Ethics and Politics

Bird Droppings April 22, 2019
Ethics and Politics

 

There are so many things happening in our world that are often at the whim of a politician who we voted for or against. The auto industry is being remade, wars are being fought, jobs are appearing and disappearing, and health care reform is possibly off and on the table. I find it is amusing that our elected officials have given themselves an unbelievable health care and retirement package along with other perks and yet only offer to restrict and or eliminate our own. Our officials have literally unlimited health care and a retirement package second to none for serving in the senate or congress and literally a decent retirement for life.
With jobs on the rise in some areas and in others in slow motion, maybe it is a good time to ponder about minimum wage and our officials who raise their own salary and perks just about every year. Amazing how politics works, working people and those trying to work and lift themselves up get nothing and Senators and Congressmen can vote a raise for themselves. In another session a few years back Democrats were at one time trying to tie minimum wage to their own salary raises. I definitely like that idea, however it dint fly. Sadly even with a minimum wage many workers are below the national poverty level. Many that are working and for whatever reason extremely limited or hindered in the types of jobs they can get.

 

Now in a world of budget cutting and austerity some politicians are even offering to reduce minimum wage and increase hours children can work almost as if we are taking steps backwards. Other legislation is calling for eliminating OSHA and EPA and yet deaths in industry under OSHA have significantly been reduced. Pollution across our nation has been reduced. It is about profitability of corporations that find many politicians offering plans to help industry improve profit. Dumping coal ash into rivers in coal regions as an example. Asbestos is coming back some are saying.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

At what point is a lot of money too much and what do you do with billions of dollars? I watch the president rant and rave and yet few are as selfish as is he in terms of his human dealings. I am not sure a speculator in land is a good choice for a president. It was not too long ago he was bankrupt. We idolize the rich and wealthy and as Steven Colbert pointed out in his humor last night we like rich people. Thinking back to a good friends comment about where sociopaths end up, many are politicians.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Self-esteem, self-understanding or the knowing of thy self as the ancient Greek philosopher said so many years ago. We need to know who we are and why. I started arguing about the selfishness of so many people including our leaders in Washington who I am sure will justify their raises in some fashion and I am sure through lobbyists will justify not granting a raise to minimum wage. It is amazing what a few fast food lobbyists can do and business owners. Maybe that is how you justify a raise for yourself, be it through savings from not raising minimum wage. I am looking forward to a day of testing high school kids. I would much rather be writing and reading and taking a garden break. I forgot to visit the local nursery and garden shop this weekend. As you ponder your own place in this world please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

The great teachers of America: Where do they come from?

Bird Droppings April 21, 2019
The great teachers of America: Where do they come from?

 

I started back to grad school after my twelve year doctorate furlough. I am looking to teach several new college classes when I get back on track. For now I am finishing the year at Alcovy high school and getting ready for testing and doing lesson plans got me thinking. Last night when I got home from spending some time with my son I was sitting mesmerized by the night sounds when the kitchen door opened and our dog poked his head out I am sure he was wondering what I was doing. I was not in the mood for TV and the sounds of darkness seem to calm me after a seriously crazy week of after Spring Break and just prior to testing, fortunately this year not much involvement with the medical field.

 

Off in the distance a whippoorwill was calling to one near the house and an occasional owl chimed in. It was an exceptionally human free intrusion on a quiet night since few people influenced noises were present. I found myself thinking to the idea of; I wonder if this is what it sounded like hundreds of years ago just the various birds, crickets, frogs and owls. A heavy dew and rain were dripping from pine needles nearby adding to the ambiance. I gave thanks put up our dog and headed to bed.

 

“The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

Our former federal education program NCLB, No Child Left behind was about lifting standards higher to make the United States number one in education. In the news literally daily the idea of raising the bar in our educational process was suggested over and over again. We need more students to succeed so we will raise the standards and graduation rates. So to say raise the bar educationally. The theory is that more students will succeed with higher standards for teachers and students. However changing of teaching methods, changing delivery, and even changing standards does not raise the ability or desire of a given student.
I can’t help but think of high jumping when the idea of raising the bar came up. Let us use as acceptable a height of currently thirty six inches and tomorrow we will raise the bar to sixty inches and you will succeed because we have a new way of telling you how to jump. We will use a megaphone now, and just as you jump we will yell “NOW JUMP”. As silly as this sounds this little exercise which is akin to many educational programs is more how not to succeed than before. Before raising the standard did we look at why the students could not clear thirty six inches. Was it the teaching method, or the physical ability of the student, was it the shoes they are wearing, perhaps the surface of the run way to the jump pit is too soft or slippery, is there a wind that knocks the bar off as they approach.

 

I am very sarcastic in saying this, in education time after time the mention of zip codes and test scores comes up. In today’s jargon that’s why we need charter schools run by businesses who know what to do. So in my naiveté, I wonder how does a real estate mogul or software genius know how to teach or seemingly increase knowledge and cognition over say a teacher? Even more interesting is many of so called experts have not succeeded in school and or did not go through college. But they know what it takes to help poor kids or failing kids how to raise the bar.
Basically in any type of medium if a person cannot jump thirty six inches moving to sixty inches will only assure failure. However with practice and time sixty inches is possible but several factors have to be in place and a key one is the desire and attitude of the person doing the jumping. The coach can be the greatest in the world but if the student is content with failure, for whatever reason they will fail. A few years back I watched the induction of John Madden into the NFL hall of fame. Madden has been one of my favorite commentators and coaches of all time.

 

“Coaches have to watch for what they don’t want to see and listen to what they don’t want to hear.” John Madden

 

“A good coach will make his players see what they can be rather than what they are.” Ara Parasheghan

 

Coaching and teaching the terms are often synonymous in many ways. It was a number of years ago I raised and showed horses. I had a very good Appaloosa gelding we affectionately called “Spot” and with me riding Spot would be third or fourth but we would always place. Funny thing was with my trainer on board Spot would win. I once asked about this phenomenon and was told the following.

 

“You put a ten horse, and by ten I mean on a scale from 1-10 out with a 1 rider again on a scale of 1-10 and you have a 5 ride, however you put a 10 horse and 10 rider out and what are your odds” Earl Burchett, trainer and judge of Appaloosa and Quarter horses

 

As I thought of my horse days quote, teaching and coaching are similar. A good teacher can get more out of a poor functioning group of students and a poor teacher will get something out of great students. For forty five years I have asked how do we distinguish who are the good teachers and or coaches are from a mediocre ones.

 

“Success is not forever and failure isn’t fatal.” Don Shula

 

“The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor.” Vince Lombardi

 

Commitment is a key word in selecting a great teacher and or coach and the ability of instilling that commitment in their students and players. Over the years few coaches have been compared to the great Vince Lombardi who is perhaps the greatest of all coaches.

 

“The price of success is hard work, dedication to the job at hand, and the determination that whether we win or lose, we have applied the best of ourselves to the task at hand.” Vince Lombardi

 

“The dictionary is the only place that success comes before work. Hard work is the price we must pay for success. I think you can accomplish anything if you’re willing to pay the price.” Vince Lombardi

 

The ability to succeed is based on hard work desire and determination these are skills that great teachers and great coaches can instill in students and players.

 

“The only yardstick for success our society has is being a champion. No one remembers anything else” John Madden

 

Far too often we only see the champion and how many folks can remember who finished second or third in the national championship game. This may be a fault in our society that we settle for only the greatest only the best. We live on a bell shape curve and only a few will ever be the best but it is in the trying and it is motivating students into trying that as a teacher is to excel. It is so easy to succumb to the down side of that curve. Fifty percent will not succeed and that mentality is often so powerful that so why should I try harder.

 

“One man practicing sportsmanship is far better than fifty preaching it.” Knute Rockne

 

A slight paraphrase of this great quote from the great Notre Dame Coach, “One teacher teaching is better than fifty saying they do”. This is what it is about; it is about truly teaching, motivating, instilling determination, and desire. It is about coaching and succeeding rather than failure. I hear every day, but I have a seventy percent I am passing that really makes me upset that a child concedes to a seventy percent. Who gave out seventy percent passes but we do it all the time. Can a thirty six inch jumper clear sixty inches?

 

Many years ago a so-so high jumper changed his form. He was also a student of physics and as such and he noticed jumpers were leading with their foot and the body following. He changed his form and lead with his head and torso and high jumping changed forever. Shortly thereafter a world record and Olympic gold went to Dick Fossberry and the Fossberry flop, as it was called is now the jumping style of all record holding high jumpers. Funny thing is, today all high jumpers lead with their head a matter of physics getting the heaviest part over first and those muscles pushing it over last which takes less effort and the world record keeps going up. It is about ideas, determination and commitment and any goal can be accomplished.
Can this apply to teaching and learning? Most assuredly we can, but we have to make an effort and we have to look for the means of accomplishing our goal. Federal standards called for research based programs in educational settings yet there are only a few the field is narrow and the difficultly is doing new research which requires guinea pigs and too many teachers and programs do not want to fail. Teacher’s jobs are at stake as well as administrators and so we in trying to improve may actually have boxed ourselves in by limiting improvement to a narrow window of research proven programs, which in reality may or may not work. Are they researched n the same demographics as the students you teach or will be teaching is always a question? Has this program truly been tested on a large enough group? Is there room for improvement and progress within the program?
From personal experience I have watched administrators then limit programs due to their own limitations in imagination and creativity. One of my favorites is the notorious word wall. A teacher must have six inch letters of vocabulary words on the wall and that is it. So an electronic version that is available at home anywhere on computer is not a word wall or a well-designed graphic as a lead in for a students working notebook in class is not a word wall, a set of personal flash cards is not a word wall, t-shirts with vocabulary, sky writing vocabulary words these are not word walls it has to be six inch red letters not yellow or blue. Teaching gets defeated by limits, impositions and parameters imposed by lesser imaginative administrators and legislators.

 

“The man who can make hard things easy is the educator.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I went out walking to my quiet spot before posting today sitting at home. I sat in my quiet spot giving thanks for all that has transpired in the past week for each element good and bad makes all involved a better person. I shared with a dear friend yesterday how each person we interact with gives us a piece of our life’s puzzle and shared my business card which is covered in puzzle pieces and they smiled and said it makes sense now. The pieces are all falling in place. So I end my writing for today and get back to the grind of educating the masses and getting phone calls made and computer forms filled in but still the hard part is keeping all in harm’s way on our minds and in our hearts and always giving thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Looking for and clearing a pathway

Bird Droppings April 20, 2019
Looking for and clearing a pathway

 

“I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.” Elwyn Brooks White

 

Often I reflect on the journey of life and the many directions I myself have traveled. I watch others as they step by step go along the way and I listen as some stumble and are lifted up when pebbles and or boulders are in the way. There are choices at times about which pathway to take as a fork approaches and we have to choose. Walking out this morning the smell of a third or fourth straight day of rain with moisture still in the air and whippoorwills calling surrounding me with a chorus that is hard to match I stood listening for what seemed hours before getting into my car to head to the school. I am at times overwhelmed with the idea of why we are so lost as to education and learning in today’s world.

 

“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Henry David Thoreau, Walden

 

“Life is a foreign language: all men mispronounce it.” Christopher Morley, Thunder on the Left

 

“Life is a cement trampoline.” Howard Nordberg

 

I was wondering why so many of us each day think perhaps too much obsessing over reasons and rationale eventually tripping over our own inadequacies and imperfections. I look far too deep too often beyond the politics of the educational process of which rampant is an understatement with headlines in local papers addressing issues with Charter schools and state education officials. Are we truly desperate or is this a façade to cover up are lack of enthusiasm and desire? I wonder when I see a young person acting as a mime standing still facing an empty wall and unable to move forward or back simply immobile dressed in funeral attire waiting for an end. What has slowed their journey to this point? What is it they have missed along their own pathway as we cross? I wonder why my enthusiasm for teaching dwindled has and my energy drink not recharged me today?

 

“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.” Friedrich Nietzsche

 

Sadly we seem to not be able to find the whys and as a former colleague of mine and now a research associate in education in an early morning rant a year or so ago points out.

 

“If a child isn’t learning then we assume that more teaching is what he or she needs rather than a readjustment of pedagogy; we expect that there is something wrong with the child rather than the teacher (both must be considered, neither should be blamed without proper cause). If democracy isn’t working or there is a problem (voting fraud in FL, etc.) then we reconcile this with more democracy. We suffer a cascade of choice, what Renata Salecl calls a “tyranny of choices” that confuses us and distracts us from the real substance and problem at hand.” Dr. Antonio Garcia former teacher LHS

When I first read through Garcia’s note that morning almost six years ago rather early and ended up responding with almost gibberish but heart felt as I jotted it down. I was thinking to a famous quote by Karl Marx, “Religion is the opiate of the people”, and wrote perhaps education in its current process is the opiate muddling cognition into submission.

 

“Who will tell whether one happy moment of love or the joy of breathing or walking on a bright morning and smelling the fresh air, is not worth all the suffering and effort which life implies.” Erich Fromm

 

“To live remains an art which everyone must learn, and which no one can teach.” Havelock Ellis

 

There really is no road map and no specific travel itinerary as we journey along with each day being unique for me and for you. Nietzsche offers a why as a reason to live and Fromm simplifies further only a happy moment or a bright morning is all that is needed. Ellis states that life is an art form. Life is an art form and perhaps it is the wielding of the brushes and what colors we use as wield we paint. I have started looking deeper into kids this semester as to why they do not perform academically. There is a formula somewhat of pieces that equate to educational success or educational opiated submission. I am getting to bleak and need to lighten up a bit. I downloaded a book that I have in hardcopy on my shelf and since I walk around with my iPad thought a good one to start my library along with several by John Dewey. J. T. Garret has a doctorate in educational psychology and has worked for the Health Dept. on reservations for many years. He also has studied the medicine ways of the elders of his tribe and knows and writes about Indian medicine.

 

“There is equality in all things. Everything has its own purpose, all things are equal. There is no such thing as dominance or control by any living thing over any other. There is basically only one relationship in the circle of life. We are humble and show humility to all things here on Mother Earth, even every rock and mineral.” J. T. Garrett Ed.D., Meditations with the Cherokee: Prayers, Songs, and Stories of Healing and Harmony, 2001

 

Several years ago a movie starring Robin Williams was out “What Dreams may come”. The author of the book researched extensively on the afterlife there are nearly six pages of references in the back of the book. But a scene that caught my attention was as Robin Williams realized that he was painting the world around him and that his attitudes and concerns altered the surrounding colors as they would change and the hues fluctuated as he walked about. When the character Robin Williams plays arrives in the afterlife portrayed in the movie there is an equality of all life it is integral to each aspect of the vision seen.

 

“You cannot discover the purpose of life by asking someone else – the only way you’ll ever get the right answer is by asking yourself.” Terri Guillemets
“You will never be happy if you continue to search for what happiness consists of. You will never live if you are looking for the meaning of life.” Albert Camus

“Following straight lines shortens distances, and also life.” Antonio Porchia, Voices, 1943, translated from Spanish by W.S. Merwin

 

As I look at my own drama that I write in my own life we set the boulders in our own pathway and we throw out the pebbles that force us to stumble. We end up creating the forks in the road that force us to choose. But I would not have it any other way as I step along the path. As well we need to be aware that we must make an effort to also clear the pathway. We also must make the choices as to which road to follow. I see my life’s map as a series of zigzags an easy journey constantly side tracked. Where once a straight line between A and B now the page is covered in this way or that in back tracking and circumventing in over stepping and under stepping and in climbing boulders and in pushing some out of the way. It has been a few months since I have used at the end of Bird Droppings a saying by a Native American Orator from back in the day.

 

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot, Blackfoot warrior and orator

 

For many this may not mean anything. It has been years now since I could hear a buffalo snort and walk across the pasture and see the breath blown in the cool of winter. It has been years since I have seen fireflies dance across my front field now covered in houses and roads. But I still see the little shadow as the sun sets and I still hear the breeze in the morning. Our scenery changes but life does go on and 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 deep is the soul?

Bird Droppings April 19, 2019
How deep is the soul?

 

I received an email from a dear friend many years back after writing about humor and it truly made me think. As I looked back on some older notes and thoughts last night and as I pondered I found the response I sent to her. 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.

 

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

 

Often having been in teaching of special needs kids when with other teachers who have been in similar situations we will joke about events of the past not at a student’s expense as much as the moment and ourselves. Being bitten or changing a really nasty diaper which is often common place in some settings are good examples. One of my favorite over the years was an OCD student who once asked me 54 times if he could hold our class room pet, Stevie the wonder snake a ball python. I ignored him and was working at my computer this was before school and a general education student who did not have the capacity for patience and or ignoring that I do final blurted out to the young man “I love you” and tapped him on the shoulder. He took off to farthest corner in the room.

 

She then asked me did I not hear him and I said I use planned ignoring and really did not after three or four times. All it took was changing the subject to derail that OCD event and she had. I still have contact with this OCD student and he is in his twenties and never went back to school after that year. He was afraid of the new principal. When the new principal took over nine years ago he was so terrified from middle school of this man he couldn’t be in the same building so he still sits at home and watches TV. His disability keeps him from working.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Smith continues to point to an ongoing issue we have in finding who we are and why. Perhaps this is how groups are so easily manipulated by the politics of today. 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

 

Going to school another day

Bird Droppings April 18, 2019
Going to school another day

 

So often as I start my writings each morning there has been an experience recently to build upon. It is utilizing these previous experiences that provide windows and doors into future experiences. I was driving through our town and a shop I had seen numerous times caught my eye. It is a store that caters specifically to chefs, and those of us who like to cook, selling fancy spices, exotic cheese, wines and utensils. I actually stopped in I needed a good knife to cut and chop herbs as I cook. As I walked in a wonderful lady greeted me and we talked for nearly an hour about education and cooking.

 

As life would have it, she was also prior to retirement a teacher of Emotional and Behavior Disorders. That sounds familiar, a small world perhaps synchronicity at work again in my life. I think I know what Carl G. Jung would say. My master degree major in graduate school always causes confusion. Most teacher graduate students go for that Leadership degree required for administrative positions or maybe a instructional degree. I went for Emotional Behavior Disorders.
It has been nearly eleven years since I started my doctoral studies at Georgia Southern University. My major for some may be a bit obscure being in curriculum theory and at that time it was a relatively new endeavor actually entitled in the course catalog as Curriculum Studies. One of the first pieces that caught my attention was, “the autobiographical method of currere, a method focused on self-understanding” by William Pinar in his book, What is Curriculum Theory. As I discussed with this retired teacher and now shop owner and purveyor of fine cheese, wines and meats we talked of education, and even various cuts of meats since my livestock background came out.
I have been listening as I read, write and studied for a number of years now to R. Carlos Nakai, a Navaho-Ute from Arizona. Nakai is a classically trained coronet and trumpet player who forty years ago took up the Native American seven note flute. He actually carves his own flutes from cedar and his haunting melodies stir the soul and calm the wild beast. I play his music in my room at school. As I was thinking of Pinar’s thought on the autobiographical method I recalled a note in one of Carlos Nakai’s CD’s.

 

“A lot of what I’ve been taught culturally comes from an awareness of the environment. …How I feel is based on my impressions of being in certain spaces at certain times. Thinking back…on personal tribal stories and the history of my culture figures into how I organize my music.” R. Carlos Nakai

 

One of the founders of pragmatism in philosophy is John Dewey who is also well known for his contributions to education and progressivism. Many of his ideas are from the early 1900’s. Dewey based his thinking on our experience.

“Every experience lives on in further experiences. Hence the central problem of an education based on experience is to select the kind of present experiences that live fruitfully and create subsequent experiences.” John Dewey

 

Dewey is a hard read and since I was only looking for a quote he is back to the shelf for now but only a minute or two as I am using several Dewey books in papers I am currently working on. As I switched CD’s to a Hawaiian themed CD where Nakai and Keola Beamer, a Hawaiian slap guitar master combine for “Our Beloved Land” another jacket note caught my eye.

 

“We were put on the earth to experience life in its totality. And if you’re not doing that, you’re essentially wasting your time.” R. Carlos Nakai

 

I thought of my professor in that first doctorial class as I read and a comment she made about how many of the courses are on line and the evaluations that follow online of professors. She said she always gets better reviews with the online courses then in person. On one of the first days in class she wore a black suit and starched white shirt long sleeves with dark shoes and argyle socks. She had one pirate type earring in one ear and after removing her jacket and rolling up her sleeves tattoos to her wrists covering her arms.
As I watched the class watch her as she came in being mostly conservative southern teachers the reactions were interesting. As I thought to my professors comment about why she did not understand why she always gets better reviews online. I thought as I listened to a recognized scholar in the area of curriculum theory. Maybe the biases of the masses of people in the world really are insignificant you need to live life and if you are not doing that you are wasting time.
I got the impression within a few minutes my professor is not wasting anyone’s time she is who she is and comfortable with that. Maybe we all should try and be, who knows what might happen with self-understanding and experiences. It comes down to all of the pieces to our life’s puzzle falling into place one by one. As I close as always please keep all who are in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.

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

 

 

A wind in the trees

Bird Droppings April 17, 2019
A wind in the trees

 

Over the past weeks we have had several severe storms come through the area. Just before I went to bed last night according to the weather we were to get another today. Several times during the night I awakened and no storm was blowing and our dog finally slept through the night. Of course no one else ever hears him but me and I get up and let him run about checking the back or front yard whichever way he feels like going. When it is just wind he will search diligently the yard when storms come through he just keeps me awake all night barking and going out to bark at the storm. Two nights back was one of those nights I was seriously thinking about duct tape to silence the dog and finally no storm just a steady wind blowing through the trees several times I went out and listened. While a bit chilly still an eerie sound is the wind in the tops of the pine trees.

 

As I walk outside at school during the day at school I often watch clouds pass by, lately the sky has been clear and blue and huge white clouds pass by in a never ending procession. The pines just past the school often are moving with a steady wind and almost hypnotic in their movement. I was looking over reports I have to do for our year end over the next few weeks and found a book mark on my desk my wife gave me several years ago. Several quotes from Chief Joseph and an artist rendition of the great Nez Perce leader on the book mark.

 

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

 

I thought about our current leaders and past leaders who these words were addressing. Yesterday a Senator accused several major companies of making over a hundred billion in excess profit off of the American public over the past few years that is over a hundred dollars per person per year. Of course company’s attitude has been well they are willing to pay why not a profit for our stock holders. Their other point has been that several of these major companies paid little or no taxes. It seems the double talk is about to end at least hopefully. I got gas for my wife’s car this morning visiting my second favorite store Quick Trip. The price of gas is nearly the highest it has been. There are no lines, screaming and hollering but the CEO of Exxon is smiling. We have become used to high priced gas. We have become used to the fact it is high because China and other countries are willing to pay for it. We are producing more gas and oil than ever before in this country and still a shell game on the American people by big business and our government. Capitalism rocks if you are a multi billionaire oil gas baron.

 

For many years not only the Native Americans as I look back at Chief Josephs words, but we average Americans from Europe, Africa and Asia as well have been duped by our leaders and by businesses because we have been willing to settle for what is offered. I watch in education as federal laws designed supposedly to improve education are in effect stifling education but profiting corporations. A small example is in Georgia a new math curriculum that latest about three years and caused some major hassles in schools and with students. Book companies reaped a small fortune however. Georgia is still struggling with math and amazingly enough instead of remediating math they make math curriculum harder. The logic befuddles me. If we know our children are having a difficult tie with math why make it harder. If I were in industry and had a problem I search for the cause and use risk management. I treat, tolerate, transfer, or terminate the problem. In education we have a more simple solution we simply compound the problem.

 

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

 

As federal and states mandate on schools that are failing to meet standards are imposed for various reasons. Some states are suing in federal court the law this aw or that law have been doing a paradoxical sort of thing actually leaving children behind, and have been making demands on schools without the resources to back up the programs and laws. We have issues with how children are being taught yet evaluate not actually what they have learned but what they know at the point they take a test. Sadly the scores being used are not a valid indicator of learning.

 

As Chief Joseph surrendered to a superior force outnumbered and outmanned he made his mark on history through his words.

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Can we figure a way to filter it all?

Bird Droppings April 16, 2019
Can we figure a way to filter it all?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

For nearly twenty years now I have written about teachers and teaching how to filter information, trying to fill a liter bottle with ten gallons of information. It is being able to deal with infinite information and store in a finite place, that is what teaching is about. Daily I see far too many teachers forget that the space is limited and as Sydney J. Harris comments “is more akin to stuffing a sausage”. As we learn to do better, as we learn to assist in the daily sorting and filtering how do we ourselves sort and filter. We teachers and parents can be caught up in that great over whelming barrage of information.
“Information is recorded in vast interconnecting networks. Each idea or image has hundreds, perhaps thousands, of associations and is connected to numerous other points in the mental network.” Peter Russell

 

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

 

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

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