Bird Droppings March 9, 2020
Can we teach again a love of learning
This has been a perplexing time of my life. I recall an event, a car wreck in which a young man was killed and his passenger who was a good friend of my youngest son was severely injured. My thoughts rambled back to when I drove to my son’s accident site and watched as medics pulled him out of his car and life flight took him to Grady Memorial Hospital. We were called to a staff meeting first thing and told of one of our teachers who had been in an accident and there were fatalities. She was ok but in the other car two died. Lives were changed radically in a brief few minutes as I read posts in Social Media. I had co-taught with this teacher and went to class unsure of what to say and do. I shared my heart yesterday and most students simply walked away as they do so often with blank stares, earphones plugged in and or giggles about a friend’s texting. I saw the apathy we as adults have taught so well.
It has been a few years back when a young lady who happens to work in a western wear store had on a Dixie Outfitter’s shirt. One of the issues with the Dixie Outfitters clothing line is the confederate flags which adorn the T-shirts. Most schools today have dress code rules against defamatory and or controversial logos and or slogans. Malcolm X shirts and Dixie Outfitters are actually listed in most dress code rulings. This shirt looked like a Dixie Outfitter shirt the same colors and a sequence of colors but no Confederate flags. The interesting statement on the back was to the effect you can ban the symbol but not the meaning of colors. I watch the politics play out and the colors are there for sure.
“The greatest glory in living lies not, in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Nelson Mandela
I recall a year or so ago and a stubborn student. We had been trying to look at why do we have a dress code which was again based on a student wearing a Dixie Outfitters sweatshirt and my students’ reason was as to why wear a shirt you know is against dress code, was generally whatever or because. How he responded was that he knew he could get suspended since he had been warned numerous times. However, the larger issue is how children at such a young age quit learning and quit questioning life. Why are they suppressed and defeated to a point of using whatever, as an answer? Whatever, is a quitter’s statement? Had that student answered with arguable statements from the rightwing Dixie Outfitters website I would have known there was thought behind the action and not ignorance.
“From an early age we all question. As children grow, their questions are often answered, explained, and rationalized until their natural curiosity begins to be submerged. Yet sensitive persons, at one -time or another, find themselves again asking those same questions: “Where did I come from? What is the meaning of life? What happens when I die? Why is there so much hatred and violence? Who am I?” Zenson Gifford Sensei, Abbot of the Northern Zen Sangha
I had another student stop in and thank me for lending them Kent Nerburn’s book Small Graces and as we talked for a few minutes she asked “Mr. Bird you love learning don’t you” I am not easily sat back but I had to think for a moment and somewhere between the two quotes is an answer. I have never been satisfied with an answer always seeking, looking and enjoying the search to find out more about whatever it is I was pondering. I responded to her question with several answers, I basically said yes, but that is the hardest thing to share a passion for learning. Robert Fried’s book “The Passionate Teacher” is a good example as he discusses sharing a passion for learning.
How do we again instill the questioning? In 1962 Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for life for questioning the then-current government of South Africa and was released from prison in 1990 to become the first black elected in a general election, and to the office of President of South Africa. Mandela could have quit and had he succumbed to his captors’ desires and been released. He chose to stay in prison for nearly twenty-seven years.
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.“ Nelson Mandela
“There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered.” Nelson Mandela, ‘A Long Walk to Freedom
Mr. Nelson Mandela was awarded the Noble Peace prize and helped South Africa in their start towards real democracy. He did this through persistence and never quitting and always questioning.
“The important thing is not to stop questioning.“ Albert Einstein
Why children stop questioning and stop desiring to learn I am not quite sure. Perhaps it is their home life. Perhaps for some, it is boredom. Perhaps they have all they need to feed and clothe themselves and that is enough.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Maybe it is just too easy to follow the path each day and walk where others have tread. Years ago, when I would regularly get into the woods looking for wildlife we would find rabbit trails and deer trails worn by constant use. Children do the same simply following in the footsteps of the one in front one after another.
“People seem not to see that their opinion of the world is also a confession of their character.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
I guess I have a difficult time with people sometimes seeing them as ignorant when they use “because” as an answer, as it is used so often. Perhaps second in usage is “whatever” from teenagers and so many people when they choose to not answer a question.
“Shallow men believe in luck. Strong men believe in cause and effect.” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Sitting around waiting for “luck” or the sky to fall whichever comes first. As a child, I remember the story of Chicken Little and the sky is falling soon the whole barnyard was afraid of the sky falling all because an ignorant little chicken got hit in the head with a pebble and assumed the sky was falling and enough others listened.
“But education is more than schooling. It is a cast of mind, a willingness to see the world with an endless sense of curiosity and wonder. If you would be truly educated, you must adopt this cast of mind. You must open yourself to the richness of your everyday experience — to your own emotions, to the movements of the heavens and languages of birds, to the privations and successes of people in other lands and other times, to the artistry in the hands of the mechanic and the typist and the child. There is no limit to the learning that appears before us. It is enough to fill us each day thousand times over. “Kent Nerburn, On Education and Learning
I have used this passage before but I have also used the FIDO principle before too and never can we emphasize enough when offering an idea especially a good one. It has been nearly fifty years since it was conceived, the idea of Frequency, Intensity, Duration, and Over again hence the anachronism, FIDO. Continue questioning never stop become a child again in learning these are things we need to do. When I was asked do I love learning what should have been asked is what got me questioning again? That is the secret that gets us back to that place where we crave learning and we love learning as we did when we were small children and every aspect of life was a question and answer. Please keep all in harm’s way in your hearts and on your mind namaste.
My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)