that the Apollo mission is a hoax. How can one thing he never saw be bogus and yet teach again something he never saw.

“Between truth and the search for it, I choose the second.” Bernard Berenson

“When you want to fool the world, tell the truth.” Otto Von Bismarck

Why is it, that truth is so elusive? I find it so hard to understand that we go at life literally intent on fabrication, deceit and deception. Bismarck’s comment though near a hundred years old is still very much true.

“Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believed.” William Blake

“Truth lies within ourselves: it takes no rise from outward things, whatever you may believe. There is an inmost center in us all, where truth abides in fullness and to Know rather consists in opening out a way whence the imprisoned splendor may escape than in effecting entry for light supposed to be without.” Robert Browning

“A few observations and much reasoning lead to error; many observations and a little reasoning to truth.” Alexis Carrel

I look back and see how so many times in avoiding truth the tales grew with each moment and soon a story takes the place of a simple event and soon a novel unravels and the line between fiction and nonfiction becomes literally a canyon.

“The pursuit of truth will set you free; even if you never catch up with it.” Clarence Darrow

“Time is precious, but truth is more precious than time.” Benjamin Disraeli

“Only the hand that erases can write the true thing.” Meister Eckhart

Isn’t it sad that truth is so difficult and yet so easy, telling the truth eliminates numerous additional words and time that could be spent perhaps going in the right direction rather than pursuing issues that really may not even pertain. It is so simple and yet so elusive to so many.

“The greater the truth the greater the libel.” Lord Ellenborough

“Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

We so easily get caught up in deceit because this is what we want to hear. Watching news of our current president unfold and spun by each side two seemingly different stories almost opposite in content yet the same event. The truth may be painful or difficult to take and so the fabrication becomes the reality. A movie out a few years back portrays the world of a schizophrenic, “A beautiful Mind”. Dr. John Nash is played by Russell Crowe very convincingly. Dr. Nash eventually realizes the duplicity of his reality and learns to deal with it. Many of us never accept the unreal we create each day as we fabricate and manipulate that around us.
We are brought up accepting untruth; we have professionals, politicians who work at telling half-truths and fabricating it to do their jobs, as they run the country. Wouldn’t it be an interesting world if politicians could take a few drops of medicine and become truthful? Problem is we wouldn’t have a use for politicians and anyone could run for office. Would it not be great if we could believe those who run the country for us, elected by us, and not rely on shock jock radio and TV personalities who literally build there listening audience on deceit. What if the president was telling the truth and the commentators who are angling for listeners are lying? As I look at this concept it is truly sad that we have such a short attention span. We tend to listen to the loudest and most exciting version even when we watch an event unfold and know what is real. I wonder how many people believed the photo of Bill Clinton and the Alien back in the day. Recently a movie The Campaign, essentially a comedy jokingly made its way back and forth until just before the end and the fellow who was down in the poles began telling the truth and changed the election.

“Respect for the truth comes close to being the basis for all morality.” Frank Herbert

“Peace if possible, but truth at any rate.” Martin Luther

“You’ll never get mixed up if you simply tell the truth. Then you don’t have to remember what you have said, and you never forget what you have said.” Sam Rayburn

We live in a society where morality is bantered about as a catch word. We live in a world where peace is elusive often because truth is nowhere to be found. We live in a world where politicians are counting how many times the other side has changed their minds and or rhetoric on issues. We live in a world where many are in harm’s way and many of these instances are due to untruths, which we then justify through buying into additional untruthful information and rationales. Do we even remember the what and the why of the actual event? So as I sit reading and writing this morning please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

Quietly listening to Bob Dylan and pondering the word inspiration

Bird Droppings April 29,, 2013
Quietly listening to Bob Dylan and pondering the word inspiration

Nearly eight years ago at our county wide teacher kick off meeting which is traditionally a packaged inspirational meeting and welcome for the new school year lead by a brought in speaker. Someone is paid to come in and inspire us as teachers it could be a comedian or professional speaker and it seems each year they try a new approach. I would enjoy going to hear Nelson Mandela or Bishop Tutu maybe even Jimmy Carter but so far no such luck. In the past before austerity cut the county start up program, we would car pool over to the high school gym near our county office and sit in the bleachers listening to pep talks and such and most teachers leave wishing they had called in sick. I once considered asking for a substitute but our secretary did not think the county would cover a sub. However a recent speaker to our seniors reminded me of that meeting nearly nine years back. A young black college professor stood in front of us. He made his point not one person approached him as he boogied through the crowd prior to the meeting. The quest speaker for our seniors made this point as well about first impressions. So I start today with a quote from a young college professor.

“You can teach anyone anything once you get their ATTENTION.” Dr. Adolph Brown, III

Prior to at aforementioned annual teachers inspirational gathering in the county this same professor was walking about the crowd clad in hip hop attire, the baggy pants and shirt and baseball cap with a dew rag. He could have been from any street corner in Atlanta or Monroe where the school is located he was just a young black man. As they announced Dr. Brown, a very distinguished man in a business suit and such rises and heads towards podium and then the hip hop fellow moves toward the mike and takes charge and announces he is Dr. Adolph Brown III from Hampton College, professor of psychology and education. He is a world-wide consultant and motivational speaker.

“The dream begins with a teacher who believes in you, who tugs and pushes and leads you to the next plateau, sometimes poking you with a sharp stick called ‘truth.’” Dan Rather

We teachers sat listening to this young professor talk about faith, trust and getting students attention.

“In teaching you cannot see the fruit of a day’s work. It is invisible and remains so, maybe for twenty years.” Jacques Barzun

New teachers come in wanting to make changes in student’s lives immediately and it does happen but the real changes are those often years later. Recently a former history teacher joined our high school group site and many of our members were offering memories of this great teacher’s efforts both in the classroom and as a coach. Mr. Ross Kershey was one of the winningest basketball and track coaches in Pa. and a truly great teacher in the class room inspiring students to learn. It has been over forty five years since I was in his class yet I still consider him one of the best teachers I ever had. Over the years I have set at the feet of some great teachers in college classes and in industrial seminars and as a professional management training coordinator.

“Most teachers have little control over school policy or curriculum or choice of texts or special placement of students, but most have a great deal of autonomy inside the classroom. To a degree shared by only a few other occupations, such as police work, public education rests precariously on the skill and virtue of the people at the bottom of the institutional pyramid.” Tracy Kidder

I had a former student come by to visit me a few years back he had walked across the stage nearly eleven years ago to accept a special education diploma and then went on and officially finished high school and received his general education diploma and went on to college. It was a good feeling to be sitting there talking with a student who kept at it and succeeded even though all the odds were stacked against him.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward

This is what teaching is about, it is inspiration and I wish all teachers could have heard those comments we heard in our Walton County teachers meeting that year when Dr. Brown offered the key component in teaching it is our example. It is setting the example for students. I have heard that before many times and somehow it does not sink in with most teachers. So as we head towards a school end for the summer and End of Course Tests the next few weeks at our school please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

Using Pronouns

Bird Droppings April 26, 2013
Using Pronouns

It was one of those days yesterday and a word caught my attention as I was listening to a friend talk. The word was them. I never realized the extent of prejudice till a pronoun was used. Such words as they, them, or those people never were clearly a term used to delineate who they or them was but it was obvious within moments. It was about then that they took over in that area or verbiage to that extent. I wrote a whimsical tale of observation this morning to a friend about watching a leave floating along a stream. My premise was do we allow the leave to pass or do we interfere lifting the floating leave from its journey to observe or interact.
I recall I had lunch with a dear friend back a few days, someone who reflects with me on many topics. This person does not use they or them unless referring to political parties or politicians. I recall my oldest son came along as he was helping me at school move and such to my new abode on C hall. This was over ten years ago. We talked of education at lunch of why so many teachers have difficulty and of why some parents have a hard time and why some children end up the way they do. We discussed scholars and philosophers and we talked of my son’s journey in school which is only a few months away and he finishes his Masters hopefully he will have a firm job offer nearby.
We reflected on my own life’s journey and directions and that of several mutual friends and the paths they had taken. We compared our observations, made notes and reflected on new directions and pathways ahead. I raised the question as I heard earlier in the day of them and we talked of them and is there a difference in teaching us or them is there a difference in attitudes between us and them.
It is so funny when two people, three actually my son was there talking about life and attitudes and are very positive, it is hard to use pronouns of us and them it changed to we continually. We should do this or this, not us and or them.

“There is a destiny that makes us brothers, No one goes his way alone; All that we send into the lives of others, Comes back into our own.” Edwin Markham

As I talk with people and email I find I am no longer simply an observer I am now interacting altering by my words that moment of destiny and of the future. My choice to use or not use a word or even discuss a subject and respond positively or negatively affects the journey for myself and that other person.

“When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We need to sometimes take a stand and try to alter destiny it really isn’t destiny till it happens anyway. We can change the direction of the leaf floating by, a slight movement a word and perhaps light can permeate even the darkest of corners and a person who sees only in black and white may be allowed to see color and realize in an instant what has been missing in their journey. A professor and I were discussing the butterfly effect. The flap of a butterfly’s wing in the Andes of Peru could create enough turbulence to alter the path of a hurricane. As I thought deeper, never simply let a leave float by if you know only a few feet away is a waterfalls. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and pull a few leaves from the current when you get a chance as I will and always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

Can we try and define Quality?

Bird Droppings April 25, 2013
Can we try and define Quality?

I have begun reading extensively the past few weeks putting together thoughts for my dissertation in my studies at Georgia Southern University and for teaching with The University of Phoenix. One of those that passed through my hands these past few days and actually a few minutes ago on my writing table is, The Quality School, by Dr. William Glasser, M.D. It has been sometime since I had looked through it but by chance was among the ones I pulled out as I read this week.
As I went about my day yesterday at school I had my usual flow of students through my room some want questions answered or to borrow a camera. Others want to say hi or use a computer to print out a project or report. As I look ahead a week or two as we wind down many teachers have and or will have completed their lessons due to early end of course tests from the state and then it will be crazy. As in years past some students will be bored so they will come to my room to discuss snakes, salamanders and frogs or take pictures digitally and work on their various projects and images on the computers. Occasionally someone is tired and will fall asleep and wrap up in one of my hand woven blankets thrown around in the back of the room.
What always amazed me was my old second hand beat up rough looking futon used to be like a magnet to students and teachers alike but it has gone the way of extinction. I had had kids want to buy it saying it is the most comfortable sofa in the world. So that leads me to quality and how do we define it? As I read through Glasser’s book I recalled one of my own credos. Number one on Bird’s list for schools is that students have to want to be there. If students do not want to be in school you are starting off in a losing mode before you even get to try and teach.

“Students tell me that a good teacher is deeply interested in the students and in the material being taught. They also say that such a teacher frequently conducts class discussions and does not place themselves above them, and they are comfortable talking to them.” Dr. William Glasser

Something caught my attention as I read what students wrote in my yearbooks over the years. Several have been writing in each yearbook for each of the past four years now and many are good friends. Some teachers would argue that point pointing to not building friendships with students.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a warm and tender hand. The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.” Henri Nouwen

As I read the various yearbook quotes “Thank you for listening” “Thank you for just being here” “Thank you for understanding me” I started to think what is a friend anyhow? Is not a friend someone who will listen without criticizing and trying to resolve each petty detail?

“The most I can do for my friend is simply be his friend.” Henry David Thoreau

Building on this idea of friendship and going back to Glasser who uses in his idea of a quality school the concept of choice theory; which is providing opportunity for choice from teachers and students. It is building choice into the program so there is ownership of what is being learned.

“True friendship comes when silence between two people is comfortable.” Dave Tyson Gentry

It is difficult for me to sit quietly recently I sent an email to one of our assistant principal’s about how our minute of silent meditation went to 2.7 minutes and broke down costs and such I was being sarcastic since I do enjoy my meditative state probably more so than most do.

“One doesn’t know, till one is a bit at odds with the world, how much one’s friends who believe in one rather generously mean to one.” D.H. Lawrence

One of my reasons for picking up the book by Glasser was to look at similarities to the Foxfire approach taught at Piedmont College and that I am developing my dissertation on and about. Foxfire is based on a democratic class room promoted by John Dewey as early as 1918 a man considerably ahead of his time even considered progressive today.

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic cords of memory will swell when again touched as surely they will be by the better angels of our nature.” Abraham Lincoln

I was sitting watching the Trial of Billy Jack a few months back and listening to and watching how Billy Jack conquered his inner demons. He was focusing on the days of turmoil and tribulations that he had experienced. My wife always picks on me when I watch my hero Billy Jack. Yesterday a red tailed hawk caught my attention as it flew alongside me as I was driving home chasing a mouse. When I arrived at my house a small storm was coming through it seemed that with clouds swirling overhead and as I looked out the window sunshine was streaming in as well. I ran out and was thinking perhaps our first rainbow of the year would be across the sky but not yesterday and the clouds blocked the pink full moon as well.

“A true friend embosoms freely, advises justly, assists readily, adventures boldly, takes all patiently, defends courageously, and continues a friend unchangeably.” William Penn

A teacher then is a friend according to William Penn founder of Pennsylvania and staunch pacifist. If we as teachers would take this view of friendship perhaps more would happen in education.

“Education is the process in which we discover that learning adds quality to our lives. Learning must be experienced.” Dr. William Glasser

Teaching is showing and giving quality to life.

“Caring for but never trying to own may be a further way to define friendship.” Dr. William Glasser

Towards the end of the one of my favorite of all time movies, Bill Jack as I am listening, a comment is made by the heroine Jean, “peaceful evolution versus violent revolution” and I thought what a powerful and interesting idea. Can we spread friendship; can we be better friend’s higher quality friends? Maybe just maybe we can create a better world if we put our minds to it. Yesterday a bill was signed and some feel money wasted but as I think an effort is being made to better educate and better provide capabilities for hungry and needy children and how can we ever say that is wasted money. Please keep all in harm’s way in your hearts and on your mind and to always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

How deep is the soul?

Bird Droppings April 24, 2013
How deep is the soul?

I received an email from a dear friend many years back after writing about humor and it truly made me think as I looked back on some older notes and thoughts last night and as I pondered I found the response I sent to her and it scares me how we can humorize our dark side often to a point of distain or callousness:

Dear Bird,
How about the humor of John Stewart and S. Colbert? Does anyone ever think that some incidents are too sensitive or horrendous to allow for satire or humor?
Frances

My response: I have an issue with humor that plays to our dark sides. Perhaps even primitive aspects of who we are. Movies like Jack Ass and the humor portrayed and Stewart and Colbert are mild compared to South Park, for example. Colbert is on a higher intellectual plane than South Park I think at times. But the audiences thrive on it sadly enough and I think it is this aspect of humanity that allows the atrocities of man to happen as well. I remember once in Sixth grade a girl in special education who lived in the worst part of the community not even public housing but simply shacks along the river outside town. The joke was calling people names derived from that community and or specific people that lived there. I look back and I know I probably did this as well yet maybe it is my karma to be making up for my part. I still cringe when I hear the word retard even more so than the n-word. I am reading on Foucault currently and much of his base philosophy in this book is focused on mental institutions and “normal” versus “abnormal” and I wonder as I read and see watching several older American Idol shows and how the judges belittle people some who were special needs what a sad state our society is in. bird

“Humor is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humor; for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit.” Aristotle

Often having been in teaching of special needs kids when with other teachers who have been in similar situations we will joke about events of the past not at a student’s expense as much as the moment and ourselves. Being bitten or changing a really nasty diaper which is often common place in some settings are good examples. One of my favorite over the years was an OCD student who once asked me 54 times if he could hold our class room pet, Stevie the wonder snake a ball python. I ignored him and was working at my computer this was before school and a general education student who did not have the capacity for patience and or ignoring that I do final blurted out to the young man “I love you” and tapped him on the shoulder. He took off to farthest corner in the room. She then asked me did I not hear him and I said I use planned ignoring and really did not after three or four times. All it took was changing the subject to derail that OCD event and she had. I still have contact with this OCD student and he is in his twenties and never went back to school after that year. He was afraid of the new principal. When the new principal took over nine years ago he was so terrified from middle school of this man he couldn’t be in the same building so he still sits at home and watches TV. His disability keeps him from working.

“Humor is also a way of saying something serious.” T. S. Elliot

As I think and wonder maybe it is seeing the issues at hand and simply using as a medium for truth for opening eyes as I look at some of the dark humor of our time. But I do not see people viewing that way I see people watching a movie or show and laughing at often human frailty and those human aspects. Over the past years I have written several papers dealing with the search for the human soul. An aspect that Jung, Hillman, and Moore all psychologists and authors write extensively on.

“Education must ensure that not only the material but the inward life of the individual be developed. Education should address not the isolated intellect, as the advocates of standards suggest it ought, but the hopes and dreams of the self of which intellect – the complex reflective self – is merely a part.” Allan Block

We get so caught up in testing, pretesting, predictor testing and testing of testing we lose sight of who these children really are and could be. I have used the term funneling or forcing as much as possible into a bottle through a funnel till it will over flow. It is often these aspects of individuality and context for example that get left behind in the overflow.

“Piercing through the illusions of modern life is extremely difficult, given a culture where advertising and other media forms are organized so persistently to produce mass public deception” D. G. Smith

Smith, points to an ongoing issue we have in finding who we are and why. The illusions according to Smith:

“Obliterate the lines between fact and fiction” D. G. Smith

We live in a society where deception is part of life. We listen to politicians tell us what we want to hear and or think we want to hear and we follow blindly. Why do we have to win a war “divisively”? Why do we even ….. ? I was very frustrated listening knowing how much was based on deception on lies and yet billed as we have to keep going whatever it takes. We are a world and society of immediacy. Sadly is also is as we slowly lose are humanity.

“Maybe this is the time to embark collectively on a new long journey inward, not for the purpose simply of celebrating our personal or collective subjectivities, but for the nobler one of laying down the outward things that enslaves us.” D. G. Smith

This inner look is mentioned often as psychologists and theologians struggle with the concept of who we are.
“We need to know more of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself” Carl G. Jung

Uncovering our past and memories is part of looking at who we are. The idea that soul or spirit is just confined to religion can be seen in the understanding of what constitutes that inner search. A word used often as a search word is faith and is explained in Dr. James Fowler’s book The Development of Faith published in 1981.

“Faith is not always religious in its content or context. To ask these questions of oneself does not necessarily mean to elicit answers about religious commitment or belief. Faith is a persons or groups way of moving into the force field of life.” Dr. James Fowler

The search and looking within trying to understand who we are trying to find soul is part of who we are. It is what makes us human and drives how we interact with the existing world and how we perceive that world.

“The subjective side of spirit is nature, matter and human life. But this subjective side that moves through us is unconscious” Dr. Marla Morris

Spirit is then who we are subjectively?

“Somewhere between reality and fantasy, between need and want, between the affect and the idea, and between dependency and autonomy, there can emerge the material from which the subject spins a life” Deborah Britzman

We end in metaphysical subjectivity as to what is this entity of spirit and or soul? Deciphering the concept of soul which too often is tied to a religious connotation is challenging. Thomas Moore, student of James Hillman, a former priest and now psychologist and counselor defines soul in his writings and lectures.

“Soul is not a thing, but a quality or dimension of experiencing life and ourselves. It has to do with the depth value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance. I do not use the word here as an object of religious belief or something to do with immortality. When we say someone has soul we know what we mean.” Thomas Moore

“Renaissance philosophers often said that it is the soul that makes us human. We can turn around and note that is when we are most human we have the greatest access to soul” Thomas Moore

Mary Aswell Doll, professor of Literature at Savannah College of Arts and Sciences, in the introduction to her book, Like letters in running Water, includes her thoughts which deal with her interdisciplinary studies on religion and psychology that help probe the inner workings of soul. She mentions, “It is only through coming to terms with inner understanding that we can address outer concerns”. It takes inner looks to stir and fire up the imagination and to build and develop ideas and expand learning.
“To talk about the “soul”, we might as well say inner life of children. My latest book Education and the soul talks about Soul in a moral sense, which is really taken out of a religious sense” Jack Miller

It is that inner being of who are that is our soul. Is it soul that we are leaving behind in our effort to be the ultimate consumer and to produce children who can test and test well and take another test and do well or who will listen without questioning the deceit of politicians and advertising and buy products they do not need and support wars not needed and politicians who are not needed. Many thoughts to ponder on this Wednesday mid- week morning so please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

Can we figure a way to filter it all?

Bird Droppings April 23, 2013
Can we figure a way to filter it all?

“Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information.” T.S. Elliot

Sifting through the tons of information that bombard us daily is a task, be it emails, text messages, cell phone calls, advertising on the internet and the vast assortment of print media. I was involved a few semesters back in a graduate class looking at the impact of technology on education and on the human condition. I picked as a paper topic one that might have seemed somewhat religious yet really is not, “Can we find god at Radio Shack?” When I reviewed for the hundredth time the T.S. Elliot quote and think about the standardizing, categorizing and commercial packaging of education I see the down side of technology. I see the loss of wisdom, faith and in a sense for some people of god.
On computers there are filters and favorites what a paradox. We can assign topics we choose to see or not and quick ways to get to favorites. I n most schools this is left to the teacher, administrator and or Board office. In my readings the constant use of the term human capital is used in reference to our students and education. We can be manipulated through our media and media usage. Corporate entities that donate software and or hardware with their advertising imbedded.

“There’s a compelling reason to master information and news. Clearly there will be better job and financial opportunities. Other high stakes will be missed by people if they don’t master and connect information.” Everett Dennis

“With so much information now online, it is exceptionally easy to simply dive in and drown.” Alfred Glossbrenner

Picking and choosing should be a seemingly simple task, sorting through the deluge of information pouring out each day. For many no big deal, it is easy even child’s play, yet for some as Glossbrenner states, they drown in the vast pool of information. I remember many years ago in Red Cross water Safety courses always check the pool before you dive in.

“The original root of the word “information” is the Latin word informare, which means to fashion, shape, or create, to give form to. Information is an idea that has been given a form, such as the spoken or written word. It is a means of representing an image or thought so that it can be communicated from one mind to another rather than worrying about all the information afloat in the world, we must ask ourselves what matters to us, what do we want to know. It’s having ideas and learning to deal with issues that are important, not accumulating lots and lots of data.” Theodore Roszak

It is learning to filter to organize to pick through the mounds of information readily available and make sense of it this is the task at hand. The hardest task of educators is trying to teach that filtering process. Where to find a bit or piece that makes sense and helping students find context for information rather than simply over whelming them with the vast amounts of content.

“What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence, a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention and a need to allocate that attention efficiently among the overabundance of information sources that might consume it.” Herbert Simon

“If you were designing the sort of information-processing system a brain is, it would be extremely impractical to store memories permanently in their original form. You need mechanisms for transforming and recording them; for “chunking” information into categories. Is your memory a phonograph record on which the information is stored in localized grooves to be replayed on demand? Is so, it’s a very bizarre record, for the songs are different every time they’re played. Human memory is more like the village storyteller; it doesn’t passively store facts but weaves them into a good (coherent, plausible) story, which is recreated with each telling.” Judith Hooper Teresi

For nearly fifteen years now I have written about teachers teaching how to filter information, trying to fill a liter bottle with ten gallons of information. It is being able to deal with infinite information and store in a finite place, that is what teaching is about. Daily I see far too many teachers forget that the space is limited and as Sydney J. Harris comments “is more akin to stuffing a sausage”. As we learn to do better, as we learn to assist in the daily sorting and filtering how do we ourselves sort and filter. We teachers and parents can be caught up in that great over whelming barrage of information.

“Information is recorded in vast interconnecting networks. Each idea or image has hundreds, perhaps thousands, of associations and is connected to numerous other points in the mental network.” Peter Russell

“The idea that information can be stored in a changing world without an overwhelming depreciation of its value is false. It is scarcely less false than the more plausible claim that after a war we may take our existing weapons, fill their barrels with information.” Norbert Wiener

Teaching and parenting becomes showing short cuts strategies to hold information so that it becomes knowledge and eventually wisdom. It is about teaching ways to sort the information so that it does not over whelm us. Teaching ways of concentration, distilling or taking a great amount of data and extracting what is crucial. Then it is also about knowing where to find the rest of the information if and when we need it. We live in a world of information and so often wisdom is being left by the wayside. Borrowing from T.S. Elliot again, “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?” My friends as we get into another week let us not drown in information but rise above on wisdom. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

Can we even consider in the same sentence ethics and politics?

Bird Droppings April 21, 2013
Can we even consider in the same sentence ethics and politics?

There are so many things happening in our world that are often at the whim of a politician who we voted for or against. The auto industry was being remade, wars are being fought, jobs are disappearing and health care reform is possibly still on the table. I find it is amusing that our elected officials have given themselves an unbelievable health care and retirement package along with other perks and yet only offer to restrict and or eliminate our own. Our officials have literally unlimited health care and a retirement package second to none for serving in the senate or congress through a salary for life. On one website yesterday while riding from Southern Pines NC three hundred forty six miles to my home a blogger accused the 545 sitting representatives in the house and senate of all the ills in society. His rationale they only have the power to change things and refuse too.
So here we are with jobs in slow motion maybe it is a good time to ponder about minimum wage and our officials who raise their own salary and perks just about every year. Amazing how politics works, working people and those trying to work and lift themselves up get nothing and senators and congressmen can vote a raise for themselves. In another session a few years back democrats were at one time trying to tie minimum wage to their own salary raises. Sadly even with a minimum wage many workers are below the national poverty level. Many that are working and for whatever reason extremely limited or hindered in the types of jobs they can get. Now in a world of budget cutting and austerity some politicians are even offering to reduce minimum wage and increase hours children can work almost as if we are taking steps backwards. Other legislation is calling for eliminating OSHA and EPA and yet deaths in industry under OSHA have significantly been reduced. Pollution across are nation has been reduced. It is about profitability of corporations that find many politicians offering plans to help industry improve profit not living conditions for employees.

“Why should we be in such desperate haste to succeed, and in such desperate enterprises? If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Funny why should we worry about money and success, who needs it? I recall only a few years back when gas was nearly four dollars a gallon we all are looking for bargains and stretching each dollar. It is true many folks have not the need to keep up with the trends and are content with what they have. But it is how we tend to overlook selfishly those with less. The raise recently proposed for congressmen per year would be more than a fulltime minimum wage paycheck for a year for a family. It is sort of like saying I am more than your equal so I deserve this money actually a slap in the face to the working man or woman. Perhaps that is where I ask the question of ethics in politics.

“Most of the luxuries and many of the so-called comforts of life are not only not indispensable, but positive hindrances to the elevation of mankind.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden

At what point is a lot of money too much and what do you do with billions of dollars? I watch Donald Trump rant and rave and yet few are as selfish as is he in terms of his human dealings. I am not sure a speculator in land is a good choice for a presidential candidate yet for a few minutes last election there he was. It was not too long ago he was bankrupt. We idolize the rich and wealthy and as Steven Colbert pointed out in his humor last night we like rich people.

“I learned this, at least, by my experiment; that if one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams, and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, and he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.” Henry David Thoreau

We have to be able to dream and often that is stripped away with the attitudes and structures imposed by various sectors of society.

“What a man thinks of himself, that it is which determines, or rather indicates his fate.” Henry David Thoreau

Self-esteem, self-understanding or the knowing of thy self as the ancient Greek philosopher said so many years ago. We need to know who we are and why. I started arguing about the selfishness of so many people including our leaders in Washington who I am sure will justify their raises in some fashion and I am sure through lobbyists will justify not granting a raise to minimum wage. It is amazing what a few fast food lobbyists can do and business owners. Maybe that is how you justify a raise for yourself, be it through savings from not raising minimum wage.
I am looking forward to a day of writing and reading although I will take my garden break and visited a nearby nursery and garden. I came home last night way past my bedtime and as we pulled in a whippoorwill greeted us. My son and I unloaded the car and headed for bed. I am sitting here listening to the Allman Brothers Band playing Bluesky; so many years ago I met Sandy Bluesky at that time more famous as Dickey Betts ex-wife still a great song. Listening and pondering so much to catch up on after being away from my computer and thinking for two days. As you ponder your own place in this world please keep all in harm’s way on your mind d and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

A wind in the trees

Bird Droppings April 19, 2013
A wind in the trees

Over the past weeks we have had several severe storms come through the area. Just before I went to bed last night according to the weather we were to get another today. Several times during the night I awakened and no storm was blowing and our dog finally slept through the night. Of course no one else ever hears her but me and I get up and let her run about checking the back or front yard whichever way she feels like going. When it is just wind she will search diligently the yard when storms come through she just keeps me awake all night barking and going out to bark at the storm. Two nights back was one of those nights I was looking for duct tape to silence the dog and finally no storm just a steady wind blowing through the trees several times I went out and listened. While a bit chilly still an eerie sound is the wind in the tops of the pine trees.
As I am sitting in my class room during the day at school I often watch clouds pass by, lately the sky has been clear and blue and huge white clouds pass by in a never ending procession. The pines just past the school often are moving with a steady wind and almost hypnotic in their movement. I was looking over reports I have to do for our year end and next week and found a book mark on my desk my wife gave me several years ago. Several quotes from Chief Joseph and an artist rendition of the great Nez Perce leader on the book mark.

“I am tired of talk that comes to nothing it makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and broken promises. There has been too much talking by men who had no right to talk.” Chief Joseph

I thought about our current leaders and past leaders who these words were addressing. Yesterday a Senator accused several major companies of making over a hundred billion in excess profit off of the American public over the past few years that is over a hundred dollars per person per year. Of course company’s attitude has been well they are willing to pay why not a profit for our stock holders. There other point has been that several of these major companies paid little or no taxes. It seems the double talk is about to end at least hopefully.
For many years not only the Native Americans as I look back at Chief Josephs words, but we average Americans from Europe, Africa and Asia as well have been duped by our leaders and by businesses because we have been willing to settle for what is offered. I watch in education as federal laws designed supposedly to improve education are in effect stifling education but profiting corporations. A small example is in Georgia our new math curriculum that latest about three years and caused some major hassles in schools and with students. Book companies reaped a small fortune however.

“If you tie a horse to a stake do you expect him to grow fat…?” Chief Joseph

As federal and states mandate on schools that are failing to meet standards are imposed for various reasons. Some states are suing in federal court the law No Child Left Behind which is doing a paradoxical sort of thing actually leaving children behind has been making demands on schools without the resources to back up the programs and laws. We have issues with how children are being taught yet evaluate not actually what they have learned but what they know at the point they take a test. Sadly the scores being used are not a valid indicator of learning.
As Chief Joseph surrendered to a superior force outnumbered and outmanned he made his mark on history through his words.

“It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are starving to death. My people some of them have run away to the hills and have no blankets no food No one where they are perhaps freezing to death I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find some of them among the dead. Hear me oh chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more.” Chief Joseph

After his pleas for asylum in Canada went unattended he stopped fleeing the approaching army and the Nez – Perce had been defeated, they had out maneuvered and out run a superior force for months but their supplies were low, morale was low and winter was coming. A proud man laid down his rifle. I wonder as I think back and even look at today how we deal with people so seldom can we accept anyone as equal. So seldom can we try and live in peace without making demands. Why is it that those in power have to flex muscle and have what is not theirs to have. So often we interfere in other countries. We interfere in our own citizen’s rights and privacy. Power is such an addictive thing. Power a simple word and a simple thought I wonder why we so often abuse it. Please keep all in harm’s way in your hearts and on your minds and to always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

I was only watching a hawk fly by

Bird Droppings April 18, 2013
I was only watching a hawk fly by

I was unable to attend many sporting events this year for numerous reasons and my normal excuse to go taking pictures was not viable since my good camera had been stolen about a year ago. So I went to check on a student photographer yesterday at our regional track meet and as I got home my new camera was there. I had ordered several weeks back only to receive just the software in the first shipment. I recall about four years ago when I was not able to get to the region meet till after school and since it started before school was out, one of the team managers took my camera to get a few photos of some of the events I would miss. As I looked at old photos of pole vaulting a thought crossed my mind in conjunction with an article I read and have used now in my research by Ronald A. Wolk founder and former editor of Education Week.

“Standardization and uniformity may work with cars and computers, but it doesn’t work with humans. Today’s student body is the most diverse in history. An education system that treats all students alike denies that reality.” Ronald A Wolk

I reviewed my photos and talked with one of the coaches about a particular student who has really done well that year in pole vaulting. She missed going to the state meet in a tie and she had one too many misses as she vaulted.

“Standards don’t prepare students for anything; they are framework of expectations and educational objectives. Without the organization and processes to achieve them, they are worthless.” Ronald A. Wolk

I have pondered this idea of an event like pole vaulting and comparing to our current trend in education of raising the bar. The practice of making it harder to achieve a high school diploma for example is common place across the United States. We set the bar up and do not have the processes within some students to make it to the bar. I could see in a pole vaulting contest where the high school state record may be fourteen feet and we set the bar at sixteen feet and believe all potential pole vault contestants will now attain that level of skill. Most quit pole vaulting and Wolk uses statistics from various states showing dropout rates as an issue and most recently with national changes in calculating dropout rates even more so. .
I have been pondering this concept of raising the bar for some time and teachers have been fired for not attaining goals set by states and federal legislation. I am doing bus duty this spring as I always do and we have several elementary students that catch the bus in the morning here at the high school. They are children of teachers and go to their schools from the high school. Perhaps to none other than educators and parents the stress level in an elementary school during CRCT time in teachers and students should be looked at. If we deliberately stress children over testing are we going the right direction? If we deliberately cause anxiety among our children over test scores that have little validity other than what the publisher has stated and in reference to state and federal mandates are we even being sane? No wonder teachers lead professions in the receiving prescriptions for psych drugs.
Thinking back again I was working on several questions for my graduate school comprehensive exams. In that process I would head to the University of Georgia Library on weekends to review material. I recall as I was driving to the University in Athens and as I turned on the highway bypass towards the University a red tailed hawk flew over the road gliding by into a patch of pines. About three hundred yards further a dead hawk alongside the road it appeared the hawk was trying to feed on a dead armadillo which had been hit by a car. The hawk had become road-kill as well. As I drove on I wondered if maybe this was a pair considering how close they were and if they had a nest and young and this might have been the reason to venture that close to highway. I have seen other times similar situations with dead hawks at road kill sites.

“What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected. You must teach the children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. This we know, the earth does not belong to man, and man belongs to the earth. “Chief Seattle

It has been many years since Chief Seattle spoke but his words ring true today. It may be that in our time that we so often take for granted all around us, the trees, animals and even other people. We live a life so self-centered and focused on us we tend to miss so much. It was many years till man realized he was not the center of the universe and was really just a somewhat an insignificant speck. I am sitting at my writing typing on my laptop wondering about an interesting question. So many people see problems with public education and yet few offer solutions that seem to go in the right direction as I was mentioning in Wolk’s statements.
I have been reading numerous books on curriculum theory but I am waiting for a book on curriculum action to be published. Fifteen books are scattered about my table with each a different author and different idea how to solve issues in schools. A graduate school professor made a comment several months ago about how many curriculum theorists have moved to Canada to practice and to learn and do research. It is interesting in this world of we want to be the best that it seems Canadian schools want to get better. In Canada however they are looking for ways to improve beyond politics.
We have numerous laws and ideas but never seem to get better in a recent headline in the local newspaper title was and students’ scores highlight disparity. In several systems mentioned nearly a third of eighth graders will be retained because of a test at the end of eighth grade. I wonder how they were at the end of seventh grade and beginning of eighth maybe we should do a sort of a pre-test and post-test thing. A simple practice that would actually give a better indication of learning and it seems we do not do that. We simply test at the end of eighth grade so we know this child is at this stage and knows this at this point but what did that child learn in eighth grade we still do not know.

“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” Sydney J. Harris

It has been nearly eleven years since a fellow teacher first showed me a Sydney J. Harris column. So often as I watch people in school or out about in the community I can relate to Harris’ thoughts and writings. These people are a reflection of everything around them. Harris says we should be more like windows letting in not just reflecting back.

“Nations have recently been led to borrow billions for war; no nation has ever borrowed largely for education. Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both.” Abraham Flexner

I wonder thinking back to my hawk flying by I hope if there are chicks they were along far enough to survive and as I think maybe it takes action on the part of parents who truly want a good education for their children. In Georgia a big push is for vouchers and Charter schools and sadly in many cases both are profit driven not in the interest of children and neither offer much more in terms of new ideas and have from research actually not done as well as public schools. The really sad part is that many kids in today’s diversified world often do not have parents at home anymore and that puts stress on everything including tests and school. As I end today maybe we can all take a moment and try and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird

Are you a Weginahsa?

Bird Droppings April 17, 2013
Are you a Weginahsa?

“The work of a teacher – exhausting, complex, idiosyncratic, never twice the same – is at its heart, an intellectual and ethical enterprise. Teaching is the vocation of vocations, a calling that shepherds a multitude of other callings. It is an activity that is intensely practical and yet transcendent, brutally matter of fact and yet fundamentally a creative act. Teaching begins in challenge and is never far from mystery.” Dr. William Ayers, To Teach: the journey of a teacher, 2010

It was just barely four o’clock in the morning and my granddaughter woke up crying, she has been living with us along with her daddy and mommy since before Christmas. My son is in nursing school and my daughter in law starting back and study time is minimal with a two year old red head. So I fixed some milk in a cup Charlie fell back asleep but by then our westie needed to take a run outside to do her morning thing. Lately she has slept most of the night but today after I had gotten up and rambled around the kitchen in the wee hours she started barking and I went and took her out. A near total cloud cover greeted me and yet still several whippoorwills were calling through the pines and a crazy mockingbird has been up literally round the clock lately calling away. It is unusual to hear a bird calling at this hour. But maybe he was calling for rain as I have been hoping for a few drops myself so music and song made for a wonderful morning awakening.

“The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done …. Men who are creative, inventive and discoverers.” Jean Piaget

I have always been a fan of the great developmentalists and the process of each piece leading to the next and so forth. Piaget while well respected in educational fields did his research on his own children. I still find that a bit weird. Although watching my granddaughter growing up I do very much the same watching her interactions with parents, other children and with me. However his ideas seem to be sound in many aspects even though his demographics are a bit shallow.

“An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t.” Anatole France

In our age of standardized testing and how much we can force feed into our students so they can pass a test I had to think twice as I read France’s quote. We constantly test for content daily in our school systems and wonder why we still lag behind. “Education Weekly featured an article on science programs in other modern nations and how they were so far ahead of ours. Every program featured context over content. John Dewey one hundred years ago preached context.

“Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.” William Yeats

Every day I drink a liter bottle of water after my two energy shots which in theory is ten hours of energy but I am always tired after six of teaching. I have to have my morning five hour energy shot first. I never started drinking coffee till recently and then only mixed with my tea and Starbucks is the wrong direction in the morning for Chai Tea with a shot of expresso. Although I do brew my own now at school which is nice but it takes a few moments to heat up. For several years the liter bottle has reminded me of how we teach. For so many teachers it is simply trying to fill a liter bottle period. I visited a museum in the mountains of North Georgia and was looking at an old moonshine still when it hit me. We need to teach kids to distill information. Concentrate on the important and the pieces that can lead to other pieces. Stop trying to cram it all in to a confined space.

“The farmer channels water to his land. The fletcher whittles his arrows. And the carpenter turns his wood. So the wise direct their mind.” Dhammapada

Many years ago there was a folk song entitled “If I were a carpenter”. As I read this passage this morning from a Hindu text that song popped in my mind. I used a similar passage many months ago from another great thinker, of our time.

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

During the folk song era which probably in some circles including my own, still exists, Pete Seeger was very famous. He would sing songs borrowed from Woody Guthrie’s hobo and dust bowl days, songs of the depression. He would borrow from various other current and past sources for his songs. He wrote music for and developed one song that was made famous outside folk circles by a group called “the Byrd’s”, entitled “Turn, turn, turn”. This song was based on words from a book in the Old testament Ecclesiastes to be exact, “To everything there is a season, a time to be born a time to die”.
As I sit here writing this morning I got thinking about the late great Spike my bearded dragon, a former resident of my class room who had passed away a year ago Friday after five years and how he would spit out grapes. He must not have liked seeds in his grapes. I was thinking back to Independence Day and flags flying from telephone poles, draped over tables, emblazoned on T-shirts and paper cups celebrating our independence. I am reminded of what and who we are as Americans. By the constitution of the United States all people are equal all are entitled to certain liberties and the pursuit of happiness.
As we go about today remembering we need to also think of in being free and being able to speak, and worship freely we should not impose our ideals and beliefs on others which was the founding fathers key tenet. That is so easy to say but I was reminded many months back of the innocence of youth as I sat at lunch with my youngest son at a Chinese Buffet in Loganville. The owner I have known for many years and she had her three boys there with her it was late afternoon we had been working at the High School moving back into my room from having new carpet put in.
The restaurant owner’s sons were sitting playing at the next booth. As they talked, some was in English some in Chinese as the chattered back and forth and giggled playing games as small children do. The boys were between 3 and 5 years old. One of the boys using his fingers to pull his eyes slanted said I am a Chinese boy now. As I sat and thought about how there were so many possible meanings to that. I know his family, both his mother and father are from mainland China and very active in cultural awareness programs in local schools and the community. So was this an example of an innocent child’s color blindness or was it a slight to his heritage. I would like to think it was simply youthful innocence.
“There is a time to ever season”, we cannot choose the road of our genetics but we can choose the directions and pathways we take with it. We can choose the words and actions we exhibit. Earlier today I read a post wondering about genetic preference for music and I responded it is deeper than genetics. Spiritual is the energy tying all together.
Several years ago as I wrote the word black indicating race I was reminded that it is politically correct to say Afro-American. I was intrigued, I am still called a white person within the context of the discussion not a Welsh, English, German, Irish, Native American, Hebrew, Scottish, Amish person. After a moment or two I came up with WEGINAHSA that would work. I wonder if I called someone a Weginahsa if they would be upset or if I could get that listed as an ethnic group. I could list it under other. I am a Weginahsa pronounced Wee – jean – A – house – a. I am no longer just white I am a proud weginahsa, if I can spell it correctly and pronounce it the same twice in a row. I am reminded of another politically correct nomenclature Native American. The late Russell Means asked a reporter who was speaking about Native Americans where he was born. He responded in New York and Means said you too are a Native American and then said I prefer to be called Indian.
We choose the roads and pathways we choose the words and implications of those words and the attitudes that formulates them. I was thinking back to Piaget and theories of development of children and at what age do we see color? At what age do we begin to find differences in humans? Pondering and looking again at Dr. Martin Luther King’s words, as he made the comment about a street sweeper. It is our choice as to how great or how little we are and it is our choice whether we truly are free or not. That is not in the devlopmentalist guide book that is ours to decide. Today is the time and the season for us to be who we are and that we are able to think act and be free, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and a key is to always give thanks namaste.

Wa de (Skee)
bird