How deep within is the soul?

Bird Droppings March 23, 2015
How deep within 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

Having been in teaching of special needs kids for many years, 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 late 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. The quick witted student who changed the subject is touring South Ameirca right now.

“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.

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

As a teacher we should always be near the edge

Bird Droppings March 22, 2015
As a teacher we should always be near the edge

I recall taking groups hiking in North Georgia and always there is that one person who has to be at the edge of a gorge or edge of the trail dropping two hundred feet down looking over and nearly falling. Maybe they were adrenaline rush junkies. It has been some time since I would edge my canoe off a rapids occasionally not knowing what lay ahead. I have gone off some pretty good size falls not paying attention.

“To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily. To not dare is to lose oneself.” Soren Kierkegaard

I often wonder if I had chosen differently at various times in my life what would be the outcome and where would I be. What if I had not left teaching so many years ago would one of my former students perhaps have changed directions and not be serving three life sentences currently. I was aware of issues back then nearly forty years ago but I was just a kid working with kids.

“I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it.” Pablo Picasso

It is through experience that the highest form of learning occurs and it is learning that will stay with us as we move through life. I can describe how to tie a square knot and I can show pictures all day long of a square knot but until you physically tie a square knot with a piece of rope you will not recall the intricacies and methods.

“When in doubt, make a fool of yourself. There is a microscopically thin line between being brilliantly creative and acting like the most gigantic idiot on earth. So what the hell, leap?” Cynthia Heimel, Lower Manhattan Survival Tactics

I recently did a timeline of my life showing what I call coincidence points where a slightly different twist, trail, or take would have altered my life. People I have met, things I have done or not done all altered by a moments choice somewhere along the line.

“I dip my pen in the blackest ink, because I’m not afraid of falling into my inkpot.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have been a fan of Emerson for some time and as I read this line I recalled several comments from a friend who is an artist and very independent drawing a comparison to the Dr. House on TV. He is an arrogant extremely brilliant physician who offends everyone and seemingly solves unsolvable medical mysteries. My friend is a graphic artist and has learned the game of preparing art boards for clients; she will always do several and sort of over emphasize the one that she feels is best. You are giving your customer choice and options yet controlling the situation for the better. This is a Dr. James Sutton trick for working with Oppositional Deviant children. My friend has a customer who never picks the best one always the wrong one and now without just being obnoxious directs the customer to the best art work.

“Progress always involves risks. You can’t steal second base and keep your foot on first.” Frederick B. Wilcox

So often life presents us with challenges or with trails to follow do I go left or right do I take the steeper one or the easy pathway. Over the years hiking in the Appalachian mountains of Georgia and North Carolina you would come upon switch backs where the trail rather than going straight up would be a series of switches back and forth a bit more distance but an easier incline especially when encumbered with a heavy backpack. Some people want to charge forward and I had a few who would allow make a beeline for the top of Blood Mountain and avoid switch backs and about half way up the rest of us would catch up to them exhausted and bruised and bloodied from rocks and falls. Often there is wisdom in experience. Still those of us moving up the mountain maybe in a slower pace but would still finish ahead of them.

“Why not go out on a limb? Isn’t that where the fruit is?” Frank Scully

I remember picking apples and crawling out a bit too far on a limb nearly falling going for the best ones. Learning the limits of your environment can be beneficial and help you get the best possible of what you seek.

“You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” Wayne Gretzky

I first used this quote nearly thirteen years ago putting a copy on my then principal’s door. Interesting that sheet of copy paper made the move to a two new schools and is still hanging in his office ten years later now as a RESA Director over ten counties.

“I believe in getting into hot water; it keeps you clean.” G.K. Chesterton

I have never been one to back down from a challenge and Chesterton’s words are true so often people sit and languish sadly literally molding away.

“The torment of precautions often exceeds the dangers to be avoided. It is sometimes better to abandon one’s self to destiny.” Napoleon Bonaparte

In Risk Management you terminate the risk, you tolerate the risk, and you treat the risk and or transfer the risk which equates to the four T’s of Risk Management, Terminate, Tolerate, Treat and Transfer.

“This nation was built by men who took risks – pioneers who were not afraid of the wilderness, business men who were not afraid of failure, scientists who were not afraid of the truth, thinkers who were not afraid of progress, dreamers who were not afraid of action.” Brooks Atkinson
It was the vastness of the frontier that truly gave us the American Dream. I have been working on papers dealing with the development of education historically and it is interesting how the frontier paid such a significant role. Europe had reached a point where every corner and every nook was owned and possessed and a totally new atmosphere occurred when the colonists came across the ocean. It was a vast un-chartered frontier.

“Nothing will ever be attempted, if all possible objections must be first overcome.” Samuel Johnson, Rasselas, 1759

So many times in history because of various limitations imposed by religion and by rulers because objections hold the society in limbo.

“Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly.” Robert F. Kennedy

I recall the day Bobby Kennedy was killed and football Hall of Fame great Rosie Greer who had been helping with security knelt beside the still body a tear on his cheek. Greer was one of the great all time linemen, in pro football and was crying holding Kennedy’s head in his hands. As the news started a picture came across the media. The photo was the huge Rosie Greer bent over a fallen Bobbie Kennedy with tears in his eyes. Shortly thereafter news carried the words word that Kennedy had died. He knew the chances but believed in what he was trying to do.

“It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult.” Seneca

Nearly 3000 years ago these words were uttered by the great Greek philosopher and today they hold as true as they did back then.

“What great thing would you attempt if you knew you could not fail?” Robert H. Schuler
Pastor Schuler was never one to limit himself such as in building one of the largest church congregations in the country and the largest TV audience of all time.

“Every man has the right to risk his own life in order to preserve it. Has it ever been said that a man who throws himself out the window to escape from a fire is guilty of suicide?” Jean-Jacques Rousseau

I am amazed as to how perception changes as conditions change.

“Do not be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better. What if they are a little course and you may get your coat soiled or torn? What if you do fail, and get fairly rolled in the dirt once or twice. Up again, you shall never be so afraid of a tumble.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

The old adage of getting back on the horse when you fall off still holds clout.

“Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.” Ray Bradbury

Every day some of us live this way waiting till the last minute and thriving on the adrenalin but not everyone can function in this manner. I sit back and recall my father going over the four T’s of risk management in a conference so many years ago and how applicable that still is not just in industry but in school, education, families, and life in general. Some people need a moment or two to catch their breath to ponder and make the wisest and sometimes safe choice. So today 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

The journey starts here now today

Bird Droppings March 20, 2015
The journey starts here now today

“Who, then, shall conduct education so that humanity may improve?” John Dewey

A very deep and broad question, I was thinking back to my own community and associations. We elect school board members who hire teachers and principals, they decide on schools to build and a place to build them and rules to govern schools. What and how does Dewey the great educator answer his own question?

“We must depend upon the efforts of enlightened men in their private capacity. ’All culture begins with private men and spreads outward from them. Simply through the efforts of persons of enlarged inclinations, who are capable of grasping the ideal of a future better condition, is the gradual approximation of human nature to its end possible…. Rulers are simply interested in such training as will make their subjects better tools for their own intentions.’ Even the subsidy by rulers of privately conducted schools must be carefully safeguarded. For the rulers’ interest in the welfare of their own nation instead of in what is best for humanity, will make them, if they give money for the schools, wish to draw their plans.” John Dewey

We are manipulated and educated as pawns in a society for the society’s own good and many top educators believe this. There are times when I believe that watching new teachers come and teach in a manner that has been that way for a hundred years, as we develop curriculums that are what was and will always be. Occasionally a bright note a light on the horizon, a student of education or two sees a different view a different point and follows a different path. Here I am thinking and routine keeps popping up.

Today as I do every day I let out our Huskie, Timber the dog we found on our door step, then I get to my reading of emails and writing. I recall only a few years back when we had two dogs and they could not be out at the same time or in the same room or space, I always thought that was interesting as they were raised together. Then I go to the computer and write trying to catch up on emails. What is of concern as I think is this is a trivial item to be concerned about? We want things to be smooth to run efficiently and effectively and “OUR WAY”; the further up the chain of command the bigger the “OUR WAY” is.

“The new idea of the importance of education for human welfare and progress was captured by national interests and harnessed to do a work whose social aim was definitely narrow and exclusive. The social aim of education and its national aim were identified, and the result was a marked obscuring of the meaning of a social aim.” John Dewey

Teachers and administrators like routine, sameness I call it and easy to can and be bottled. Borrowing from Sydney J, Harris “easier to stuff a sausage than cultivate a pearl” The student effectively gets lost in the mandated and regulated manipulations of society. The advent and proliferation of charter schools run by profit seeking entities only adds to this problem.

“Is it possible for an educational system to be conducted by a national state and yet the full social ends of the educative process not be restricted, constrained, and corrupted?” John Dewey

I find irony in the concept of a democratic classroom which I do believe can be successful. I find paradox in our efforts to be so democratic in our own country and yet we tend to bow to where majority wants even at the expense of free thought. We say individualism on one hand yet want the majority to rule and to dictate. As I was watching the election process in Iraq over the past few years and previously these concepts seemed to be exemplified. One faction has won and another literally did not vote in protest.

As I look at education and our own country how often do we do this and then when that which we did not elect nor even cared about happens we whine. In Georgia it is our state legislators passing laws for charter schools while continually cutting finding to public education, increasing class sizes, and in some cases eliminating funding to special needs. We complain and we are faced with a journey with neither provisions we do not want nor need. We can be often on that journey in a wrong direction for several years till another change, or pathway appears. Far too often we dictate direction in a top down scenario. In our own state a state representative was elected and almost beat by a write in vote for Charles Darwin because no one ran against him.

On the path the one on the journey is being told go this way and go that and should be the one directing the effort. It is so easy to raise an issue; following through with ideas is the more difficult aspect. Where in should the direction be set for example in education? I approach students in a manner that may be contradictory to some and way wrong to others. I offer here is where we need to go and ok class how do we get there. At first that is a difficult proposition, many want a map, a guide, a compass at least. The teacher can be that, facilitating in a guiding manner. But for learning to happen students have to be engaged and interactive in the journey each day.

“To get where they’re going, navigators first need to know where in the world they are.” Dragonfly web site,
http://www.units.muohio.edu/dragonfly/find/find/PAGETH1.shtml

If we substitute educators and or students for navigators an interesting situation occurs. Any journey needs a starting point and how we find where that is often is the hard part in education. A journey starts at the beginning, where it is going is wherever and whenever but it does start somewhere. As a teacher helps students find a starting point and then provides tools to navigate the journey. I was talking to a young man yesterday and trying to get him to understand it will be difficult to continue as he is and pass the class. His response was simple I am not coming back to school next year so what. So easy to say I quit and why was this kid left behind in a society that has the tools and means to educate and has for so many years. Many times I hear that is just the ways it is. For some time I have been a fan of Dr. Nel Noddings and her relationship philosophy of caring in terms of education.

“Without imposing my values on another, I must realize that my treatment of him may deeply affect the way he behaves in the world. Although no individual can escape responsibility for his own actions, neither can the community that produced him escape its part in making him what he has become.” Dr. Nel Noddings, Stanford University

It is not just the student who is to blame it is also we as an educational system have let him down. We to are to blame, we have supported the concept of No Child Left Behind and continue with the Race to the Top ideologies and in doing so leaving students by the wayside as we go. 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

How could it be neither wolf nor dog in education?

Bird Droppings March 19, 2015
How could it be neither wolf nor dog in education?

I was approached as I walked up the hill at the Atlanta Zoo by an elderly man. I had never met this man previously and hope to never meet again. He saw my camera around my neck and asked if I saw the rare creature ahead. I asked him which one as several endangered animals are housed at the Atlanta Zoo. His next comment took me by surprise. It was a derogatory racially motivated jab at nonwhites. My first reaction was numbness. Why did this racist out of all the random people pick me to talk too. Synchronicity as I say. I watched him walk away down the hill thinking how in this modern world does a man like that even live? How can someone be so jaded and hate so much? Yet every time I sit down to my computer and read even a few social media posts there is more virulent infectious racism. “But I am not racist.”

It has been sometime since I first read the book, Neither Wolf nor Dog, which happens to have been written by one of my favorite authors Kent Nerburn. Listening to political gibberish and sitting watching twitter comments through indigenous news casts the issue of the Native Peoples has never gone away and is perhaps equally as appropriate as we are in a situation as a nation with a nontraditional president who happens to be of a different color than what many Americans would prefer and are afraid to say they are. So easy to say “I am not racist but his church affiliation cannot be over looked.” I was listening to several of my students discuss politics and always a little other reason somehow gets mentioned. Listening to polls and news similar rationales seem to prevail although cloaked in Republican or Democratic jargon. I saw a poster recently of an Indian woman stating something to the effect anyone not speaking Lakota, and listed numerous more dialects and languages needs to leave as you are trespassing illegally on Indian land.

“Is it wrong for me to love my own? Is it wicked for me because my skin is red? Because I am Sioux? Because I was born where my father lived? Because I would die for my people and my country?” Sitting Bull, (Tatanka Iyotake), Lakota Medicine man and chief

This great warrior and holy man died in 1890 shot by his own people as fore told in a vision he had many years before. At the time the federal government was concerned with his affiliation with the ghost dance cult, which was sweeping the reservations. Armed Sioux officers were sent to bring him in and as legend goes he was reaching for his grandson’s toy and the officers perceived a gun and shot him multiple times. Sadly most of the officers themselves were killed in mysterious ways the next year or so. Perhaps the officer’s deaths were retaliation for the killing of a great leader from the Sioux nation. Perhaps it is the paradox of the Indian wars.

It always seems interesting to me how it was patriotic for soldiers to kill Indians and yet the statement “I would die for my people and country,” is a very patriotic statement we still hear from American patriots down through history. Today around the world we are witnessing similar events in many countries and we are the invaders again. It just depends on which side of the fence you are sitting on as to who is patriotic and who is the enemy. Recently on a public broadcast a former rock star that is also an alleged draft dodger from the Viet Nam era and is very pro guns was blasting our current president and came awful close to threatening him. Many considered that tirade as patriotic, at least the NRA convention crowd applauded.

“To see what is right, and not do it, is want of courage, or of principle.” Confucius

“Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.” Hans Margolius

With each word spouted from some conservative’s lips about lowering gas prices and yet never do we ask oil companies to decrease their ever increasing profits. I have not quite figured this out how we as citizens will save if oil companies increase profits. Perhaps it is looking for new lands to subdue which is the credo of so many conservatives and their religious affiliations. Taking away lands from wilderness to own and subdue and to plunder. Sometimes I wonder if we have run out of wilderness to conquer as I watch world events. Even the rumor mill is involving Haiti now as a possible new territory for the US. Do we need another General Custer and another battle of the little Big Horn? I was thinking back in my own time and war, Viet Nam, and to the Malai massacre but those folks had no weapons and only were standing around not fighting back. I am always amazed that Custer was a hero and yet he disobeyed orders and egotistically rode into battle outnumbered and was slaughtered. Perhaps it was the fact the Sioux and Cheyenne warriors had the newest weaponry, repeating rifles and Custer’s men still had breech loading single shot rifles. Interestingly enough word had it the unit was offered the new weapons but felt the old ones were good enough for what they were doing killing Indians.

“What white man can say I never stole his land or a penny of his money? Yet they say that I am a thief. What white woman, however lonely, was ever captive or insulted by me? Yet they say I am a bad Indian.” Sitting Bull

I went to school for a semester in Texas in 1968 and experienced racism I had never seen before to that degree. Hatred for Indians nearly one hundred years after the wars were over. Geronimo and Chief Joseph were both refused on their death beds by sitting presidents to return to their sacred lands for fear of up risings. Nearly seven years ago on a Monday a South Texas town abolished an anti-Hispanic segregation law more than seven decades after it was enacted in Edcouch Texas. More recently Arizona enacted even stricter laws that are currently in court and today before the US Supreme Court. Back in the day we were the illegal immigrants and we stole a land and destroyed culture after culture taking and subduing. In Georgia government and in several other states today they want to forget that type of history in US History classes since it ruins our image (European white) as an elite people.

In 1973 I met the contingency of Creeks who were working at the Okmulgee Indian Mounds in Macon Georgia, we became friends and I was honored to be invited to take medicine at the Green Corn dance. Nearly 150 years earlier under Andrew Jackson’s orders the Creeks were taken from Georgia to Oklahoma, the now infamous Trail of Tears. With the Creeks gone all the land became available. I found searching for information on my Leni Lenape, great, great grandmother an article about my great great grandfather George Niper who lived to be one hundred and fourteen years old and was the last living person to have voted for Andrew Jackson. I found it interesting Jackson was a Democrat; I do not think he would be in today’s politics.

“Now that we are poor, we are free. No white man controls our footsteps. If we must die, we die defending our rights.” Sitting Bull

I wonder what slogans were used in the 1880’s in presidential elections, Grant wanted a third term and Garfield supported Grant interesting how Garfield’s speech for Grant got him the nomination over Grant and elected. Tariffs was the main issue, high tariffs was what Garfield backed and possibly that which he was assassinated for. The plight of the Native Peoples was a small issue during the years recovering from the governmental corruption of Grants time. Government seems to be by nature corrupt. We watch as senators and congressmen argue over health care and yet they have universal health care for life. Maybe if on equal footing legislation would be different and maybe if the threat of you could lose yours was on the table things would be different.

“A very great vision is needed and the man who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky. I was hostile to the white man…we preferred hunting to a life of idleness on our reservations. At times we did not get enough to eat and we were not allowed to hunt. All we wanted was peace and to be left alone. Soldiers came and destroyed our villages. Then Long Hair (Custer) came…They say we massacred him, but he would have done the same to us. Our first impulse was to escape but we were so hemmed in we had to fight.” Crazy Horse, Tashunwitko

Interesting how an invaded people fought back yet we condemned them and how history changes the views. I have been reading a book that I entitled today’s wandering about, Neither Wolf nor Dog, by Kent Nerburn. It is an interesting book about an old man’s effort to explain who his people really are. Nerburn was asked to write the words of an elderly Indian, a member of the Sioux nation, to explain why and how. One day maybe someone will offer explanations for the issues of today that go beyond the political views of warring parties and ideologies as we wander today. I am sitting with the lingering aroma of sage and haunting flute music of Carlos Nakai in the background please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and please always remember to give thanks namaste.

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

Teaching is making a difference each day

Bird Droppings March 18, 2015
Teaching is making a difference each day

“Dialogue, is the encounter between men, mediated by the world, in order to name the world” Paulo Freire

A Brazilian educationalist and one of the most influential thinkers of the late twentieth century made famous the term dialogue in his writing. As I read a bit about Freire this morning a word in his vernacular that is interesting, praxis, for teacher’s praxis is that horrible battery of tests for certification. For Freire a meaning with import, “acts which shape and change the world”

“Man must prove the truth, i.e. the reality and power, the this-sidedness of his thinking in practice…. All social life is essentially practical. All mysteries which lead theory to mystics, find their rational solution in human practice and in the comprehension of this practice…. The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” Karl Marx, 1845 Theses on Feurbach: II, VII, XI

It is through thinking that events change and draw meaning it is not simply thinking but applying these thoughts.

“It is not simply action based on reflection. It is action which embodies certain qualities. These include a commitment to human wellbeing and the search for truth, and respect for others. It is the action of people who are free, who are able to act for themselves. Moreover, praxis is always risky. It requires that a person ‘makes a wise and prudent practical judgment about how to act in this situation” Carr and Kemmis 1986

Wise and prudent are not often used terms in most human situations. It is infrequent that most people go about thinking in terms of world good even community good we live in this more self-oriented society, a society of hedonism.

“Dialogue in itself is a co-operative activity involving respect. The process is important and can be seen as enhancing community and building social capital and to leading us to act in ways that make for justice and human flourishing.” Mark K. Smith, 1997

There are pieces here I started with a word dialogue and have moved rather rapidly through the concept of praxis but reading Mark Smith’s comments the idea of human flourishing impresses me. I find it is what we do that perpetuates the species and ideals and thoughts of the human kind. I did a questionnaire for the state department of education on Thursday last week. The questions were discussing standards and assessment and such combine that with teachers who are so uptight with only five weeks or so left two till end of course tests. This is now standard in most states but part of quantifying but I question are we making strides in education in this manner. It becomes all about cramming pieces of information into the minuscule brains of teenagers. I recall Sydney J. Harris’s comparison to stuffing sausages. In our great effort to quantify we have stripped quality.
“Educators have to teach. They have to transform transfers of information into a ‘real act of knowing” Paulo Freire

So in effect cramming and pouring vast quantities of information into students to take a test that had to be pushed up due to calendar and state parameters makes a lot of sense. How much water can be poured in a one liter bottle and how many state officials will it take to figure out that one. I recall a summer or two ago reading tests to students with learning disabilities almost a paradox in and of its self “reading graduation tests”. I looked across at my water bottle and that thought hit me can we put more than a liter of water in a liter bottle. Immediately I was thinking freeze it water expands when chilled then heat it again expansion and so how do we put a gallon of information in a one liter container or is it actually ten gallons of material?

It was back in the winter on a trip to the mountains and a walk through visit to the Foxfire museum that the reality of doing this hit it is possible to fit ten gallons of knowledge in a one liter container. The museum curator and guide held up a copper device and talked about the mainstay of mountain life years gone by, “moon shining” the device he held up was a condenser used in making white lightening, grain alcohol, or moon shine. In theory you can condense and distill those ten gallons to whatever capacity you want. You teach the necessary aspects borrowing from Freire, “transform transfers of information into a ‘real acts of knowing”. This is the key taking the content and applying context then it will be remembered and provide the latitude to advance thinking and that persons direction in life and to making a difference. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and be sure to always give thanks namaste.

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

Potential is only that unless it is acted upon

Bird Droppings March 17, 2015
Potential is only that unless it is acted upon

“Love is a complex experience which seems to follow no rules but its own. Romantic love can have the power of a hurricane or the tenderness of a soft wet wind. I have known, too, a chance introduction which instantly and magically merged into a lifelong friendship. And I’ve known love that refused to blossom over decades despite close, frequent contact. Then suddenly, this same person I had not considered significant became a treasured friend.” James Kavanaugh, A Lifetime Isn’t Long Enough To Love you

It was nearly thirteen years ago I went for an interview to be accepted into a Master’s Degree program at Piedmont College. I failed my interview. I had already been in school for over a year in the program and somehow I had just failed the entrance interview. Perhaps in my zeal for the program I had forgotten the interview process. I called my advisor and an appointment was made with the Dean. I was extremely fortunate to sit in with the Dean of the Education department and gain acceptance to the program officially. A few months later I faced the professor who failed me on the interview. Much like Kavanaugh’s thought we have become good friends and in effect he reintroduced me to a long forgotten bit of my past in the poet James Kavanaugh. I have now many of his books in my library and this particular one caught my attention. The above is the first paragraph of the introduction to this book.

As I was thinking of potential it is so much on how we perceive and see the world and those around us. It is the acceptance and caring we share and that we allow others to participate in. Potential a simple word yet so often robbed from students from friends as we impose our own priorities and limitations on relationships on communication and on life itself.

“There comes that mysterious meeting in life when someone acknowledges who we are and what we can be, igniting the circuits of our highest potential.” Rusty Berkus

As parents, teachers and friends we need to be igniters for others and when needed be a self-igniter for us. Each day I watch teachers and other students limit the potential of others. Often indirectly and without thought we do this.

“Rough diamonds may sometimes be mistaken for worthless pebbles.” Sir Thomas Browne

A number of years ago in 1905, a miner unearthed in South Africa a baseball size rock, pulled from the ground covered in mud. It may have been discarded but when an observant miner carefully washed and cleaned the stone it turned out to be the largest diamond ever found. The Cullian Diamond weighed in at over 3000 carats. When cut the diamond was made into several now famous cut stones most of which reside in the crown jewels of Great Britain including the golf ball size diamond in the scepter of the Queen.

“Continuous effort, not strength or intelligence is the key to unlocking our potential.” Liane Cardes

“The treacherous, unexplored areas of the world are not in continents or the seas; they are in the hearts and minds of men.” Allen E. Claxton

So often it is within us that we become limited. We ourselves become the stumbling blocks for our own potential. It takes perseverance and effort to many times over come our own fears and inadequacies. Often children are put down and carry that into later events and undertakings, a sense of inadequacy and potential is squashed.

“Ineffective people live day after day with unused potential. They experience synergy only in small, peripheral ways in their lives. But creative experiences can be produced regularly, consistently, almost daily in people’s lives. It requires enormous personal security and openness and a spirit of adventure.” Steven R. Covey

A virtual business empire has been built by Covey helping and inspiring people to become aware of their own potential unlocking what they hold inside. Great coaches in sports and life through understanding of people achieve success with teams that may not have the greatest athletes but have a concerted effort for achieving their potential. In a recent college football game, a seemingly invincible team was upset by a smaller college. It was that team’s effort to reach their true potential and another team thinking less of them because of who they thought they were.

“A pint can’t hold a quart — if it holds a pint it is doing all that can be expected of it.” Margaret Deland

“It’s the moment you think you can’t that you realize you can.” Celine Dion

“What you can become you are already.” Hebbel Friedrich

There are really no secrets to unlocking our own potential, it is there waiting. So many years ago I remember my father saying never say “I can’t”, “you can achieve anything you set your mind too”. .

“The cynic says, ‘One man can’t do anything.’ I say, ‘Only one man can do anything.’” John W. Garner

John Garner was the author of numerous books on a range of subjects including Leadership and motivation. Garner states it is there inside us “Only one man can do anything”.

“The greatest waste in the world is the difference between what we are and what we could become.” Ben Herbster

“Most people live, whether physically, intellectually or morally, in a very restricted circle of their potential being. They make very small use of their possible consciousness and of their soul’s resources in general, much like a man who, out of his whole bodily organism, should get into a habit of using and moving only his little finger.” William James
We so get into the habit of accepting limitations, of listening to those around us who keep us back. We should instead seek people and friends who uplift and raise the standards for us and those around us. Try and look for people who also want to reach their potential.

“It’s not what you’ve got; it’s what you use that makes a difference.” Zig Ziglar

“If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you’ve obviously never been in bed with a mosquito.” Michelle Walker

We each can make a difference within ourselves and with others by not holding friends, family and or students back. Instead each of us should by helping them to reach their potential, by not having expectations that limit growth and achievement. We can accomplish anything by reaching for the sky. Today it is the near the end of the week let us all be more aware of those around us

“Normal day let me be aware of the treasure you are. Let me learn from you, love you, bless you before you depart. Let me not pass you by in quest of some rare and perfect tomorrow. Let me hold you while I may, for it may not always be so.” Mary Jean Iron

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

Can we really find answers?

Bird Droppings March 16, 2015
Can we really find answers?

Several years ago I would have said there were answers to almost any question that could be asked. Today sitting here I wonder granted first you have to ask what is the question or questions but I have a different attitude now sort of one that is allowing for an unanswerable question. When I was researching yesterday and reading about W. Edward Deming’s and his solutions which was a rather simple solution to most quality issues in life. Deming believed in quality first and as I ponder education is it too pie in the sky to try and do such a good job that there are no questions no need to check (assess) at the end of the line. Is it too high and mighty to offer that there is no need to inspect or challenge and or no need to test if the quality is built in?

As I walked out this morning to a smile of a moon it just seemed like it was going to be a great day. I started my day with a new flavor of bagel, French toast maple, which actually was very good with some cream cheese. I figure I can work that off as the day progresses with kids going bonkers on a Monday and student evaluations of teachers this week. But W.D. Deming’s ideas keeping coming back to me and I will diverse a bit in my thoughts as I wander to a discussion that came up yesterday with a regular education teacher a good friend who has concerns as well on education.

I was working on an idea on using academic achievement to address issues with Learning Disabled students by using a rubric which in and of its self is a way to provide quality versus simply quantity to an evaluation. This sort of led into as I headed toward school a discussion. As I sat driving around yesterday after discussing with another teacher the subject of autism and dealing with where do these kids go after school is over? On a more critical note what is even available? I had a brainstorm which was in part due to the thoughts that came out in our discussion. Over and over again parents were concerned about how their child’s life was being directed by people who did not know their child. Often changes in staffing will occur and parents do not even know. For nearly ten years I have recommended teachers of some students track students more effectively perhaps including group meetings of staff up and down the line who will have or have had that student. More often than not we deal with a cold folder of someone else’s opinion. Knowing a kid can make the difference so many times between success and failure. This concept ties also into the current discussion of educational issues being decided by non-educational people with our state and federal legislators.

I met several years back at a conference a care giver who provides daily living assistance for several Asperger’s syndrome and autistic young men in a group home sort of setting. One of the young men who lived in this facility was also involved in the discussion. (This fellow lives essentially on his own and not only has Asperger’s syndrome which is a high function form of autism but is legally blind as well. Sadly for years the visual impairment concealed the pervasive disorder). The care giver who works for an organization that is involved with disabled adults who need some assistance referred to knowing the person well many times. He and this young man have a language many would not understand actually part of this young man’s disorder idiosyncrasies that the care giver has learned to understand.

So often in schools and workplaces we want all the ducks in a row and someone who is a bit different doesn’t fit in so push them aside. Charter schools the big reform answer in and of its nature limits what students can come to that particular school with its charter. I could not help but think of IEP’s and such and even further to Deming’s ideas. My day yesterday was pondering achievement, a rubric and Deming while I played with my granddaughter and started several flats of sweet basil. It has been a while since I sat as a student in class but I can’t count the times education professors have said we need to think outside the box. Yesterday as we talked two teachers walking the hallways of knowledge we discussed opening the box. So often we limit as I think Deming’s pointed out when we have “the inspection” we only really get what we ask for. This has actually been researched in industry numerous times if you want to find twenty percent defective parts you will get twenty percent defective parts. My mind jumped to those students for whom seventy percent is passing and we get seventy percent from many.

I have attended meetings in which the group set IEP goals of eighty percent compliance on a behavior in such areas as not swearing at authority figures. I would have liked that myself back in several of my high school and college classes. That translates into two out of ten times I could swear and it is ok since I am achieving my goals. This is literally exactly what Deming’s is saying, you get what you ask for. So how do we imply quality and success without setting limits and or parameters? How do we measure achievement without providing a box even within the confines of a rubric? How do we measure friendship without having parameters to measure from? Hopefully the last on perhaps is one of the easiest to escape from we measure friendship hopefully not in some testing situation and not in some box ready format but we measure friendship in love and in emotion which often is not a measurable and quantitative form it is in simply knowing. Why do we have a difficult time in education? Far too often teachers do not know students. A school identity number and seat on a floor chart and we are off to educate.

“Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.” Dr. W. Edward Deming

This can apply in so many different fields including education but it will take some effort to teach teachers how to know students. It will take a different mindset for teachers to look for quality rather than quantity. It will take using innovative ideas to evaluate learning rather than standardized tests that so often are not even valid in the context of what they are testing. How valid is a test that students can score about the same in the beginning as in the end? I have not proved this point but I would wager on most High School Graduation tests if given to ninth graders they would come close to passing in effect if they are capable of passing the test in eleventh grade. I have similar thoughts on End of Course Tests. Sadly the difficulty is in developing within students and workers another of Deming’s thoughts.

“Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service…” Dr. W. Edward Deming

Listening to parents over the years always makes me think. We seriously need to address perhaps differently children and even each other so often we come at life in general rather than looking for specifics in an individual. We approach each aspect as from past experiences which are still important and do not let that experience of the moment have its way for that person. We lose individuality in mass production even in our own view of things. I am always reminded of first impressions and first impressions are based on past experience and not on anything to do with this person far too often. We need to see and hear who this is before passing judgment and we need as those parents offered over and over to get to know the real person not just the symptomatology. I sit here trying to figure out how to create an open ended rubric some method of scoring that has no parameters and no limits and that is an interesting venture for the day ahead and week ahead planting, gardening, mowing and reading. 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