It is not always all in a name

Bird Droppings April 29, 2020
It is not always all in a name

On February 3, 2003, I officially started calling daily emailing and journaling Bird Droppings. I went back in my files and pulled up a few old thoughts and ideas. Along with my new name in 2003 some other bits and pieces as I was reading, the local paper on that day had a street poll that was asking locals about gas prices. I found another email from my mother about starting a gas war. It was a forward from my uncle to my mother. A simple concept we as consumers stop buying gas from two biggest gas companies and only buy from smaller ones which will drive pricing down. Idea was emailing to at least thirty people this idea which gets mailed to thirty more, sort of pyramid gas war tactics. I found it interesting that eleven years ago we were still fussing about gas prices. As I turned the pages of my old Bird Droppings from 2003 one caught my attention. It was a quote from my middle son about my former principal. He had interviewed him for the school newspaper. I ended up emailing my dear friend and former principal last week.

Going back even further it was in 2001 or so roughly I started using the name Bird Droppings and put out several issues of newsletters under that name and sitting here this morning with an old copy in my hand. I thought at the time back in 2001, Bird Droppings, that is a good title and subject for my daily meanderings. Looking back to that day in 2003 much was occurring around the nation as NASA tried to pick up pieces of a space shuttle and sort out the disaster that happened over east Texas. These explorers chose their profession and knew the risks one crew member being remembered by a cousin said she would prefer to die in space doing what she loved. Space was a passion for each member of the crew; it was about the searching and inquiry.

I can remember the Challenger accident over twenty-five years ago before some of you were even born. It was a shock just as this tragedy in 2003 was. But as a brother of a Challenger crew member said the morning after “their work continues”. Often events in our lives make no sense at that point of happening and later clarify as we go further in life. There is really no solace to a family when a loved one is lost even when you knew the risks they were involved in. I recall reading over the years such headlines such as the services and memorials for the miners who perished in the West Virginia coal mine several years back. It is the thoughts and assurances of friends and family that can make the pain bearable.

A number of years ago my brother died during the night in his sleep. When I received the call at work I was in shock and hurried to my parent’s home. Within moments calls and emails and faxes began to arrive from around the world from my parent’s friends and family. That support made that moment so much easier to bear. More recently with the death of my father in-law and my own father the support of friends and family eased the pain and passing. I recall that day back in February 2003 and was running a bit late that morning as I listened to the news and watching a nation morn seven heroes.

Today I found a quote that for some may it not apply and for others who knows as I do each day. Many years ago, I read a series of books written by a socio-anthropologist about his studies of herbal medicine among the Yaqui Indians of Northern Mexico. He eventually found his way to a medicine man that used the Anglo name of Don Juan. After a number of trips and many years he had become an apprentice to Don Juan in his efforts to become a Yaqui Medicine man. Carlos Castaneda wrote of the trials and tribulations of his adventure and studies and his books are used in many classes as case studies. Today there are many skeptics about the writings and reality of Castaneda’s work. Many claim it was purely fiction albeit an elaborate fiction.

“We either make ourselves happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same.”
Carlos Castaneda

One of the simple truths he found in his studies under Don Juan was how much we ourselves are directly involved in our own situation. That sounds simple but so often we blame the world around us for our plight. A student of life can only blame themselves for all choices made as they are ours and no one else to make. So, in effect we make ourselves happy or sad and only we can redirect the pathway. Those heroic astronauts who gave their lives over ten years ago, they could have chosen another path a simpler path and less risky path, but they wanted and chose the direction that they were on and where they were to be. We now can choose how to continue their journey ending in a crash or building upon that and going beyond the stars. Remember the families of those brave men and women who have died serving our country and nation and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always seek peace and more importantly always give thanks namaste.

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

A rock flower and song

Bird Droppings April 28, 2020
A rock flower and song

 

A journey begins with a step and apathy begins with turning your back and saying I don’t care. Before we left school for the virus I had my last IEP of the year. I recall my laptop was acting weirder than normal and all of my school emails jumped to my personal email account and then disappeared. My entire address book all of several months of writing went into computer limbo. I came home still the same on my home account and my email for school was not there and went back to school logged on again and everything came up. Something simple was not working my password was wrong according to my computer then I checked and caps lock was on a simple fix.

Then suddenly as if by magic my personal account was gone again which was very frustrating not understanding electronics and computers at times. It seems they were doing server work at school unbeknownst to those of us using it.

 

“A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.” Benjamin Franklin

 

Just as I did this morning it is so easy to get caught up in oneself and our own little troubles. The following are the words to a song sent to me many years back by the mother of a teenage daughter. I remember the song from many years ago. My friend said her mother enjoyed this song which was recorded by Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmy Lou Harris among so many others to use the words as I sit here I wonder how many folks will remember them and or the song.

 

Wildflowers
By Dolly Parton

The hills were alive with wildflowers
And I was as wild as, even wilder than they
For at least I could run, they just died in the sun
And I refused to just wither in place
Just a wild mountain rose, needing freedom to grow
So I ran fearing not where I’d go
When a flower grows wild, it can always survive
Wildflowers don’t care where they grow

And the flowers I knew in the fields where I grew
Were content to be lost in the crowd
They were common and close, I had no room for growth
I wanted so much to branch out

I uprooted myself from home ground and left
Took my dreams and I took to the road
When a flower grows wild, it can always survive
Wildflowers don’t care where they grow

I grew up fast and wild and I never felt right
In a garden so different from me
I just never belonged; I just longed to be gone
So the garden, one day, set me free

Hitched a ride with the wind and since he was my friend
I just let him decide where we’d go
When a flower grows wild, it can always survive
Wildflowers don’t care where they grow

 

So often poetry and songs have meaning hidden in the words, it might be in the way they play out and many times in a song the melody adds to the feeling and attitude portrayed by the words. Watching one of the American Idol contestants sing a song made famous by Garth Brooks, several even commented on great song writing. Keith Urban a singer songwriter too offered the actual song writer Tony Arata from Nashville. Although Tony went to Georgia Southern by chance and will often show up in small venues in Statesboro. Tony was my brother in laws college roommate. I throw out another song while I am on Tony Arata it is The Dance words are powerful as is Garth’s delivery of the song.

 

Back to business as I was reading this morning so many teenagers feel as did this wildflower desiring to be or wanting to be free. Yet as I read the words to the song an image of a wild rose growing in a sidewalk crack in New York popped in my mind and a line from another song made popular in early 1970’s.

 

“You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. They took paradise and put up a parking lot.” Joni Mitchell

 

In the past months I have addressed apathy and a recently dear friend in a teacher meeting in Conyers was discussing apathy with teachers and how we can combat it. I was thinking about that all night; first apathy is like a virus it replicates rapidly and soon over whelms. Soon it takes over but what does apathy look like and feel like. There are key words and phrases, such as whatever, because, no reason, I’m passing, I’ll do it tomorrow, everybody else is doing it, it’s not mine, and a good one let me copy your homework. The list goes on and on apathy, procrastination and not caring can be rampant.


I am reading again a book, Neither Wolf nor Dog, written by Kent Nerburn about Native American Spirituality. The Introduction to the book is a few pages long telling of a motorcycle ride into the plains and of a large rock considered sacred to the Sioux. It is called the buffalo rock. A rather simple large boulder situated in the migration path of the buffalo that looked somewhat like a buffalo. Today it has a plague on it telling its historical significance and an iron fence around it to protect it. Nerburn writes of how he was taken to tears looking at this ancient symbol caged as he wrote and as he walked around pondering the thousands of years of people who would touch the rock for luck in the hunt or simply honor and respect as they rode by this rock in the plains of America. As he walked about sitting on top of the rock very carefully placed a crumpled cigarette not snuffed out by a careless tourist carefully crumpled and the tobacco spilled out onto the surface of the rock. Tobacco is sacred to the plains Indians and someone had carefully honored the rock and memories. Someone still cared.


As I look at schools and look at the concept or possible illness of lack of apathy. I wondered first is someone caring enough to seek a cure. Second could it be possible to weed out teachers who teach and lecture apathetically which then causes apathy in students. It is not just a school thing for many students learn apathy at home. I remember many years ago a professor who would walk in never address the class, go to his podium and start reading the book and when the bell would ring stop, leave the room and that was it. In a semester he never addressed a question a student had, an issue was never brought up, he gave a final and who knows if anyone passed. Was his class or was it his classes that were apathetic. Most assuredly he had some symptoms and from there the degree of apathy can vary, although I would say it was serious with him.


Apathy is much like a vacuum however once the seal is broke once learning is allowed in it fills rapidly. Curing apathy however often requires others to lend a hand. Begin a new day with a new thought reach for the stars as last night with a clear crescent moon and stars. I read if you can see more than eleven stars in the constellation Orion you have a clear night, I saw twenty-eight earlier this morning. Seek out something new, wonderful, and interesting. Apathy breeds within itself and upon itself. It is thinking and learning that keep apathy away. Another wonderful day for each of us please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste. I will end with one of my favorite quotes borrowing from the Governor of California, “I’ll be back”.

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

Driving up a mountain takes considerable effort

Bird Droppings April 27, 2020
Driving up a mountain takes considerable effort

 

I am looking forward to another trip to Black Rock Mountain in North Georgia, the site of the Foxfire Museum property. In the past, the site was used as a focus of Piedmont College’s teacher’s class in The Foxfire Approach to teaching. My oldest son took the course as a piece of his master’s degree program at Piedmont. But interestingly enough several folks who graduated from Loganville High School my son’s old HS attended this course. One of the teachers, as we went around the room doing introductions, made a comment about an interesting point for her was the first time she had ever held a snake was in my old classroom at Loganville High School, holding Stevie my ball python. Sadly, Stevie has passed away after nineteen years of being around students. Sitting here thinking actually there is a picture of her 2003 State Champion Softball team in my files.

 

As I recall my past sessions sitting and listening to teachers and teachers to be in the discussions that went around the room with the lead facilitators providing a frame work; I was always amazed at how quickly others began to expound or expand the conversation which was a starting point of a weeklong session. Depending on the facilitators the initial start could take a few minutes for those gathered to realize it was a joint venture of teacher and students searching for answers.

 

Just prior to leaving our house to drive up I had hit on an idea for my dissertation topic which has been eluding me for some time. I had been sitting in a discussion with a former student and he offered the idea of that I had shown him or helped him find, how learning was an artform.  As I pondered deeper into that morning this idea stuck with me and from it a topic. I would use my passion for story telling which for me toed directly into the Art of Learning and using the Foxfire Core Practices as a palette and it was only a few days ago my idea evolved again and now is, Birddroppings: Passionate learning through story telling. I have come across the word improvisational through discussion on my own style of teaching. It is that combination of student and teacher thinking is just that improvisational.

 

When I left Mountain City on my last trip and drove back to the lower lands of Walton County I felt excited about the possibilities and my own epiphany that morning with the idea of learning is an art form. John Dewey’s book, Experience and Education sits to my left as I write and the past few days I have borrowed from it several times as I jotted ideas down. But it is within the community of fellow learners and teachers we find answers and again more questions to ask. I thrive on the idea of learning even though I am sure many of my high school teachers and some college professors would argue. When students want to learn and desire to learn amazing things can be accomplished. Core practice one sums it up.

 

“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuses the work teachers and learners do together.” Core Practice One from The Foxfire Core Practices

 

John Dewey and his thoughts run through the Foxfire Approach to Teaching with an emphasis on a democratic classroom, experience as a means of learning and student input into the process of learning. I find that this is a rather simple statement this initial core practice which along with the other nine have evolved over the past nearly fifty years of teacher interactions and discussions from literally around the world. But so often a key attribute is missed and that is that students and teachers do this undertaking together. At my last course attended listening to sixteen nearly teachers and active teachers respond to why they were involved in this class provided me with a sense of maybe there are a few who get it in the world.
In education we talk about test scores which are also what is used to measure in most schools to federal and state guidelines. Standardized tests given to all students at the end or near end of a school term on specific subjects that are to measure what students have learned. Sadly, many students could take the same test at the beginning of the term and score the same so is that really a valid measure of what is learned probably not. Far too many teachers avoid discussing the concept of learning; they are engrossed in standards, curriculum, forms and teacher manuals on the subject. So, I sit here offering learning is a stream to cross and or an art form. Both of these ideas are fluid, moving and ever changing.

 

“Measuring tools lead to quantification; the tools in the arts lead to qualification.” Elliot Eisner, The Arts and the Creation of Mind

 

Do we ever truly measure learning? I have been wondering this since I started back into teaching although in various different words and meanings. A simple measure would be giving a pre-test and post-test which would show where a student started and where they ended. On a far more involved scenario would be that of using portfolios gathering the evidence as the student progresses through material. They are effectively used in some schools to measure learning and student’s growth. These would consist of gathering artifacts along the way from the student. Essays, reports, assignments, any piece of material that is involved in the student’s educational life could be considered an artifact.

 

“With respect to art and its meaning I share Dewey’s view that art is a mode of human experience that in principle can be secured whenever an individual interacts with any aspect of the world.” Elliot Eisner, The Arts and the Creation of Mind

 

So, I am wandering as I sit here this almost summer like morning pondering an article to write on critical pedagogy. I sat down yesterday trying to write but my energy level has deteriorated even after two five-hour energy shots and I did little more than ponder a moment. 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

 

Using Pronouns

Bird Droppings April 26, 2020
Using Pronouns

 

It was one of those days yesterday and a word caught my attention as I was listening to a friend talk. The word was them. I never realized the extent of prejudice till a pronoun was used. Such words as they, them, or those people never were clearly a term used to delineate who they or them was but it was obvious within moments. It was about then that they took over in that area or verbiage to that extent. I wrote a whimsical tale of observation this morning to a friend about watching a leave floating along a stream. My premise was do we allow the leave to pass or do we interfere lifting the floating leave from its journey to observe or interact.

 

I recall I had lunch with a dear friend a few years back, someone who reflects with me on many topics. This person does not use they or them unless referring to political parties or politicians. I recall my oldest son came along as he was helping me at school move and such to my new abode on C hall. This was over sixteen years ago. We talked of education at lunch of why so many teachers have difficulty and of why some parents have a hard time and why some children end up the way they do. We discussed scholars and philosophers and we talked of my son’s journey in school which is only a few months away and he finishes his Masters hopefully he will have a firm job offer nearby.

 

We reflected on my own life’s journey and directions and that of several mutual friends and the paths they had taken. We compared our observations, made notes and reflected on new directions and pathways ahead. I raised the question as I heard earlier in the day of them and we talked of them and is there a difference in teaching us or them is there a difference in attitudes between us and them. It is so funny when two people, three actually my son was there talking about life and attitudes and are very positive, it is hard to use pronouns of us and them it changed to we continually. We should do this or this, not us and or them.

 

“There is a destiny that makes us brothers, No one goes his way alone; All that we send into the lives of others, Comes back into our own.” Edwin Markham

 

As I talk with people and email I find I am no longer simply an observer I am now interacting altering by my words that moment of destiny and of the future. My choice to use or not use a word or even discuss a subject and respond positively or negatively affects the journey for myself and that other person.

 

“When you are right you cannot be too radical; when you are wrong, you cannot be too conservative.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

We need to sometimes take a stand and try to alter destiny it really isn’t destiny till it happens anyway. We can change the direction of the leaf floating by, a slight movement a word and perhaps light can permeate even the darkest of corners and a person who sees only in black and white may be allowed to see color and realize in an instant what has been missing in their journey. A professor and I were discussing the butterfly effect. The flap of a butterfly’s wing in the Andes of Peru could create enough turbulence to alter the path of a hurricane. As I thought deeper, never simply let a leave float by if you know only a few feet away is a waterfall. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and pull a few leaves from the current when you get a chance as I will and always give thanks namaste.

 

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

Are you a Weginahsa?

Bird Droppings April 23, 2020

Are you a Weginahsa?

 

“The work of a teacher – exhausting, complex, idiosyncratic, never twice the same – is at its heart, an intellectual and ethical enterprise. Teaching is the vocation of vocations, a calling that shepherds a multitude of other callings. It is an activity that is intensely practical and yet transcendent, brutally matter of fact and yet fundamentally a creative act. Teaching begins in challenge and is never far from mystery.” Dr. William Ayers, To Teach: the journey of a teacher, 2010

 

It was just barely four o’clock in the morning and I miss having my grandkids waking me up. They had been coming to visit with us till all this craziness started. My son is a nurse and my daughter in law is a nurse as well. Some weekends both are working and kids come visit with us.  We have been face timing quite a bit with all four of our grand kids lately.

 

Our husky needed to take a run outside to do his morning thing. Lately he has slept most of the night but today after I had gotten up and rambled around the kitchen in the wee hours he started barking and I went and took him out. it was cold again and rain coming. Several whippoorwills were calling through the pines and a crazy mockingbird has been up literally round the clock lately calling away. It is unusual to hear a bird calling at this hour. But maybe he was calling for some warm weather to stay I have been hoping for myself so music and song made for a wonderful morning awakening.

 

“The principle goal of education is to create men who are capable of doing new things, not simply of repeating what other generations have done …. Men who are creative, inventive and discoverers.” Jean Piaget

 

I have always been a fan of the great developmentalists and the process of each piece leading to the next and so forth. Piaget while well respected in educational fields did his research on his own children. I still find that a bit weird. Although watching my granddaughter growing up I do very much the same watching her interactions with parents, other children and with me. However his ideas seem to be sound in many aspects even though his demographics are a bit shallow.

 

“An education isn’t how much you have committed to memory, or even how much you know. It’s being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t.” Anatole France

 

In our age of standardized testing and how much we can force feed into our students so they can pass a test I had to think twice as I read France’s quote. We constantly test for content daily in our school systems and wonder why we still lag behind. “Education Weekly featured an article on science programs in other modern nations and how they were so far ahead of ours. Every program featured context over content. John Dewey one hundred years ago preached context.

 

“Education is not filling a bucket, but lighting a fire.” William Yeats

 

Every day I drink several liter bottles of water after my morning tea. I never started drinking coffee till recently and then only mixed with my tea and Starbucks is the wrong direction in the morning for Chai Tea with a shot of expresso. Although I do brew my own now which is nice but it takes a few moments to heat up. For several years the liter bottle has reminded me of how we teach. For so many teachers it is simply trying to fill a liter bottle period. I visited a museum in the mountains of North Georgia and was looking at an old moonshine still when it hit me. We need to teach kids to distill information. Concentrate on the important and the pieces that can lead to other pieces. Stop trying to cram it all in to a confined space.

 

“The farmer channels water to his land. The fletcher whittles his arrows. And the carpenter turns his wood. So, the wise direct their mind.” Dhammapada

 

Many years ago, there was a folk song entitled “If I were a carpenter”. As I read this passage this morning from a Hindu text that song popped in my mind. I used a similar passage many months ago from another great thinker, of our time.

 

“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

During the folk song era which probably in some circles including my own, still exists, Pete Seeger was very famous. He would sing songs borrowed from Woody Guthrie’s hobo and dust bowl days, songs of the depression. He would borrow from various other current and past sources for his songs. He wrote music for and developed one song that was made famous outside folk circles by a group called “the Byrd’s”, entitled “Turn, turn, turn”. This song was based on words from a book in the Old testament Ecclesiastes to be exact, “To everything there is a season, a time to be born a time to die”.
As I sit here writing this morning I got thinking about the late great Spike my bearded dragon, a former resident of my class room who had passed away a year ago Friday after five years and how he would spit out grapes. He must not have liked seeds in his grapes. I was thinking back to Independence Day and flags flying from telephone poles, draped over tables, emblazoned on T-shirts and paper cups celebrating our independence. I am reminded of what and who we are as Americans. By the constitution of the United States all people are equal all are entitled to certain liberties and the pursuit of happiness.
As we go about today remembering we need to also think of in being free and being able to speak, and worship freely we should not impose our ideals and beliefs on others which was the founding father’s key tenet. That is so easy to say but I was reminded many months back of the innocence of youth as I sat at lunch with my youngest son at a Chinese Buffet in Loganville. The owner I have known for many years and she had her three boys there with her it was late afternoon we had been working at the High School moving back into my room from having new carpet put in.
The Chinese restaurant owner’s sons were sitting playing at the next booth. As they talked, some was in English some in Chinese as the chattered back and forth and giggled playing games as small children do. The boys were between 3 and 5 years old. One of the boys using his fingers to pull his eyes slanted said I am a Chinese boy now. As I sat and thought about how there were so many possible meanings to that. I know his family; both his mother and father are from mainland China and very active in cultural awareness programs in local schools and the community. So was this an example of an innocent child’s color blindness or was it a slight to his heritage. I would like to think it was simply youthful innocence. “There is a time to ever season”, we cannot choose the road of our genetics but we can choose the directions and pathways we take with it. We can choose the words and actions we exhibit. Earlier today I read a post wondering about genetic preference for music and I responded it is deeper than genetics. Spiritual is the energy tying all together.
Several years ago, as I wrote the word black indicating race I was reminded that it is politically correct to say Afro-American. I was intrigued, I am still called a white person within the context of the discussion not a Welsh, English, German, Irish, Native American, Hebrew, Scottish, Amish person. After a moment or two I came up with WEGINAHSA that would work. I wonder if I called someone a Weginahsa if they would be upset or if I could get that listed as an ethnic group. I could list it under other. I am a Weginahsa pronounced Wee – jean – A – house – a. I am no longer just white I am a proud weginahsa, if I can spell it correctly and pronounce it the same twice in a row. I am reminded of another politically correct nomenclature Native American. The late Russell Means asked a reporter who was speaking about Native Americans where he was born. He responded in New York and Means said you too are a Native American and then said I prefer to be called Indian.
We choose the roads and pathways we choose the words and implications of those words and the attitudes that formulates them. I was thinking back to Piaget and theories of development of children and at what age do we see color? At what age do we begin to find differences in humans? Pondering and looking again at Dr. Martin Luther King’s words, as he made the comment about a street sweeper. It is our choice as to how great or how little we are and it is our choice whether we truly are free or not. That is not in the devlopmentalist guide book that is ours to decide. Today is the time and the season for us to be who we are and that we are able to think act and be free, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and a key is to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Can we find truth in an untruthful world?

Bird Droppings April 10, 2019
Can we find truth in an untruthful world?

 

I went back to a book again for the third or fourth time, a book titled; Every day is a good day: Reflections by Contemporary Indigenous women, by the late Wilma Mankiller. Mankiller was the past Chief of The Cherokee Nation and a Native American Activist, author, lecturer, and several time cancer survivor. I borrowed my status for today on Facebook from her writings. My plans were to be writing this morning about this book but after five weeks away from school, I am working on several new lesson plans this morning I was a bit sidetracked with trying to get anything done today. I might need to finish my breakfast and get rolling. I feel better than I felt yesterday about being back in school. Today I will be addressing an issue at the foundation of why so many issues of today even exist. The situation is their truth or a lack thereof in our society today.

 

“I don’t think anybody anywhere can talk about the future of their people or of an organization without talking about education. Whoever controls the education of our children controls our future. “ “In Iroquois society, leaders are encouraged to remember seven generations in the past and consider seven generations in the future when making decisions that affect the people. “ Wilma Mankiller

 

After pondering and reading more of Wilma Mankiller’s book I always find new pieces that just seem to mean more today than they did the previous time reading. One of these aspects is truth. When elected Chief many years back Wilma was the first woman to be elected head of any of the major tribes. She based her life and philosophy on truth. So perhaps it is appropriate today that I will be addressing an issue at the foundation of why so many issues of the day even exist, the truth or the lack thereof.

 

“A king asked a sage to explain the Truth. In response the sage asked the king how he would convey the taste of a mango to someone who had never eaten anything sweet. No matter how hard the king tried, he could not adequately describe the flavor of the fruit, and, in frustration, he demanded of the sage ‘Tell me then, how would you describe it?’ The sage picked up a mango and handed it to the king saying ‘This is very sweet. Try eating it!’” Hindu Teaching Story

 

Sometimes in the simplest way we can get a point across just telling the truth. Nothing can describe more adequately than truth. I have written about truth numerous times and talked with teachers and educational experts about that same subject. It is very hard to always be truthful in our society today. Many times, we can question; what is truth much as did the great philosophers of old. As I read the Hindu parable above it hit me. Maybe truth is within the experience, borrowing from the great educator and philosopher John Dewey, truth is within the experience and it is being able to find it through a life event.

 

“It is a pleasure to stand upon the shore, and to see ships tossed upon the sea: a pleasure to stand in the window of a castle, and to see a battle and the adventures thereof below: but no pleasure is comparable to standing upon the vantage ground of truth… and to see the errors, and wanderings, and mists, and tempests, in the vale below.” Sir Francis Bacon

 

“It is unfortunate, considering that enthusiasm moves the world, that so few enthusiasts can be trusted to speak the truth.” Arthur James Balfour

 

As I read what these great thinkers have to say about truth it is sad that they see truth as an uncommon commodity, something that is few and far between. We watch news and read papers each day and choose to believe or not believe what we see. Bat boy is having plastic surgery to look normal was the title of a grocery store tabloid many months back. One of my favorites was when Bill Clinton was in office and he was having sex with an alien. Most of us see these doctored photos and total fabrications and pass them off as such but some people take to heart. There are many who believe Apollo missions were total fabrication due to for example the Van Allen Belts and numerous other events in history were fabricated as well. Conspiracy theories abound about daily happenings all leading to this or that conclusion. Many have been scientifically debunked including the attack of Nine Eleven yet they persist. A local science professor comments in class while teaching genetics that the Apollo mission is a hoax. How can one thing he never saw be bogus and yet teach again something he never saw.

 

“Between truth and the search for it, I choose the second.” Bernard Berenson

 

“When you want to fool the world, tell the truth.” Otto Von Bismarck

 

Why is it, that truth is so elusive? I find it so hard to understand that we go at life literally intent on fabrication, deceit and deception. Bismarck’s comment though near a hundred years old is still very much true.

 

“Truth can never be told so as to be understood, and not be believed.” William Blake

 

“Truth lies within ourselves: it takes no rise from outward things, whatever you may believe. There is an inmost center in us all, where truth abides in fullness and to Know rather consists in opening out a way whence the imprisoned splendor may escape than in effecting entry for light supposed to be without.” Robert Browning

 

“A few observations and much reasoning lead to error; many observations and a little reasoning to truth.” Alexis Carrel

 

I look back and see how so many times in avoiding truth the tales grew with each moment and soon a story takes the place of a simple event and soon a novel unravels and the line between fiction and nonfiction becomes literally a canyon.

 

“The pursuit of truth will set you free; even if you never catch up with it.” Clarence Darrow

 

“Time is precious, but truth is more precious than time.” Benjamin Disraeli

 

“Only the hand that erases can write the true thing.” Meister Eckhart

 

Isn’t it sad that truth is so difficult and yet so easy, telling the truth eliminates numerous additional words and time that could be spent perhaps going in the right direction rather than pursuing issues that really may not even pertain. It is so simple and yet so elusive to so many.

 

“The greater the truth the greater the libel.” Lord Ellenborough

 

“Truth is beautiful, without doubt; but so are lies.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

We so easily get caught up in deceit because this is what we want to hear. Watching news of our current president unfold and spun by each side two seemingly different stories almost opposite in content yet the same event. The truth may be painful or difficult to take and so the fabrication becomes the reality. A movie out a few years back portrays the world of a schizophrenic, “A beautiful Mind”. Dr. John Nash is played by Russell Crowe very convincingly. Dr. Nash eventually realizes the duplicity of his reality and learns to deal with it. Many of us never accept the unreal we create each day as we fabricate and manipulate that around us.
We are brought up accepting untruth; we have professionals, politicians who work at telling half-truths and fabricating it to do their jobs, as they run the country.

 

Wouldn’t it be an interesting world if politicians could take a few drops of medicine and become truthful? Problem is we wouldn’t have a use for politicians and anyone could run for office. Would it not be great if we could believe those who run the country for us, elected by us, and not rely on shock jock radio and TV personalities who literally build there listening audience on deceit. What if the president was telling the truth and the commentators who are angling for listeners are lying? As I look at this concept it is truly sad that we have such a short attention span. We tend to listen to the loudest and most exciting version even when we watch an event unfold and know what is real. I wonder how many people believed the photo of Bill Clinton and the Alien back in the day. Recently a movie The Campaign, essentially a comedy jokingly made its way back and forth until just before the end and the fellow who was down in the poles began telling the truth and changed the election.

 

“Respect for the truth comes close to being the basis for all morality.” Frank Herbert

 

“Peace if possible, but truth at any rate.” Martin Luther

 

“You’ll never get mixed up if you simply tell the truth. Then you don’t have to remember what you have said, and you never forget what you have said.” Sam Rayburn

 

We live in a society where morality is bantered about as a catch word. We live in a world where peace is elusive often because truth is nowhere to be found. We live in a world where politicians are counting how many times the other side has changed their minds and or rhetoric on issues. We live in a world where many are in harm’s way and many of these instances are due to untruths, which we then justify through buying into additional untruthful information and rationales. Do we even remember, the what, and the why of the actual event? So as I sit reading and writing this morning 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

Pondering and thinking about the lyrics from an old friend

Bird Droppings April 21, 2020
Pondering and thinking about the lyrics from an old friend

 

Back in the “normal” days, I stood in line behind a young man in his mid-thirties and I assume his wife at a BBQ place at Stone Mountain Park. I know we can argue it is a memorial to the south carved on a mountain. I am a history buff of all kinds. I enjoy history and I enjoy the philosophy behind it. I read a line that “when people claim their heritage they are called racist”. I go back to two folks I was behind at the BBQ place. Both had confederate battle flags emblazoned on their t-shirts. Both shirts indicated the south was going to rise again we are proud of our heritage. Then I read this note actually the first two paragraphs of an essay going into more detail.

 

“For the past 150-some years, while the Confederate battle flag has monopolized attention with its corrosive symbolism and inflammatory bluster, a different, largely unknown Confederate flag — the Confederate Flag of Truce, which the South used in the process of surrendering to the North — has been quietly waiting for its moment in the spotlight. That moment is now. Hoping to start a new conversation around the Civil War artifact, textile and social practice artist Sonya Clark has conceived a massive version of the Flag of Truce, measuring 15 by 30 feet — 10 times the size of the original flag.” Meredith Mendelsohn, CNN

 

So, I am sitting here pondering a flag of truce. Truce is peace. A battle flag has a difficult time being anything close to peaceful. Just some food for thought. A great lead in to my friend. I have been in the same room I should say concert hall many times listening to his music. I have heard nearly every song he has written. Not all but almost all. He and I share epilepsy and work with disabled children and adults. So maybe indirectly we are friends.

 

I first started listening to Neil Young’s music in 1966 or so possibly even earlier if you count Buffalo Springfield, a short-lived band and of course 1968 with Crosby Stills, Nash and Young at Woodstock and Deja vu, their first album which I am sitting here listening too. While I did not make it to Woodstock I can say my old sleeping bag was there, a good friend at the time borrowed it. When I made my way south into the land of The Allman Brothers band, in the fall of 1971, on my way to Florida, the flower petals were still in the streets from Dwayne Allman’s funeral a month past, music and lyrics had become a part of who I was.
I was reading on line last night and I recalled a friend on line used to list the songs of Neil Young on her website. I responded to her so many years ago with a note that I did not think anyone under fifty had ever heard of Neil Young. I should say outside of my house; my kids grew up with Neil Young. Several years ago, Neil Young had a medical crisis and a sort of mid-life crisis all about the same time. After finding he had an aneurysm in his brain, he decided that he needed to record immediately sort of just in case. As life goes he was afraid this might be his last CD. He took it upon himself from being warned he needed surgery immediately and postponing for a week to write and produce an entire CD, Prairie Wind. A few days after leaving the hospital from successful surgery on the brain aneurism, the spot on his leg where the catheter had been inserted broke open and he collapsed outside his hotel, nearly dying from blood loss.
The words to this song caught my attention many times but especially this morning, a questioning of who and why we are. Several of my friends and I have been discussing freedom in general, free choice, student choice and other great philosophical topics in our blogs and on line discussions which perhaps led me to this today. The title of the song is, When God made me, by Neil Young.

 

“Was he thinkin’ about my country or the color of my skin? Was he thinkin’ ’bout my religion and the way I worshipped him? Did he create just me in his image or every living thing? Was he planning only for believers or for those who just have faith? Did he envision all the wars that were fought in his name? Did he say there was only one way to be close to him? Did he give me the gift of love to say who I could choose? Did he give me the gift of voice so some could silence me? Did he give me the gift of vision not knowing what I might see? Did he give me the gift of compassion to help my fellow man?” Neil young, When God made me, Prairie Wind

 

I walked out into the stillness of the morning earlier today. It has been raining quite a bit lately so the pollen has been washed away. There was a lone bird I think one that was mixed up on its timing and weather (I wonder does anyone give the daylight savings time to nature). Maybe the bird was still adjusting or maybe migrating in from another time zone, might have been a Yankee bird as a friend would have told me. But here nearby singing all alone deep in the woods is a single bird. I like days a hint of green and the lace work of twigs and opening buds provide a great background for thought, everything smells so good with rain and sounds so new in spring. Perhaps early morning even with houses going up will still be quiet.
Thinking back a year or two to coming back to school after a spring break and now today back to work on my computer on our fifth week of online teaching, it always amazes me. This year there will not be any students with T-shirts from Panama City Florida air brushed with a boyfriend’s name and or girlfriend’s name and various partying information and or connotations maybe parents should not know about, and of course tan unless in the back yard. There will not be a lot of shell jewelry and then there is the other reality many students are still asleep from staying in bed. It is so difficult to get started the week or so after spring break even when it is on a computer. I offered to an administrator why not start back on a Tuesday instead of Monday and we both agreed we could all use that one extra day. Neil Young to the rescue.

 

“Did he give me the gift of compassion to help my fellow man?” Neil Young

 

Funny, how a line sticks with you in a song or poem or book. I keep thinking about this line yesterday. Between oil spills, getting tough on North Korea and as always, the breaking news today computers at IRS broke down, a leak from a Washington reporter in 2009 that started numerous political dramas, all seem insignificant now, over 38176 falsehoods or lie’s since starting the current presidency, a smiling first lady and controversy over renaming Mar Go Largo the Southern White House. Some want to blame China or Democratic governors or whomever is next on blame list. I wonder if the word compassion ever made it into Washington.

 

I was walking through a Wal-Mart a few days back with my mask in place, sort of the entire world at a glance; everyone ends up in Wal-Mart. One of my former students came in he was all excited he had just gotten a job there. But as I walked through the Wal-Mart an employee near the pharmacy was explaining the new Medicare drug plan to an elderly person. They actually had a booth set up with a fulltime staff person. They are to be helping elderly folks and they need to have people telling them what is going on since most people including myself haven’t a clue. Ironic and they wonder why so many people haven’t joined up yet the line is too long at the explanation booth.
Compassion is such a simple word. It has been several years since I did work with indigents finding housing and food for families. I recall several bits of wisdom coming from Washington, for example cutting off welfare if a person was not looking for a job. A favorite is if you fail a drug test no more welfare. If you are homeless by choice you are off of welfare, that one sort of floored me. It had to do with issues of not paying taxes by one person somewhere in Texas who found he could save money being homeless. Another was if income was too high cut out Medicaid.
Cutting health care was always one that intrigued me. I worked with a fellow who had worked all his life till a massive heart attack disabled him and he was limited to drawing disability. His wife due to illnesses all of her life had never worked enough combined quarters to draw anything more than a minimum disability check. I find it so interesting that anyone can even consider we do not need health care reform. Unfortunately, between them their medical bills exceeded their monthly government disability checks and because their income exceeded federal standards they did not get Medicaid. In a compromise they took turns each month on which medicines to not get. They were getting help from one agency but doctors had to fill in paper work literally volumes each month for them to receive free medicines. Sadly eventually the doctor’s office stopped filling in the paperwork for them. Compassion is such a powerful word.

 

What of a disabled man I worked with for several years who lived on about 350.00 per week. He is a severe diabetic and has numerous other health and psychological related issues and virtually spends a week in the hospital a month. However, his monthly disability income keeps him from Medicaid and so he moves periodically to avoid harassment and bill collectors from hospitals. Having a quality of life is that compassion? Are we helping our fellow man? As I watch what we do worldwide as a nation I seriously wonder sometimes. 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

Making a difference each day

Bird Droppings April 20, 2020

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, 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 person’s 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 friend’s I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

 

I detest shopping but I really like Kroger

Bird Droppings April 19, 2020
I detest shopping but I really like Kroger

 

About three years back I spent nearly a week of using ice packs as heat extractors for my computer until getting the fan fixed. It was interesting I had two thoughts while similar that came to me this morning as I started the day out. One I heard on the radio going to Kroger to get groceries and get gas for my wife’s car a line from a Tom Petty song, and the other thought is from the Harry Potter books and movies. All of this and almost seven years ago today a new Kroger opened near our house. What a glorious day that was as I found another place where happiness abounds. I think it is mainly the store that was closer and huge and always has good produce and I really like to cook so it was nirvana for me.

“I’m learning to fly but I ain’t got wings. Coming down is the hardest thing. Well, some say life will beat you down. Break your heart, steal your crown. So, I’ve started out for God knows where. I guess I’ll know when I get there.” Tom Petty

“It is not our abilities that show what we truly are. It is our choices.” Professor Dumbledore to Harry in “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets,” by J.K. Rowling

 

John Dewy advocated for learning through experience and building on past experiences to build for future experiences. I can almost apply Petty’s lyrics to education and how we have so standardized and bastardized learning teaching to the test. In politics the focus on war efforts and the constant accumulation of things/wealth seems more important than doing any sort of good. Of course, the philosophy of the ends justifies the means could possibly be applied. That was sort of the approach when the last passenger pigeon died in the Cincinnati zoo and some people had the attitude well it’s only a pigeon. Sadly, once there were billions of passenger pigeons flying over the forests of the east coast, and yes, it is only a pigeon except we can never at this time replicate that one, it is gone.

 

The Alaska wilderness when it is gone is gone and can never be replicated as well but if the end justifies it many people see no problem. About a quarter of the known musk oxen survive in the Alaska wilderness sanctuary. However, as I sat this morning, perhaps a better brighter thought from J.K. Rowling thorough the character of Dumbledore “it is our choices that show who we really our”. I wonder how soon Harry Potter books will be classics and teachers will be analyzing the plots and developing theories as to why Rowling characterized Harry as a boy or teenager and why an owl as his companion versus a weasel or pygmy shrew.

 

I recall eleventh or twelfth grade English and Ms. Stern and the classic novel “Moby Dick”, according to her the ship represented the world and Ishmael well he got stuck on that ship. What was Melville really telling us I always thought it was a great story and history of New England’s whaling industry? I really enjoyed the story but not the analysis and when I wrote my opinion about history I was told in large red letters it was wrong according to Ms. Stern. Many years ago, thinking back, the choices we made not our abilities was the credo. Actually, I still think the same of the book and believe Ms. Stern was wrong.

 

” Ability is of little account without opportunity.” Napoleon Bonaparte

 

“The first requisite for success is the ability to apply your physical and mental energies to one problem incessantly without growing weary.” Thomas A. Edison
It is about being at the right place at the right time or is it the choice we make. It is also about applying and choosing when opportunity provides a window and then plot thickens.

 

“It is a fine thing to have ability, but the ability to discover ability in others is the true test.” Elbert Hubbard

 

Humility is an added aspect of today’s search seeing in others that ability almost an intuitive aspect of humanity.

 

“The world cares very little about what a man or woman knows; it is what a man or woman is able to do that counts.” Booker T. Washington

 

This morning as I got up checking on my wife who was working on her computer and fixed her breakfast and crawled back in bed. It is spring break for me. What should have been enjoying Spring Break was spending the past ten days dealing with my mother’s funeral and her affairs. So I am catching up, I read several emails in my emails. One former student who emailed me spoke of realizing school was nearing the end and graduation was only a few weeks ahead and now they would have to make a way in life. In that same email concern for a friend stationed in the Middle East. Watching the news doesn’t give justice to friends and families with loved ones overseas in harm’s way, as I think again choices we have made. I received an email from my son reminding me to review some emails to remind my wife to read over and proof his essays. Three emails of the seventy that truly caught my attention.

 

I started with a Petty quote and maybe that applies to a graduate and a job search as well. So many of the following what we do with our lives is our choice how the world will see that choice is dependent upon the direction and choices we make. It is not the ability that you will be known for or how great an actor or musician or football player but what you do with your talent is what is seen. Family is so crucial and friends equally as well and always seek to learn to know more reading, writing, thinking and reflecting.

 

“If there were no writers there will be no readers” unknown source

 

“Choose wisely”, it has been said and, in the end, some do and some will not. So today take stock of where you are and look at the road ahead and pick that path way that will direct you where you need to be.

 

“Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise. Seek what they sought.” Basho

 

In today’s hectic world we all look for quick solutions, five-minute abs, six minutes to wisdom, and a one-minute egg. Wisdom is not on the stock exchange, it is not a brokered commodity. It is more here now within, and it is a journey. The journey is not an easy one and to be involved in finding wisdom only those who actually travel that road will truly become wise.

 

“True wisdom lies in gathering the precious things out of each day as it goes by.” E. S. Bouton

 

Several nights ago, I was bored Justified seemed to missing and I found, Darby O’Gill and the Little people and Star Trek of all things, “Star Trek Insurrection”. The plot revolves around a planet where all is at peace. The few residents, all 600 have forsaken technology for art, or literature, for the aesthetics in life and for all that they can make of themselves. Interestingly a weaver studies 40 years to become an apprentice and apprentice another 40 to become a master weaver of rugs and tapestries. These people live on a planet whose innate radiation prolongs life and rejuvenates them cellular so they have time to accomplish what it is inside them. It sounds so easy when the time allows it.

 

Daniel Day Lewis, actor and now cobbler took a five-year hiatus from movies to study cobbling, (shoe making) in Europe from the masters. As the Star Trek movie progressed a comment was made about a perfect moment, a special moment that stands out above all else. Captain Pickard mentioned seeing earth from space for the first time, many astronauts recall that moment. For me it was a sunrise over the Atlantic one morning on Cumberland Island with the waves splashing about and the most brilliant reds and oranges I have ever seen. A shrimp boat slowly moved through this picture yet in its awesomeness the boat was insignificant.

 

As Pickard spoke with this woman on this planet of a perfect moment she then offered now to learn to make every moment prefect and the movie continued and soon he was seeing a hummingbird flit to a flower or pollen blown from a flower.

 

“Wisdom is like electricity. There is no permanently wise man, but men capable of wisdom, who, being put into certain company, or other favorable conditions, become wise for a short time, as glasses rubbed acquire electric power for a while.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I am intrigued as I read various thoughts on wisdom and for some reason I am always drawn to Emerson. He was controversial yet perhaps one of the greatest thinkers as well as poet of his time. He was alluding to wisdom as a temporary entity in his statement. The next quote is an interesting statement from a President often misunderstood

 

“Wisdom often times consists of knowing what to do next.” Herbert Hoover

 

“Wisdom begins at the end.” Daniel Webster

 

So often we spend time simply doing, not seeking, we spend time worrying about which path to travel or preparing our needs for the journey and worrying about the destination. We forget to go and there we are no better and no worse, only we are where we were to start still. Somewhere in among all things is the destination but the destination is not necessarily the end but a point B of a line AB and still out there is C and D and E and much more. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your thoughts and always give thanks namaste.

 

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

Watching a hawk fly by

Bird Droppings April 18, 2020

Watching a hawk fly by

 

For the first time in my teaching in public school nearly twenty years I am not required to teach to the test. Got me thinking back a few years. I have over the years attended numerous track meets. I would take a few photos as I tend to do. I recall about eight years ago when I was not able to get to the region meet till after school. Since it started before school was out I let one of the team managers take my camera to get a few photos of some of the events I would miss. In looking phots up this past week for my mother’s funeral I looked at old photos of pole vaulting a thought crossed my mind in conjunction with an article I read. I have used numerous articles in my research by Ronald A. Wolk, founder and former editor of Education Week.

 

“Standardization and uniformity may work with cars and computers, but it doesn’t work with humans. Today’s student body is the most diverse in history. An education system that treats all students alike denies that reality.” Ronald A Wolk

 

I reviewed my photos and talked with one of the coaches about a particular student who has really done well that year in pole vaulting. She missed going to the state meet in a tie and she had too many misses as she vaulted. So while she cleared same height as winner too many times she had missed at other heights.

 

“Standards don’t prepare students for anything; they are framework of expectations and educational objectives. Without the organization and processes to achieve them, they are worthless.” Ronald A. Wolk

 

I have pondered this idea of an event like pole vaulting and comparing to our current trend in education of raising the bar. The practice of making it harder to achieve a high school diploma for example is common place across the United States. We set the bar up and do not have the processes within some students to make it to the bar. I could see in a pole-vaulting contest where the high school state record may be fourteen feet and we set the bar at sixteen feet and believe all potential pole vault contestants will now attain that level of skill. Most quit pole vaulting and Wolk uses statistics from various states showing dropout rates as an issue and most recently with national changes in calculating dropout rates even more so.

 

I have been pondering this concept of raising the bar for some time and teachers have been fired for not attaining goals set by states and federal legislation. I am doing bus duty this spring and we have several elementary students that catch the bus children of teachers to their schools from the high school. Perhaps to none other than educators and parents the stress level in an elementary school during CRCT time in teachers and students should be looked at. If we deliberately stress children over testing are we going the right direction? If we deliberately cause anxiety among our children over test scores that have little validity other than what the publisher has stated and in reference to state and federal mandates are we even being sane?

 

Thinking back nearly ten years, I was working on several questions for my graduate school comprehensive exams. In that process I would head to the University of Georgia Library on weekends to review material. I recall as I was driving to the University in Athens and as I turned on the highway bypass towards the University a red-tailed hawk flew over the road gliding by into a patch of pines. About three hundred yards further a dead hawk alongside the road it appeared the hawk was trying to feed on a dead armadillo which had been hit by a car. The hawk had become road-kill as well. As I drove on I wondered if maybe this was a pair considering how close they were and if they had a nest and young and this might have been the reason to venture that close to highway. I have seen other times similar situations with dead hawks at road kill sites.

 

“What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts were gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected. You must teach the children that the ground beneath their feet is the ashes of your grandfathers. So that they will respect the land, tell your children that the earth is rich with the lives of our kin. Teach your children what we have taught our children that the earth is our mother. Whatever befalls the earth befalls the sons of the earth. If men spit upon the ground, they spit upon themselves. This we know, the earth does not belong to man, and man belongs to the earth. “Chief Seattle

 

It has been many years since Chief Seattle spoke but his words ring true today. It may be that in our time that we so often take for granted all around us, the trees, animals and even other people. We live a life so self-centered and focused on us we tend to miss so much. It was many years till man realized he was not the center of the universe and was really just a somewhat an insignificant speck. I am sitting at my writing typing on my laptop wondering about an interesting question. So many people see problems with public education and yet few offer solutions that seem to go in the right direction as I was mentioning in Wolk’s statements.

I have been reading numerous books on curriculum theory but I am waiting for a book on curriculum action to be published.

 

Over a hundred books are scattered about my table with each a different author and different idea how to solve issues in schools and in life. A graduate school professor made a comment several months ago about how many curriculum theorists have moved to Canada to practice and to learn and do research. It is interesting in this world of we want to be the best that it seems Canadian schools want to get better. In Canada however, they are looking for ways to improve beyond politics.

 

We have numerous laws and ideas but never seem to get better in a recent headline in the local newspaper title was and students’ scores highlight disparity. In several systems mentioned nearly a third of eighth graders will be retained because of a test at the end of eighth grade. I wonder how they were at the end of seventh grade and beginning of eighth maybe we should do a sort of a pre-test and post-test thing.

 

A simple practice that would actually give a better indication of learning and it seems we do not do that. We simply test at the end of eighth grade so we know this child is at this stage and knows this at this point but what did that child learn in eighth grade we still do not know.

 

“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” Sydney J. Harris

 

It has been nearly twenty years since a fellow teacher first showed me a Sydney J. Harris column. So often as I watch people in school or out about in the community. These people reflect everything around them. Harris says we should be more like windows letting in not just reflecting back.

 

“Nations have recently been led to borrow billions for war; no nation has ever borrowed largely for education.  Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization.  We must make our choice; we cannot have both.” Abraham Flexner

 

I wonder thinking back to my hawk flying by I hope if there are chicks they were along far enough to survive and as I think maybe it acts on the part of parents who truly want a good education for their children. In Georgia a big push is for vouchers and Charter schools and sadly both are profit driven not in the interest of children and neither offer much more in terms of new ideas and have from research actually not done as well as public schools. The really sad part is that many kids in today’s diversified world often do not have parents at home anymore and that puts stress on everything including tests and school. As I end today maybe we can all take a moment and try and 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,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird