Life is making a quilt

Bird Droppings June 30, 2014
Life is making a quilt

It was nearly seven years ago today my wife walked in and told me that my mother said this was to be a happy time a joyous occasion as we celebrated my father’s life on Sunday. She said I think we are even having a snow cone machine. I thought to myself it gets hot in Georgia on an afternoon in June. About this same time another event was transpiring in our families lives. I helped my son with a project of repairing the Ramblin Wreck of Georgia Tech. Seven years ago my son and acquaintance a 1968 Ga. Tech graduate of Tech and I were talking about a body shop and getting the Wreck ready for first football game. Somehow or other the idea of how things fall in place came up and after they headed out I started on my idea of a quilt.

I had started thinking about my father again talking with my son’s friend and how he had been all over the world lectured and taught in countries most people will never know. Another email I recall mentioned how dad was always giving something; it could be a necklace with a rock from South Africa or a bola with some African trinket or South American artifact as the clasp. Sometimes it was a story or just wisdom from his years working with people. It hit me his life was like a quilt.

“People come out to see you perform and you’ve got to give them the best you have within you. The lives of most men are patchwork quilts. Or at best one matching outfit with a closet and laundry bag full of incongruous accumulations. A lifetime of training for just ten seconds.” Jesse Owens, 1913-1980, American Olympian

I use the comparison to a puzzle often nearly each day as I write. But when I read this idea of a quilt of our lives it hit me. A patchwork quilt, with each piece a significant event in life yet alone not enough to make the whole. Each piece of the quilt is still independent of each other piece. My wife has a quilt from her grandmother whose grandmother made it; each little piece of fabric is sown to the next each little section connects to the next and in the end a quilt. We have several quilts made for our sons by a friend’s mother many years ago. A good friend in Holland is a quilter and she posts pictures of each intricate masterpiece as she sews.

For nearly ten years during my summers I go up to the mountains of North Georgia and have been involved with the Foxfire program for teaching. The instructors have used an exercise where each participant makes a piece and together a quilt is created each session. The quilt is hanging on the wall with pieces added as the week progresses. Traditionally in the mountains there are sixteen stitches per inch which is the measure of a quilt I learned that while up at Foxfire talking with one of the women at the museum center. Often when I am talking with kids I will use timelines to piece together but I think I will try this idea of a quilt each piece adding to the whole yet alone just a scrap of fabric. As I look back at so many memories and you know it seems to all be flowing piecing together, I like the idea of a quilt. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.
My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Why are we not seeking peace?

Bird Droppings June 28, 2014
Why are we not seeking peace?

“In this week of great destruction, we must each choose what road we are to walk and live. The road of destruction is war, it has always been so. The road of creation is deeper and more complicated; it has always involved forgiveness, love, light, prayer, and spirit. In these new millennia we have a chance to change the way we see other beings to one of connectedness and unity. We have a chance to let go of the ancient ways of war and conflict, of who is right, of being better, of senseless killing. This week has thrown us back on the old model of the last millennia.” Michael Samuels M.D. and Mary Rockwood Lane, PhD, Path of the Feather

I miss being in class during the summer normally this time of year I would be in class and or meetings going from 6:00 AM till 10:00 pm at least two days a week for most of the summer. Thinking back during one moment of time between classes and meetings I happen to be sitting in at an Ingles Store in North Georgia which happened to have a Starbucks. A young gentlemen walked by with two peace symbols tattooed on his calf. It caught my attention and got me thinking back to several summers ago when I was driving up to this same spot to visit the Foxfire museum I watched seven people marching for peace in the small town of Clayton, Georgia. My writing today started with a few lines from a Navaho prophecy edited by Dr.’s Samuels and Rockwood. In my own searching reading and writing so often the contrast of peace versus war comes up, as does so many dualities in our world.

“The three hardest tasks in the world are neither physical feats nor intellectual achievements, but moral acts: to return love for hate, to include the excluded, and to say, ‘I was wrong’.” Sydney J. Harris

For many Sydney J. Harris is simply an old forgotten columnist from by gone days when people happen to actually read hardcopy. I frequently use quotes from his essays and columns. His words are powerful and I thank a dear friend from nearly thirteen years ago for showing me his work. Often as I find articles he wrote from the sixties and seventies and I wonder why I missed them then. I am reminded often it was not the time, as I make reference to my Jungian philosophy and orientation. All of the pieces were not in place at that time for me to understand to recognize what it was he is saying. In my emails and communications often I see misunderstanding and ignorance, myself included. I recall a friend writing from his heart and others only could criticize and or turn away and not understand, so often not even reading the words.

“The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through.” Sydney J. Harris

“An idealist believes the short run doesn’t count. A cynic believes the long run doesn’t matter. A realist believes that what is done or left undone in the short run determines the long run.” Sydney J. Harris
Sitting here most mornings it is so easy to formulate solutions and fantasize a world free from strife and turmoil and I as I write this morning sitting in my classroom having read the current news, talk of new deployments to Lebanon and Iraq are hinted from Defense department and my heart sinks. But then I walk away from my computer and wonder what is it we are trying to do in the world. Tomorrow morning a big sale at one of the local department stores, with the early bird sale masses of humanity will line up to get the best deals and gasoline will still be artificially high so our wonderful gas company’s profits can continue to bolster or hinder the economy, depending on whose view you take.

I often wonder who came up with thinking like that in any other business sooner or later someone would see the ridiculous, it has been nearly ten years that Exxon just about each quarter has the highest profits ever in one headline and on another gasoline is at its highest ever, such an interesting parallel we seem to miss. A good point however at least someone is thinking with the high court decisions made this week and as our Supreme Court judges slowly age, a poll was taken as to what type of judge should replace any who should step down. Most now want a moderate there are still a few wanting conservatives and only about a quarter want a liberal. Somewhere there was an extra three percent I am assuming they were undecided.

“Democracy is the only system that persists in asking the powers that be whether they are the powers that ought to be.” Sydney J. Harris

That simple reminder from Harris needs to come up every day. I am excited to be at home today with our son, his wife and our grandbaby visiting from North Carolina. It is always good to wake up to a new morning and be able to go watered my herb garden. We each need to look at our pathway and see which direction we are going. Looking back at the first quote are we choosing the path of destruction or of creation as the Navaho say. My dear friends please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Should we be pondering the idea of faith?

Bird Droppings June 26, 2014
Should we be pondering the idea of faith?

“Modern technology advanced in such tiny increments for so long that we never realized how much our world was being altered, or the ultimate direction of the process. But now the speed of change is accelerating logarithmically. It is apparent that developing a language and set of standards by which to assess technological impact, and to block it where necessary, is a critical survival skill of our times.” Jerry Mander

These are the words that begin author Jerry Mander’s book, In the absence of the Sacred: the failure of technology and the survival of the Indian Nations. Mander, a former advertising company president, has questioned the concept of technology in previous books and articles including his best seller, four arguments for the Elimination of Television. While arguing technology’s negative aspects Mander mentions understanding technology is crucial and to not let it outstrip our knowledge of it. As I prepare for a new school year one of no books only iPods it will be most interesting. We now have a generation of children who do not fear the technology their parents invented and in many cases do not even hold in awe but consider it common place or boring.

Going a bit further and into more theoretical concepts, R. L. Rutsky redefines technology and humanities understanding of technology in High Techne, moving mankind to the post human. The fine line between technology and art is blended and swirled.

“The position of human beings in relation to this techno-cultural unconscious cannot, therefore, be that of an analyst (or theorist) who, standing outside this space, presumes to know or control it. It must instead be a relation of connection to, of interaction with, that which has been seen as the “other”, including the unsettling processes of techno-culture itself. To accept this relation is to let go of part of what it has meant to be human, to be a human subject, and allow ourselves to change, to mutate, to become alien, cyborg, posthuman.” R. L. Rutsky

Letting go of what we have learned, and incorporating and becoming one with that which we have deemed the other through history is what many see the direction of mankind. Could it be that teenagers and young people are allowing themselves to become posthuman, something other than what they were? No longer are they walled in by societal parameters and limitations. Technology is putting the world into an instantaneous realm of immediate.

The current crop of young people labeled Generation Y or Echo boomers by the media has come at technology with little or no fear as do so many of their parents and the Baby Boomer generation. The acceptance and interaction with technology and the understanding that comes with that, often lessen the interconnections with the very society that led them to this point. Technology has found a friend in No Child Left Behind, while considered catch all and cure all for education, through narrowing the parameters of what is construed as education; schools have perhaps left behind pieces of those children’s imaginations and creativity. As I approached the concept of what I believe is missing in children as they access and utilize our accelerating technological advances, it could be this lack of fear of technology that is creating the void, as I call it in children.

To believe in a god or gods requires some questioning of who we are and why, albeit the issue of faith. It is the concept of faith that precedes any sort of view of god. But we live in a world of duplicity as well accelerated by technology. If you find no reason to question or search for understanding because at your fingertips are instant answers, then believing in anything that is not readily available on the internet or in some virtual experience, becomes inconsequential. Perhaps there is a need or void that we try to fill with an idea of god. Each of us perceives the concept of god in our own way often influenced by those around us and those who taught us. Joseph Campbell, author and teacher, known for his extensive writings on mythology approaches humanity and the need for mythology.

“During the greater part of this long arc of life, the individual is in a psychological situation of dependency. We are trained, as children, so that every stimulus, every experience, leads us simply to react, “Who will help me?” We are in a dependent relationship to our parents.” Joseph Campbell

Campbell sees us as needing someone or something throughout our lives. We are taught the myths and traditions of our parents and culture as answers to what we can depend on. In many situations that could be a concept of god or religion. Campbell goes deeper into his anthropological view of mythology and its focus on life and or on death. Religions down through history have played on either or both aspects. As humans however we seem to find unknowns and it is that unknown aspect of our existence that provides windows or doors, as Huxley states, to understand who we are and why.

“From the records of religion and the surviving monuments of poetry and the plastic arts it is very plain that at most times and most places, men have attached more importance to the inscape than to the objective existents, have felt that they saw with their eyes shut possessed a spirituality higher significance than what they saw with their eyes open…What wonder, then if human beings in their search for the divine have generally preferred to look within.” Aldous Huxley

Today’s children do not have time to look within as technology provides easy and ready access to occupy every waking moment in one fashion or another. Children tend to be oriented in their technology, plugged in, online, or texting, with the opportunity of going somewhere within, not worth the time.

Lev Manovich offers his theory on technological advances in media in his book The Language of New Media. Having a background in graphic arts, the radical changes and speed with which they have come in the field of media is overwhelming. I recall the day an elderly man came to my office in 1989 or so and was looking for work. He had been a hot type, typesetter for forty five years and his former place of employment was the last hot type facility and was no longer using hot type. Hot type is where lead is melted and literally each letter is molded from that hot lead within the machine. Manovich addresses the idea of having myths in his writings.

“If traditional cultures provided people with well-defined narratives, (Myths, Religion) and little “stand alone” information, today we have too much information and too few narratives that can tie it all together.” Lev Manovich

We are in the information age and that information is at our finger tips instantly twenty-four/seven. Perhaps this is the void that I refer to; something is missing, it is that something that is not able to tie it all together.

From my own personal experience working with teenagers, I have found many teenagers and young adults will allude to atheism or an agnostic approach, as the name they will throw out, and the concept of god they do not believe in, is an anthropomorphic entity of Judeo-Christian construct with a white beard and castle in the sky. Seldom will teenagers offer a believe structure. Fredric Jameson points to religion being the focal point and reference point for civilizations.

“Religion was perhaps the most ancient organizing concept in the emergence of anthropology as a discipline: the ultimately determining instance for national or racial character, the ultimate source of cultural difference itself, the marker for the individuality of the various peoples in history.” Fredric Jameson

Looking at teenagers as a whole perhaps it is the technology that is defining them more so than religion. Issues of faith and trust are daily within news and media that teenagers access far more readily than do we as adults. News articles of men of faith who lied and cheated and yet continue to do as they did before getting caught. There are Church’s turning their backs on children who were molested, and/or buying their silence. It is not difficult to see where faith and trust can be subverted. Sometimes it is easiest to go back, and look at a view from a more traditional standpoint. Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, is first and foremost Oglala, he is an attorney, ex-marine pilot having flown 110 combat missions, and he has participated in seven sun dance ceremonies. He writes extensively on spirituality and the earth. McGaa discusses deeply religion in his book Native Wisdom: Perceptions of the Natural Way.

“Who is God? Before I can begin to answer such a question, I must explain that any answer, or attempt to answer, is based on my background, my personal experiences and that which has influenced me upon my personal journey down the Red Trail of life or as some may call it, my journey within the Natural Way.” Ed McGaa

As I consider myself a searcher I am always observing and pondering. Many times when talking with youth I will ask them to define god whether they believe in god or not, but to not use pronouns and or scripture. To date very few have succeeded, they are limited by their experiences. So much of who we are is based on where we came from and what we have experienced. In attempting to find what I believe is missing, perhaps rethinking where I have come from.
I attended Candler school of Theology in 1973-75 at Emory University. I have always questioned others views on god and faith. As I took classes in theology and biblical studies, and I would often be on one side of the table alone, as we argued or discussed various views. While I never was a student in Dr. Fowler’s classes I was impressed as I read his books and articles. Dr. James Fowler was a Professor of Theology and Human Development at Emory University, he was director of both the Center for Research on Faith and Moral Development and the Center for Ethics until he retired in 2005. Dr. Fowler has written numerous articles and books on his concept of faith and on his theory of how faith develops. This idea of a developing faith could impact how technology also fits into human awareness. Could it be through the intensive use of technology we are circumventing a stage in our development? Looking back at Campbell’s thought could it be we are finding in technology a substitute for that parent dependency within society? Dr. Fowler starts his book The Development of Faith with this thought.

“Anyone not about to kill himself lives by faith. It is what keeps us going when love has turned to hate or hope to despair. Faith carries us forward when there is no longer reason to carry on. It enables us to exist during the between times: between meaning amid dangers of radical discontinuity, even in the face of death. Faith is a sine qua non of life, a primal force we cannot do without.” Dr. James Fowler

The idea that there is a development of faith even as a child grows physically, in developmental stages, has intrigued me for many years. My own personal journey has been intertwined with my studies and readings as well as experience, dealing with people and with my students. Faith is a word that is very difficult to scientifically dissect and analyze. For different people faith will have different meanings many times associated with religion. In my own journey I found an author, William Eleden, who was a former fighter pilot in World War II and Pastor and is currently at ninety six years of age still an author and columnist.

“Words can lead us into dead end canyons, and what is the bottom line? In this: Words fool us into thinking we have experienced what we talk about. Take water for instance: I can read volumes about water listen to a thousand lectures on water and develop an exhaustive vocabulary about water, without having ever experienced water. I will know more about water after drinking a glass full, or diving into a lake then if I attend lectures on water for the rest of my life.” William Edelen

The implications to faith, trust, soul, god and even education from this statement are many. In writing about faith and researching faith it is a similar situation. It is the experiencing of faith that is the true teacher not all the theologians, professors, dictionaries, libraries or philosophers in the world can truly explain faith, it is in the experiencing. Perhaps children are not able to experience faith as they use their technology? Children do not need to imagine or create, as at their fingertips are virtual realities by the boxful. Essentially all they can afford.

In a recent discussion with several other teachers about John Dewey’s book, The School and Society and The Child and Curriculum, a fellow teacher made a statement that impressed me. “A good teacher is also and foremost a good student.” I have always felt that in order to teach an individual has to continually stay vital, awake, to be in a constant state of educational evolution, a good teacher must always be a good student, always experiencing teaching from another source or individual. Living as a student is growth; it is a constant acquisition of concepts, of materials, ideas and of theories. It is the ingestion of these and the cognitive development of these that provide the base from which we can attack, mentally the rest of life including faith. I offer, perhaps technology in some cases takes away the learning by always providing answers and never providing actual context to that answer. It is another morning and so much more to ponder on today. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Is there a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

Bird Droppings June 25, 2014
Is there a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Abraham Lincoln

Perhaps in the scheme of things there are people who are inherently grouchy and or by Lincoln’s view they simply want to be grouchy. Sitting here pondering this morning I can recall bumping into many people like this. They are inherently grouchy. Perhaps we should label these folks and simply walk away. As I look deeper into the simple words above, we all can be happier as I think about Lincoln’s thought it is just wanting to be that way.

“Whatever happiness is in the world has arisen from a wish for the welfare of others; whatever misery there is has arisen from indulging selfishness.” Buddhist Proverb

I had not thought of happiness previously as simply as this idea. Happiness is oriented around others and therefore unhappiness more self-oriented. Lately a series of commercials the focus of the ad is cows in various situations of being happy, as the ads portray; happy cows make California cheese or some such thing. One commercial is a cow escapes from Wisconsin and the other cows are watching and one asks the other how long she has been gone and it has been several days and the cow is only a few feet past the fence. Maybe happy cows can’t make limburger cheese?

“True happiness arises, in the first place, from the enjoyment of one’s self, and in the next, from the friendship and conversation of a few select companions.” Joseph Addison

“Happiness is a sort of action.” Aristotle

Happiness seems to be different for different people for some it is in doing for others, for others it is friendship. As I read this morning I agree with Aristotle it is a word of action.

“The really happy man never laughs — seldom — though he may smile. He does not need to laugh, for laughter, like weeping is a relief of mental tension — and the happy are not over strung.” Prof. F. A. P. Aveling

“Happiness is a conscious choice, not an automatic response.” Mildred Barthal

As I think of students and occasionally there are some who shift from happy to sad I try and make a point of asking them if everything is ok. I can think of one student I don’t even know her name who always looks unhappy, never a smile and often alone and perhaps it is in the aloneness is the unhappiness. When I am out in large shopping venues which I try and avoid, a mall or such many times I will simply observe people while my wife does whatever women do at malls. That really isn’t a sexist statement but I still am trying to figure out what malls are for other than observation projects for doctoral dissertations. I know there are various stores with goods and literally run the gambit of humankind, perhaps it is a social gathering place to meet other people.

“When one is happy there is no time to be fatigued; being happy engrosses the whole attention.” Edward Frederic Benson

“The world’s literature and folklore are full of stories that point out how futile it can be to seek happiness. Rather, happiness is a blessing that comes to you as you go along; a treasure that you incidentally find.” Louis Binstock

It is difficult to explain a way of seeking happiness. Perhaps we cannot truly seek happiness. I recall several months back even in today’s modern age a rainbow was blazing in the sky and people were parked as close to the end as possible looking for the end and who knows a pot of gold. Thinking about happiness I ponder what makes me happy. It could be as simple as laughing in the hallway with students, and fellow teachers. Back in the day my Para pro and I would stand at my door deliberately talking to students. Often students who are quiet and many times alone we would try and single out. One day we might ask if they were lost or looking for a room. We are not good ones for directions we have been known to give wrong directions around school, but we try and laugh with students. We would try and make passing by our door more than just like everyone else’s. We ask about their weekend or who won last night’s softball game or basketball game. We are actively involved and you know what unintentionally we come back in after the bell and we are happy usually laughing pretty good at least smiling ourselves.

“It is the paradox of life that the way to miss pleasure is to seek it first. The very first condition of lasting happiness is that a life should be full of purpose, aiming at something outside self.” Hugo Black

“The truth is that all of us attain the greatest success and happiness possible in this life whenever we use our native capacities to their greatest extent.” Smiley Blanton

“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world. It is having; someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” Allan K. Chalmers

If only all were so simply and yet maybe life is this simply and as we move through what we do and what we hope for and just seem to grow proportionately. Our needs and wants tend to fluctuate around being wanted and our understanding of that. What would it take for me to be happy and content today may be different than forty years ago and forty years from now more different again if I am still around.

“Happiness comes more from loving than being loved; and often when our affection seems wounded it is only our vanity bleeding. To love, and to be hurt often, and to love again — this is the brave and happy life.” J. E. Buckrose

“When you have once seen the glow of happiness on the face of a beloved person, you know that a man can have no vocation but to awaken that light on the faces surrounding him; and you are torn by the thought of the unhappiness and night you cast, by the mere fact of living, in the hearts you encounter.” Albert Camus
I remember years ago watching the infectious smiles and happiness in a small church in Macon Georgia, The Church of The exceptional. The church founded in 1971 the idea was a place where mentally and physically impaired children and adults could worship together. Many times parents would leave children home and or not go to church. I recall one fellow Mike Porch who would greet everyone as they came in the door. He had a smile ear to ear and would shake your hand like there was no tomorrow and welcome you to his church. Mike had never been to public school, he had Downs Syndrome which in 1971 meant you would never do well in school. He was at that time a student and employee of The Macon Association for Retarded Citizens workshop.

Mike has passed away since that day, but that smile and joy were infectious and many the people were cheered up by Mike as he greeted people joining him for church services.
“Did you ever see an unhappy horse? Did you ever see bird that had the blues? One reason why birds and horses are not unhappy is because they are not trying to impress other birds and horses.” Dale Carnegie

“A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.” Hugh Downs

I was thinking that I was a creature of routine, after a long weekend it is hard to get sorted out and back on track. I am still getting sorted out from a being off from school a few weeks ago. What is funny our dog is out of sync too. After having my son move home sleeping on his bed and me sleeping late she is a bit mixed up. Mine however is not as much routine as missing contact with students and with people. Interacting is where ideas and thinking permeate. When someone thinks different pulling away is not the answer it is immersing in and offering the differences. Who knows what doors may open or windows close?

“There are two ways of being happy: We must either diminish our wants or augment our means — either may do — the result is the same and it is for each man to decide for himself and to do that which happens to be easier.” Benjamin Franklin

As I close for the day leave it to Ben Franklin to have the solution but for today and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Can we even compare ethics and politics?

Bird Droppings June 23, 2014
Can we even compare ethics and politics?

I picked up a copy of the Atlanta Journal Constitution about a year ago this morning. The front page had various articles but one caught my attention. Having been a student in psychology at Mercer University in Macon and required to go on a field trip to Central State Hospital. Central State Hospital, at that time in 1973 was the largest residential mental facility in the nation. A few months later I was doing a six month internship at the same facility. Today I have several direct links through patients now being served by Georgia Mental Health. As I read the paper the article hit me hard. It was focused on an appointment to the directorship of Georgia State Mental Health. The person appointed by our Governor was not a psychologist or mental health employee of any sort but the former calendar keeper of the previous governor. Another tie is that she is the girl friend to the current governor’s spokesperson. The new head of mental health even makes twenty five thousand more than previous director. Interesting too in that Georgia is under investigation by federal authorities for the state of its mental health. Is ethics even a consideration of politics?

Yesterday in our local newspaper was a half-page ad stating one of politicians running for congress in the state runoff election was removing his opponent’s signs and here is the video link. There is a video of campaign folks in of course t-shirts for their candidate removing the other man’s signs and replacing with theirs. All I could do was laugh since I would not if paid vote for either. It really made my day when a thought crossed my mind from a line a dear friend uses in his conferences. Years ago I went to a training seminar in Macon Georgia on Conduct Disorders. Dr. James Sutton from Texas was leading the conference. He started asking who was from elementary schools, middles school and finally high schools. He apologized to the one or two high school teachers myself included in the crowd saying if kids have gotten to high school with conduct disorders and little has been done there is a ninety nine percent chance they will end up in jail, used car salesman, evangelists and or dead. I happened to being driving by a used car lot run by a former pastor when the thought hit me about the ad since one of the politicians is a pastor. I am not saying these particular politicians are sociopaths just a statement in a conference from fourteen years ago sort of hit me.

Today’s reality in Georgia our Congressmen can vote a raise. Democrats are trying to tie minimum wage to their own raises which is nice and many workers who are on minimum wage are below poverty level and often for whatever reason limited or hindered in the types of jobs they can get.

“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

I find it funny why should we worry about money and success who needs it when gas is 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 raises each year proposed for congressmen per year would be more than the fulltime minimum wage paycheck for a year of a lesser worker. That is sort of like saying I am more than your equal so I deserve this money a slap in the face to so very many. Sadly they have no one to answer to but themselves.

“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. I find it so hard to fathom what some people do with billions of dollars.

“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 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

The ideas of self-esteem, self-understanding and knowing thy self as the ancient Greek philosopher said so many years ago are crucial. 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 they will justify not granting a raise to minimum wage. It is amazing what a few fast food lobbyists can do along with other wealthy business owners. Maybe that is how you justify a raise for yourself with the savings from not raising minimum wage. A long day today discussing and reading so please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

What does it take to see the fluidity of life?

Bird Droppings June 22, 2014
What does it take to see the fluidity of life?

“Adverse circumstances test our courage, our strength of mind, and the depth of our conviction in the natural law. There is nothing exceptional about practicing in a good environment and atmosphere. The true test is if we can maintain our practice in adverse conditions.” Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey, Advice From a Spiritual Friend

I often start with how the morning is when I walk outside and at four this morning the moon although some clouds was glowing it is a smiling moon as they say. The sounds were over whelming between crickets tree frogs and various other creatures of the night. Today as I ventured out a thought crossed my mind I had been reading for several weeks in books on curriculum and or essentially on education. When I left the high school in May for summer break curriculum was a fixed static word. Even the hopes of a change in state mentality when we went from specific Quality core curriculum to standards which ended up unpacked even more detail oriented. Sadly what had the apparent glimpse of educational freedom became more of a prison as teachers and administrators mapped and cajoled specific details to the smallest minutest point. What was an inch and a half three ring binder for curriculum in a given class was now three inches thick. Now a new National Common Core rises up to greet us.

“The central theory of curriculum is simple. Human life, however varied, consists in the performance of specific activities. Education that prepares for life is one that prepares definitely and adequately for these specific activities. However numerous and diverse they may be for any social class they can be discovered. This requires only that one go out into the world of affairs and discover the particulars of which their affairs consist. These will show the abilities, attitudes, habits, appreciations and forms of knowledge that men need. These will be the objectives of the curriculum. They will be numerous, definite and particularized. The curriculum will then be that series of experiences which children and youth must have by way of obtaining those objectives.” F. Bobbit, How to make a curriculum, 1918

In 1918 Bobbit used what John Dewey built on in later writings in that of experience, those experiences which children came to school with and had in school. However in today’s world of EOCT’s, CRCT’s and NCLB and all the wonderful acronyms and specifics curriculum is now what teachers teach so students can pass specific topic driven tests. I went out this morning actually twice earlier I was sitting with my eyes closed listening to the steady drone of the crickets the same note incessantly playing yet actually calming not tedious. Across the trees tens of thousands of fire flies sparkling and dancing through the trees and stars scattered about. I started thinking I could very easily write this down specifically illustrating each item I see and hear and generate a story but experiencing what I was would never be adequately detailed in writing. A friends husband record nature and then writes music. A recording and video and digital imagery would not capture this morning there was fluidity a movement in what was happening. For many people there were only stars, crickets and darkness and they go back to bed I actually did but could not stop thinking about the event I had witnessed. It was in effect nothing different than I had so many previous mornings pondered on. Crickets were still playing the same note, the same stars, same trees and fence and grass but was it really the same?

“There is always truth behind every ‘just kidding’, a little knowledge behind every ‘I don’t know’, a little emotion behind every ‘I don’t care’, and a little pain behind every ‘it’s okay’.” Author Unknown borrowed from a friends Facebook

I went out a second time and as I turned facing each of the sacred four directions in the world the stars were slightly different as I faced north and turned to the east and south and west. I spied an old friend Cassiopeia the running W constellation. But was it Cassiopeia I could not find the final star I searched above the group and looked away looking again and again and began to think maybe this was not the group of stars I thought. Then as I lowered my eyes I noticed below the group the final star I had been looking in the wrong place.

“The idea of curriculum is hardly new but the way we understand and theorize it has altered over the years and there remains considerable dispute as to meaning. It has its origins in the running/chariot tracks of Greece. It was, literally, a course. In Latin curriculum was a racing chariot; currere was to run.” William Pinar

I was thinking as I watched the stars and fire flies how fluid even in the stillness the tree frogs added a unique touch chirping away in the early morning. But while yes I could write and limit this scene there was so much more to experience so much more happening than could be written in a three inch guide book on early morning wanderings. So many teachers’ educators want a fixed package so each child will get this portion of knowledge. Exams provide the conclusion for that mentality and you can teach to an exam and many teachers now teach a prescribed package to the exam. But what if we were looking in the wrong place for the extra star would we know to keep looking or assume it was the wrong constellation? Would we have enough independence to look deeper even though there was not time in the schedule of this activity and the guide book allotted only five minutes of pondering. Fluids are not solid yet have properties and consistency, knowledge and learning is fluid not solid and in trying to make a solid from fluid we can only freeze it and stifle the true understanding.

Sitting here thinking of curriculum theory and writers, listeners, teachers, thinkers and most of all students who have to sit through classes of content and never get to the context all for the sake of a test and that the only measure of what they have maintained at that point in time of that subject. Perhaps in a narrow minded way that is what politicians want, a narrow minded populous that will simply do as they ask. I keep picking up old National Geographic’s, a recent one had several excellent articles on the Grand Canyon forming by the flow of water intricate and detailed but what if it had been formed by a solid and not a fluid? It would be a valley gouged out by a glacier a straight shot no intricacies and details and a pile of rubble where the glacier began to melt pushed along from the ice sadly education is similar. If and when a good teacher comes along education is fluid and students learn the intricacies and details. If a teacher is not attuned and teaches simply by the guide book the details and real life experiences get left by the way side. Currere means to run which made me think of a scene in Seabiscuit where after seeing the horse is fast but still holding back the trainer gets the jockey to take him in a field and run no track no limits just cut loose and the horse finds himself. He had been trained to run in a circle in a guided limited curriculum. What he needed was fluidity. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Why do children do what they do?

Bird Droppings June 20, 2014
Why do children do what they do?

“Our task is to make our children into disciples of the good life, by our own actions toward them and toward other people. This is the only effective discipline in the long run. But it is more arduous, and takes longer, than simply “laying down the law.” Before a child (or a nation) can accept the law, it has to learn why the law has been created for its own welfare.” Sydney J. Harris

Over the years I have been faced with dealing with students who have continually found their way into trouble. Often in education we use the term manifestation as in is it a manifestation of their disability or often times the question is are they choosing to do whatever it is they are doing. It has generally been a hit or misses in some cases. How do we know for sure with any kid was this a manifestation of a given disability or not.

“What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.” Aristotle

“Self-command is the main discipline.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many years ago I spent six months involved in pastoral counseling in a combative psychiatric unit in a state mental facility. There was never a question about why something happened since combative adolescents, was the term used to describe the unit. When someone got upset they simply went to solitary confinement and were administered large doses of drugs combined with numerous orderlies and even the great standby a strait jackets was often employed. Little was occurring to change the behavior and or rationalize those behaviors. All was simply putting a bandage on the moment.

“Anybody who gets away with something will come back to get away with a little bit more.” Harold Schoenberg

“Better to be pruned to grow than cut up to burn.” John Trapp

Often as I find a quote the person behind those words has more to offer. Schoenberg is a scholar of music, a prolific writer about great musicians and music. Trapp is a bible scholar with several biblical commentaries to his credit. These great writers who themselves were very self-disciplined. Harris a columnist for over three hundred newspaper writing about daily life though his essays on education and morality are what drew me to his words.

“THE STUDY OF WORDS is useless unless it leads to the study of the ideas that the words stand for. When I am concerned about the proper use of words it is not because of snobbism or superiority, but because their improper use leads to poor ways of thinking. Take the word ‘discipline’ that we hear so much about nowadays in connection with the rearing of children. If know something about word derivations, you know that ‘discipline’ and ‘disciple’ come from the same Latin root discipulus, which means ‘to learn, to follow.’” Sydney J. Harris, Strictly speaking
Sitting here looking up references and quotes related to discipline and ending up with example, to learn, and or to follow, just semantics as we go. In order to operate a public school we have to have standards this week we use the term “givens” to operate by and in effect rules. Looking at this from a behaviorist standpoint it is easy to say ABC, Antecedent, Behavior and Consequence. First you have an antecedent which is that stimulus that causes the behavior. You then have the behavior that which is the event or action that we see, feel or hear about. Following we have the consequence which can be what we do in response or what the student or person issuing the behavior receives for eliciting that behavior.

“What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris? What’s the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood?” Leonard Cohen

“Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you act.” George W. Crane

“To know what people really think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they say.” Rene Descartes

It is always about what we do. Over the past few days I have with several teachers and friends been discussing many of these ideas in a teacher training program in the mountains of North Georgia and often it comes back to perception. Perception being the how we see and understand events and happenings. One of the categories in writing a behavioral plan for a student is planned ignoring simply tuning out a behavior. Often with no stimulus to keep it going a behavior will disappear. Many times it is getting attention that is the desired consequence.

“People don’t change their behavior unless it makes a difference for them to do so.” Fran Tarkenton

“Physics does not change the nature of the world it studies, and no science of behavior can change the essential nature of man, even though both sciences yield technologies with a vast power to manipulate the subject matters.” B. F. Skinner

How often do you find a football quarterback’s quote and one from the father of behaviorism all in the same paragraph? These two men from distinctly different arenas yet are so very obviously similar in their thoughts. Tarkenton has built an internationally known management consulting firm based on his thought. It has to make a difference to the person for them to change. Skinner sees we can manipulate the subject matters, we can offer alternative consequences to hopefully change the behaviors we can except. A Harris line caught my attention this morning as I started on discipline as I thought back to preparing for two IEP’s coming this fall related to behavior, “by our own actions toward them and toward other people.” SJH. So often it is not the consequences that deter or change a behavior but our actions towards the person and those around them, it is the example we set and not what we say that matters. Please as we venture out today keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Translating and communicating are critical elements in teaching

Bird Droppings June 19, 2014
Translating and communicating are critical elements in teaching

“Scientific management is always on guard against people who don’t fit securely into boxes, whether because of too much competency, too much creativity, too much popularity or what have you. Although often hired, it is with the understanding they must be kept on a short leash and regarded warily. The ideal hireling is reflexively obedient, cheerfully enthusiastic about following orders, ever eager to please. Training for this position begins in the first grade with the word, don’t.” John Taylor Gatto, Weapons of Mass Destruction, 2010

I was reading my copy of John Dewey’s Experience and Education yesterday the one I have used for four summers as we discuss Dewey in North Georgia. I use a differing highlighter each time to show new understanding or maybe more so what I missed last time. As I was pulling my books together for this week I also found my first copy from nearly ten years ago the only one that was available back then just a tiny version that old folks like me have a hard time reading. The most recent printing is a slightly larger font and much easier to read. While looking for Dewey’s book I also found my copy of John Gatto’s endeavor. The subtitle of the book is; A schoolteacher’s journey through the dark world of Compulsory schooling. Gatto is an award winning former and retired teacher of thirty years and he does see the issues that are rampant in education today. Teaching to the test is not just a catch phrase but a method of teaching that literally is being taught to teachers. Here is what is on the test now teach just this.

In about eight weeks I will have students in my class room again. I will be walking down hall ways and talking with students and teachers and I wonder will anything be different than when I left. I wonder if teachers have studied how to be more effective and if students read and became more scholarly over the weeks of summer. Some teachers will have attended graduate school and many will have attended leadership training programs teaching them how to better manage teachers and students and move them through the processes of education so that required tests get passed. A few may have opted for philosophy, literature, psychology, social studies or numerous other more liberal arts sort of courses.

“An effective teacher is one who is able to convince not half or three quarters but essentially all of his or her students to do quality work in school.” Dr. William Glasser MD.

Dr. Glasser goes on in his book The Quality School to explain his ideas. I found it interesting one of his first references is to Dr. W. Edwards Deming who revolutionized industry in Japan. A US quality expert who US industry barely recognized was contracted with by the Japanese to improve quality and in a few short years they over took and surpassed US industry in production as well as in quality. I can recall only a few years ago when a certain US car company used the slogan of “Quality is job 1”. A good view of quality is resale value of cars and trucks. Amazing how nearly all of top ten best resale vehicles are Japanese.
“There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it.” Dale Carnegie

Carnegie provides a quick guide to life for teachers, parents, students, and children. I have always felt example is the key, in almost any aspect of life. I wish it were not so but how we look and or are perceived is often how we are judged first in life. What we say can affect those around us and how they determine whether or not to believe us or not and always how we say it. What do we mean, looking at Carnegie’s words I wonder if some where there is more to communication?

“A world community can exist only with world communication, which means something more than extensive short-wave facilities scattered; about the globe. It means common understanding, a common tradition, common ideas, and common ideals.” Robert M. Hutchins

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” Anthony Robbins

Nearly opposite yet both hold elements needed but in order for people to communicate around the world even in another town a common language a common set of words and ideas is needed to initiate thoughts. It is also knowing that each person may see the world different and be able to work around that and through that.

“The higher you go, the wider spreads the network of communication that will make or break you. It extends not only to more people below, but to new levels above. And it extends all around, to endless other departments and interests interacting with yours.” Donald Walton

I went by Wal-Mart yesterday looking for a very specific item a charger for my camera I had left on my bed at home my camera charger. As I walked about I was thinking this store was a mini mall for this community, people were not just shopping, they were walking about, talking, window shopping in a way, looking and they were everywhere. Wal-Mart had become a focal point for this town. I had been to a Wal-Mart Sam’s club recently talking with a manager and other staff. There is a network of communication. I find it interesting in the news Donald Walton is under fire for his support of high stakes testing and the Industrial Revolution John D. Rockefeller idea of producing workers.

As I sit here going back through my morning writing I have used many icons of industry as featured quotes. I started using a quote from an educator who implicates industry as a culprit in this methodical process of education we now have. Creating workers yet each of the industrial leader’s quotes does not imply that. Yesterday as I emailed back and forth with several friends we discussed building a network of teachers and working that network, wouldn’t that build a powerful teaching tool. What about a parent network where issues could be in the open immediately and clarified and discussed rather than become a sore and fester. We have the technological tools to do this right now and waver. Communications such a crucial item in today’s fast paced world and so over looked. Today is a day where a week is nearly over please keep all in harm’ s way on your mind and in your heart and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Empathy; do we all have it?

Bird Droppings June 18, 2014
Empathy; do we all have it?

It was a year ago I was sitting at breakfast beside a waterfall on the side of the mountain outside Clayton Georgia. It was wet there being it is a temperate deciduous rainforest in North Georgia and cooler at night than what I was used at home with the heat getting to mid-nineties nearly every day. Hopefully in a few weeks I will again be able to listen to the waterfalls and have blue corn muffins with homemade strawberry preserves at The Sylvan Mills Bed and Breakfast. But today the local weathermen are predicting rain today and tomorrow in their forecasts but I am hoping to dodge a few rain drops as I drive about today on errands. Lately as the afternoon storms roll in the images have been spectacular and photo worthy. I do enjoy that few moments as the fronts are mixing and moving about and now especially at night when the smile of the slight moon intermixed with the fluffy interspersed clouds in the starry sky and you can see it through the trees.

I enjoy walking about the tree lined view of my back yard on a beautiful morning. I often wondered how it can be chilly on the summer evenings and yet so hot during the day. Even when the air conditioners are silenced and many of the human noises gone I think the slight coolness helps numb the noise as on some mornings it silences the tree frogs and crickets. Maybe everyone is huddled deeper in their beds and covers enjoying that last few minutes of coolness before venturing out into the heat of the daytime. It has been so easy to fall asleep no air conditioning and a water falls only a few feet from my window I keep checking for slashing on the sill.

“The capacity for consciousness of ourselves gives us the ability to see ourselves as others see us and to have empathy with others. It underlies our remarkable capacity to transport ourselves into someone else’s parlor where we will be in reality next week, and then in imagination to think and plan how we will act. And it enables us to imagine ourselves in someone else’s place, and to ask how we would feel and what we would do if we were this other person. No matter how poorly we use or fail to use or even abuse these capacities, they are the rudiments of our ability to begin to love our neighbor, to have ethical sensitivity, to see truth, to create beauty, to devote ourselves to ideals, and to die for them if need be. To fulfill these potentialities is to be a person.” Rollo May, Man’s Search for Himself, pp. 74-76

Empathy is a difficult word to discuss as for many it does not exist and then others live each moment by this simple word. As I look at May’s idea of empathy “a capacity for consciousness” we are all conscious I would think but I do believe it is also being able to see and feel in someone else’s shoes that is the key to this consciousness. Another word love perhaps as well is an integral aspect of empathy. I feel empathy is crucial to any field dealing with people be that nurses, teachers, pastors literally anyone who daily has contact with others. For these folks empathy is a must it is that gift that allows us to be closer to be able to touch the soul of another being or in touch with the energy around us.

“One who knows how to show and to accept kindness will be a friend better than any possession” Sophocles

“Remember there’s no such thing as a small act of kindness. Every act creates a ripple with no logical end.” Scott Adams

“Smile at each other, smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other – it doesn’t matter who it is – and that will help you to grow up in greater love for each other.” Mother Theresa

I might add crucial aspects of empathy might be such words as kindness, love, and caring these are all positive attributes of empathy. Adams says there is a ripple effect. I have used the pebble in the pond story many times but when you toss a pebble into still water and the ripples emanate out from the point of contact going till they hit the edge of the pond and in effect they return only colliding with the ripples still in coming. That small act does continue many times over. Several years ago a movie was made of small acts of kindness and the impact on a community and I sit here thinking what if. I recall Dr. Norman Vincent Peale nearly forty years ago discussing how when you do something either good or bad for someone ten others will know and spread the information and it magnifies exponentially and hopefully it will always be good.

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair, but manifestations of strength and resolution.” Kahil Gibran

“…successful learners also have insight into the motives, feelings, and behavior of others and the ability to communicate this understanding–in a word, empathy.” B. F Jones, The New Definition of Learning: The First Step to School Reform

The word empathy is defined as: “understanding so intimate that the feelings, thoughts and motives of one are readily comprehended by another.” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language A simple word that could be so powerful and can be a powerful tool for teachers, nurses, pastors and all who service others. Empathy can be that key to the heart and souls of others. Recently in defining my own philosophy of teaching I used the word empathy as a key aspect. Simply put having empathy makes for a more meaningful and believable teacher. I was talking with a good friend the other day and discussing consequences both he and I seldom if ever have referrals. I have never given detention in twelve years. Sitting there talking I said is detention a meaningful consequence for example talking in class. One teacher told me what else do I do? My answer was have class so intrigued they are not talking mesmerize them to a point of attention. Most consequences are due to not teaching, not empathizing with students, not trusting, not understanding and most significantly not caring. I have been asked about referrals, in school suspension and out of school suspension over the years. I have found nine times out of ten writing a referral and waiting a few days for a consequence effectively negates the consequence so why not deal with the issue in class unless it is such that needs serious attention and immediate action and then go directly to administration. Then again back to empathy why is this issue even happening could it be for attention or a plea for help?

“In addition to the shared feeling and accurate understanding dimensions of empathy, some writers also focus on the empathetic person’s communication of understanding to the person whose “internal frame of reference” he or she has grasped.” Kathleen Cotton, SIR, Developing empathy in children and adults

“Regardless of conflicting views about the appropriate place, if any, of “values education” in the schools, people are generally able to agree that developing this capacity to understand, appreciate, and communicate meaningfully with others is an important and desirable goal. This enables us to move away from our differences of opinion about the specific CONTENT of “good character,” focusing instead on the PROCESS whereby people come to care about one another and communicate that caring through their behavior. “ Kathleen Cotton

One of those times I wished I could say I wish I had said that. So often we forget that this interaction with others is so critical to success in life not only in school but when you walk out the door to your home and to the store. Each moment we are alive we interact with others unless we sit on a mountain top somewhere contemplating about the passing of a cloud as I sat here in the garden below the falls yesterday pondering a bird bath made from a large concave boulder North Georgia mountains. Not a bad thought, I wonder if there is a decent pay scale for that position sitting on a mountain. We interact and if those interactions are in an understanding way in effect that is empathy. There is so much more to be gained by both people.

Kathleen Cotton writes further about developing empathy in students and adults and perhaps this is something we should be pursuing. I wonder if Empathy 101 could be a required class in teacher’s education and training. I was discussing this a few days back with my sister who also teaches as I argued that empathy is hard to teach it is not a book learned aspect of life. Her thought as she explained is that it can be taught daily by example. We learn empathy by example it takes an empathetic person to teach another person empathy. Maybe we all should try and empathize a bit more and set the example for others so they too can become empathetic. Maybe then I would not be offering daily please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts. As you go about your day please give thanks for all namaste

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Pondering and researching education while listening to a waterfalls

Bird Droppings June 17, 2014
Pondering and researching education while listening to a waterfalls

A year ago today I was staying at the Sylvan Mills Bed and Breakfast in a room over a waterfalls. I went up to North Georgia to recharge perhaps another word might be to rekindle my passion for education and learning as I have for nearly ten tears been participating in and attending Foxfire training programs. I started writing before day break listening to nature’s sounds. I stayed in a room overlooking a waterfall with my windows open wide taking in the sounds. Trying to write in the lulling sound of water running is difficult and I did doze off again. With the sun up I moved my computer to a porch overlooking the falls fully intent on pulling out my Bose ear phones and listening to Crosby Still Nash and Young. The sounds and energy of the water mesmerized me. I walked about the area just before dark taking pictures. Last Friday I was able to again attend and spent the weekend pondering the John Dewey and Foxfire and the implications that can made in a teachers room. Officially and actually I am behind in my reading as of the moment. So I will try and get some additional reading and writing done today.

With the bulk of education in the early 1900’s following closely the Industrial Revolution and mass production, a few great thinkers took the concept of the individual child in psychology and education in new directions as to its relationship to children. How children were viewed became the basis for several educators to develop their theories and ideas. Child psychology and child centered educational ideas flowed from these thinkers. John Dewey reminded us that the goal of education is more education. To be well educated then is to have the desire as well as the means to make sure the learning never ends. Alfie Kohn educator and author refer to Dewey and to his idea of providing for a lifetime of learning. In his book What does it Mean to be well educated?, Kohn points out, “many classroom teachers asked to specify their long term goals for students, instantly responded with the phrase life-long learners.”

Dewey was not alone in his thinking which was in direct contrast to the traditional educational practices of his day. Dewey was frustrated with the rationale of educators when he wrote

“Why is it, in spite of the fact that teaching by pouring in, learning by a passive absorption, are universally condemned, that they are still so in trenched in practice. That education is not an affair of “telling” and being told, but an active and constructive process.” John Dewey

The traditional philosophy of education was this focus away from children and their interests, and not trying to understand children simply seeing them as small adults. Traditional education was about efficiency and production which were carryovers from the Industrial revolution. It was time for progressive thought to get away from the assembly line processes of traditional education. One of these new educators a thinker, author, scholar, and advocate for children Alfie Kohn throughout his writing illustrates this point.

“Looking at the long-term impact of traditional teaching and the push for Tougher Standards, then we are finally left with Dewey’s timeless and troubling question: “What avail is it to win ability to win prescribed amounts of information about geography and history, to win ability to read and write, if in the process the individual loses his own soul.” Alfie Kohn

In a burst of educational energy just prior to the turn of the century numerous educators and scholars were developing ideas that often parallel John Dewey as they sought to come up with a better way to teach children. Howard Garner in his book The Unschooled Mind states discusses some of this basic history of progressivism.

“Progressivism is most frequently and most appropriately associated with the name of John Dewey. In fact, however the practices of progressive education had already begun to be implemented in the period before 1896…Leaders like Francis Parker, first superintendent of the Quincy Massachusetts Public Schools, later principal of the Cook county Normal School in Chicago, and finally a founding member of the Chicago Institute, which ultimately gave rise to Dewey’s educational facility at the University of Chicago.” Howard Garner

While Dewey was establishing himself in educational history in the United States across the Atlantic Ocean in Europe Dr. Jean Piaget was developing child centered education which would lead along with Dewey and Vsygotsky to the concept of constructivism. Piaget believed each aspect of child development followed clearly defined stages and this did not change child to child but could occur at differing speeds. Dewey saw the past experiences of children so often not even being recognized and yet at that point is the basis for their ability to learn.

In a similar fashion a medical doctor working with mentally disabled children in a residential setting in Europe was looking at the child centered aspect of education as she developed methodology with a developmental learning process in mind. Dr. Maria Montessori in her book The Advanced Montessori Method describes her philosophy and understanding of educating children.

“Scientific observation has established that education is not what the teacher gives; education is a natural process spontaneously carried out by the human individual, and is acquired not by listening to words but by experiences upon the environment.” Dr. Maria Montessori

Another psychologist looking at children in a developmental approach was the Russian psychologist Lev Vygotsky whose work was not discovered by the western educators till the later part of the twentieth century. Vygotsky also saw experience as a significant factor in children’s development. Retention of previous experiences facilitates adaptation to the world around them and can give rise to habits when those experiences are repeated. Vygotsky differed with Piaget in that he said learning can precede developmental stages. We can acquire use of a given tool in order to attain a certain stage of development. Vygotsky’s concept of the zone of proximal development which is “the distance between actual development determined through independent problem solving and the level of potential development through problem solving under adult guidance or in collaboration with more capable peers”.

There are some similarities to Dewey with Vygotsky; much like Dewey he also felt there was a significant element of group interaction needed for education to be meaningful. The ideal school for Dewey was one that took the form of an “embryonic social community,” one in which students were encouraged to cooperate and work together and learn from each other as well as their teachers.

The originators of constructivism Montessori, Piaget, Vygotsky and Dewey all started with psychology and that the child is a unique individual as they developed their interpretations and understandings of learning and education. Even today the child is not the focus of education. One need only to leaf through the tables of contents in recent educational journals to discern that the individual child is not the focus of educational reform. Each of these great educators believed in the act of doing as a way to learn and as Ted Sizer points out that there is context. “What I have learned is context is everything….. The memorable learning was that you have to be very respectful and very sensitive to the values, to the attitudes that youngsters bring into class, that their parents have, which the community has”. Montessori and Piaget leaned towards the developmental stages in child development and Dewey and Vygotsky while accepting developmentally sound stages as real felt the community, peer group and teachers elevated learning past developmental points of reference. Maybe it is time to look back to Dewey.

“Curriculum has held our attention for generations because those who think seriously about education understand its inherent possibility. Maxine Greene’s call for a return to the search for John Dewey’s great community, her call to rise to the challenge of coming together without losing each person’s unique way of being in the world challenges our educational imagination.” Mary Aswell Doll

For Dewey an educational experience had to be connected to the prior personal experience of students and also to a widening or deepening of future experience. It was through reflection that Dewey saw the ability to go beyond where you were now. John Dewey reminded us that the value of what students do “resides in its connection with the stimulation of greater thoughtfulness, not in the greater strain it imposes”. The act of reflection is taking a given reference and moving ahead to a new possibility. Often it is the teacher who provides the window for reflection to occur.

“Good teachers possess a capacity for connectedness. They are able to weave a complex web of connectedness among themselves, their subjects, and their students so that students can learn to weave a world for themselves.” Parker Palmer

It was in this reflective, imaginative undertaking of Dewey’s that provided ideas and thoughts that led Elliot Eisner to Art Education. In his writings Eisner looks to the arts as a basis for education and his ideas and thoughts offer a new stream from Dewey. John Dewey once commented that the stamp of the aesthetic needed to be on any intellectual idea in order for that idea to be complete. It is this feel both imaginative and sensible that the so-called academic studies would foster if they were modeled after the arts. Dewey identified making things as one of four fundamental interests of children. Unhappily, because schools put so little value on making things, most of us grow up with contempt for work done with our hands. Eisner drew often from Dewey’s idea on needing context and relevance for learning to be genuine and to be lasting. Eisner places experience at the center of learning.

“It is through the content of our experiences that we are able to perform two very important cognitive operations: we are able to remember and we are able to imagine…. Imagination …works with the qualities we have experienced. What was not first in the hand cannot later be in the head.” Elliot Eisner

“One of the potential virtues of situated learning is that it increases the probability that students will be able to apply what they have learned. When the conditions of learning are remote from the situations or tasks in which what is learned can be applied, the likely hood of application or some would say transfer is diminished.” Elliot Eisner

The idea of imagination needing to have a basis in reality, in the context, is of significance. It is imagination that brings meaning, purpose, and application to what is learned.
“Imagination for Dewey, explores alternative possibilities for action within a selected context of ongoing activity. Imagination enables the search for ideas that can reconstruct the situation. It takes the context and its data, including emotional sympathetic data, as intuited and determined by selective interests and transforms them into a plan of action, an idea that if acted upon might allow the agent to achieve the desired ideal in reality.” Jim Garrison

Eisner believes in diversity, that this is the key to education and learning and through this provides richness for our culture as well. Continuing in that same line of thought, Maxine Greene educator, philosopher and pioneer sees reality after all as interpreted experience and that to limit learners to a single dominant mode of interpreting their experience may be to frustrate their individual pursuits of meaning and consequently, their desires to come to know, and to learn.

With much of her work is based on the concept of caring, Nel Noddings defines education “as a constellation of encounters, both planned and unplanned, that promote growth through the acquisition of knowledge, skills, understanding and appreciation”. Eisner and Barone understand that the aesthetics of experiences is what builds those in our minds and provides the means to imagine and be creative. The concept of Aesthetic Learning and Education is one of understanding, of perception and ultimately of creativity. Eisner looks at teaching as artistry, it is the ability to craft a performance and to provide the students with the mediums and means to perceive and understand their world.

For John Dewey, aesthetic experiences are not confined to high art, but arise from within the interaction of human organisms with their surroundings. Thomas Barone points to Dewey being the primary thinker that envisioned art and aesthetics having a central role in education and in learning. Thomas Barone is concerned as are many other progressive educators with the linear format of traditional education.

“If students are not given access to metaphoric learning activities, if the shape of their learning is always linear and closed, how will their capacity for creativity and invention be developed?” Thomas Barone

Perhaps in my research and reading I am getting a bit over board with Dewey and education but I see tie ins to daily living, to how we respond to others, to what the future holds for us and our grandchildren. If each of us took a bit more time to try and understand why so much of what is going on in society is going on maybe just maybe we could finally realize much of this does not need to be happening. So again after nearly thirteen years of daily writing I ask as I do every morning please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird