Bird Droppings March 19, 2020
Setting priorities on a chilly spring morning
“Keep in mind that you are always saying ‘no’ to something. If it isn’t to the apparent, urgent things in your life, it is probably to the most fundamental, highly important things. Even when the urgent is good, the good can keep you from your best; keep you from your unique contribution, if you let it.” Steven J. Covey
My youngest son when he was home back in the days would dig up old Guinness books of world records or old Sports Illustrated magazines to assist him with issues he might have in the bathroom. Just by chance or coincidence for whatever reason I picked up an old Sports Illustrated magazine just before writing this morning, Rick Reilly’s “Life of Reilly”, the editorial on the last page and it is about one of the worst NCAA basketball programs in history, Caltech.
“There is a T-Shirt you can buy in the university bookstore that reads CALTECH FOOTBALL: UNDEFEATED SINCE 1993. Possibly because Caltech hasn’t had a football team since 1993” Rick Reilly
As I read through Rick Reilly’s article it was interesting there are two players on the basketball team with perfect SAT scores, five faculty members have won Nobel prizes, one professor has discovered the tenth planet in our solar system just recently, but in NCAA basketball 21 years without a win. How is that for priorities?
“It is very nearly impossible… to become an educated person, in a country so distrustful of the independent mind.” James Baldwin
This statement hit me hard, we talk and use test scores as measuring sticks yet somehow between it all football and basketball scores are still more significant more meaningful than SAT scores or academic awareness. The academic bowl team fights to get a bus and the football team rides on a charter bus in many schools. The last line of Reilly’s article struck me. As I look even at the high schools I have taught in, I doubt anyone could tell you when we last won a state championship in an academic bowl. Most can tell you who is current state wrestling champ, softball champ, baseball champ or which team was in elite eight.
“As an opposing player – whose team had just slaughtered the Beavers (Caltech) – said as he shook each Caltech player’s hand, ‘Now go out there and cure cancer for us.’” Rick Reilly
Here on a day when college admissions are under fire amazingly in many schools’ coaches will find ways for athletes to pass or systems will find ways to pass them. It may be tutors, special programs, and I heard somewhere TV money paid for the expansion of Georgia’s football stadium. In more recent news trials of parents who cheated to get kids into prestigious colleges. Perhaps it is me who has priorities wrong. Many of my students will never find a cure for cancer and or be on a winning football or basketball team, some may not ever hold much of a job. Many the day as I look back over students from the past that I can use jail time as an indicator. But I think back to a former student who as a senior had the runner up an essay I state competition. I am probably the only one who can name him. What about former students who are in college and or have graduated and are raising families and many said they would never graduate high school. Somewhere along the way maybe a kind word or thought gave the push in the right direction.
“Education is a social process. Education is growth. Education is, not a preparation for life; education is life itself.” John Dewey
As I periodically do find answers in John Dewey, perhaps the priority is teaching that life is about learning daily. We tend to lose focus occasionally with whose team is winning and who is losing and of course who has the biggest TV contract for next year. Money becomes a crucial element. It is difficult trying to teach around money. We have jaded our society so much with materialism. Kids are more concerned with things than how they are going to earn the income to purchase that thing, I call it Hedonism 101.
“I have little patience with scientists who take a board of wood, look for its thinnest part, and drill a great number of holes where drilling is easy.” Albert Einstein
I went out earlier into a chilly damp morning for March surrounded by fog today. I will go shortly to pick up my grandkids for a few days. I think to all the kids home currently from school across the country and parents now with internet teaching their kids. Sports have been suspended or postponed. But in the end, some maybe like the Caltech students who play basketball knowing they will lose yet in the lab tomorrow may uncover the cure for cancer. I have found we are each unique in life and each has a significant part to play.
Finding that piece to our puzzle is the hard part. But having the desire to look is step one. Sitting in a file folder next to me a folder labeled goals, my student’s goals for the year. In meetings we establish goals, teachers, parents and the student come up with annual goals and objectives. What if every student had a folder labeled goals and one of those goals is, as a student of life, I will master two of the following objectives. Eighty percent of the time I will live life to the fullest. Eighty percent of the time I will endeavor to treat every person I meet as an equal. Eighty percent of the time I will be the best that I can. I am allowing for variance and error with only requiring eighty percent, what if only we could live that way.
“A human being is part of the whole, called by us ‘universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separate from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.” Albert Einstein
Yesterday I was watching a shooting star no such luck today, but will that stop me from looking tomorrow? Probably not I am always searching and looking. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart namaste.
My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)