Bird Droppings July 7, 2014
I wonder if you can get moon burn?
It was a quiet and crazy evening at the Bird Nest as we returned from a weekend in the mountains to a one year old birthday party of our grandson. Last night just before heading in, I walked out on the back porch watching the hummingbirds get in a few more sips of nectar from the feeders and listening to tree frogs begin their nightly chorus. As I stood outside I noticed high in the sky to the west a smiling moon in among the breaks in the storm clouds and knew it was going down and would be gone later or in the morning when I got up. But it is nice to end the day with a smile. After a literally every night we have had a storm and rain but last night the back yard was glowing from the smiling light. I know from my science classes that it is simply reflection from the sun, but it is hard to talk of the moon without attributing to it, its own glow. Sort of like a student and a good teacher relationship. We may never see the teacher only the reflection of the knowledge and wisdom passed on through that student. I find myself wandering lonely in a pedagogical desert at times walking through hallways that seem deserted with students out for the summer when I go the high school.
“Now nearly all learning space is occupied by an elaborate testing apparatus that measures the student’s progress in ingesting externally imposed curriculae and more insidiously provides a sorting device to reproduce the inequalities inherent in the capitalistic market system. …In turn the teacher becomes the instrument of approved intellectual and moral culture, charged with the task of expunging destructive impulses and fueling the empty mental tank. The student must be permitted no autonomy lest the evil spirits that lurk in everyday life regain lost ground.” Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of freedom, Ethics, Democracy and civic courage
Many great thinkers and writers attest to democracy and education going hand in hand. John Dewey wrote extensively about this as does Paulo Freire, and even John F. Kennedy, I borrowed from him in recent days, Thomas Jefferson and so many more believed democracy and education are intertwined. But as I read Freire’s statement above I wonder if what we call democracy is truly that. How can a society manipulating its students into various interconnections of the market place albeit into consumers and or workers truly be a democracy? Watching the billboard ads of current primary candidates saddens me to even think we can call this a democracy. On July fourth in our local parade a politician pastor who advertised in his last campaign against the President using a hammer and sickle of the Old Russian Communist party on a billboard comparing or more so implying our current president was a communist and this particular candidate was conversely a true American. I did not shake his hand as he passed and his views on education would set us back further than we are.
Many historical writers of education address the incorporation of higher education. I went to get a drink yesterday while I was at the school from a vending machine and only certain ones were on and able to be purchased. So I could only get specific drinks and specific brands. In our school it happens to be all Coca-Cola products. I thought it interesting as we have the Cola wars even in schools. It has struck education and yesterday as I walked through the gym I glanced at our score board and the huge Coke logo. It was free I have heard. We have a regular Coke man who many kids know by name and is in the building daily.
Each week our school buys over ten thousand dollars in Coke products. Essentially everyday he provides sustenance for nearly two thousand students and faculty. It is interesting as you add and subtract figures, two drinks and one snack per day per student and teacher equates to over one million dollars in sales per school year and three high schools in our county and over a hundred counties in Georgia. No wonder corporations want input in education.
While working on a writing project this morning I was noticing how what seemingly doesn’t happen and is not supposed to happen does, students tend to group by ability. Several times I have noticed lower functioning students and students who have failed a class particularly math and science will be grouped together and often with a younger less experienced teacher in the classroom. This happens all over not just in our school. Obviously honors and advanced placement classes are taught by better teachers with experience and in most cases they have very specific certification, “gifted” qualifications. A simple observation, the best teachers are often in the best classes with the best students and or in classes of special education special needs students sort of a paradox.
I have been watching again the advertising promos for a film coming back on cable again, The Ron Clark Story. Ron Clark was the 2000 Disney Teacher of the year has been featured on Oprah and interviewed by Katie Couric. In his style of teaching he was providing context to the content which is a major theme in his teaching and now with the Ron Clark Academy in inner city Atlanta he is taking his philosophy to a new standard.
“Before going to the bowling alley, Mr. Clark visited himself, measured the lanes and used the dimensions on worksheets. He also used the bowling pins to teach fractions, and took the prices from the snack shop and used them in math class. On every trip, whether it is up the street or across the globe, the Ron Clark Academy will make every moment a learning opportunity because as Mr. Clark has learned children must have a connection to something before they will appreciate it. After preparing our students so thoroughly for each trip, they will truly get the most out of the experience and internalize all they have learned.” The Ron Clark Academy, Curriculum
Here is a teacher in our time stepping up and using ideas from early 1900’s. John Dewey proposed such things many years ago in his writing and educational views.
“Only in education, never in the life of farmer, sailor, merchant, physician, or laboratory experimenter, does knowledge mean primarily a store of information aloof from doing.” John Dewey
However it requires a teacher to go to the bowling alley and go to a store and go to and does work and additionally out of the school stuff and more work in school and doing word walls and doing stuff and it goes on and on. Much more than getting the teacher’s manual off the shelf and using the packaged transparencies and materials provided by McGraw Hill, Pearson or whatever publisher is approved by state and federal guidelines and conveniently has aligned their text with your state curriculum and or had advisors on your state committee for curriculum. It is no coincidence textbooks are expensive and a big business, every school buys textbooks. College texts are notorious about price but what if priced at fifty dollars each and many especially in elementary reading classes are disposable it amounts to millions of dollars a year in each school district. Last year over $188,000,000.00 was spent in California to purchase books in order to keep up with curriculum standards. So if you multiply by fifty states and many more countries and we are talking many billions of dollars at stake every year.
“We naturally associate democracy, to be sure, with freedom of action, but freedom of action without freed capacity of thought behind it is only chaos.” John Dewey
Freire and so many others are fearful of education being too incorporated and losing the freedom of thought which in reality is what we lose according to Dewey and then our democracy. 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,
(We are all related)