Are we experiencing genocide of learning?

Bird Droppings July 30, 2020

Are we experiencing genocide of learning?

 

In the midst of my daily journals entries lately it gets hectic. I am trying to regain strength lost from my leg injury, surgery, and six months of casts, do my writing for my doctorate program, visit with friends, research, reading and discussing when I can. For the first time in a year I can do yard work. I have hired help for some major yard and tree cleaning up. I am trying to maintain some semblance of order in my herb gardens. Did I mention trying to get ready for what I want to do now that I retired again through emails and phone calls. I am under limited house arrest with Covid 19 since I am old.

 

So here in the morning as I write I am working on an idea that has been bothering me for some time. I used the harsh word of genocide in my title. In this crazy world of viruses and conspiracy theories they only add to this idea. Some will perhaps object to the concept that we as a society are killing off real learning in our schools. All the talk of increasing rigor then combined with budget cuts and increased class sizes and massive standardized testing and you have the making of decreasing what is truly learned. I left in class teaching this past March due to the Covid19 virus. We were in a matter of days forewarned set up with various software programs and hastily set up to implement at home learning. I was disillusioned in March with one of my assistant principals who I totally disagreed with. Teachers are to fall in line and be coachable I was told. Hell, I am an old fart and I will speak out when what is being done is wrong. So, I retired under duress so to say. However, I am glad I did. I am looking forward to completing my dissertation and hopefully teaching college next spring face to face.

 

I have over the past few days used Carl Rodgers quotes and he uses the term significant learning that learning which stays with us. I will allow a student in school can memorize answers for a test and some might be learning but the joy and passion of learning are stripped away far too many times by overzealous teachers trying to succeed with their students on test scores. I have offered numerous times that a test at the end of a class or subject is not a valid measure of what a student learned with that teacher or in that subject without a baseline point of reference.

 

I am reading a book currently which is a compilation of essays dealing with Indigenous spirituality, The Inner Journey edited by Linda Hogan, a Chickasaw writer and environmentalist. As I opened the book the first essay is by Vine Deloria Jr., Native author and activist. The title of the essay is, Out of Chaos.

 

“Whites acquire land through purchase and sale, and land is a quantifiable, measurable entity; their primary responsibility as landowners is simply to prevent loss of value; hence any responsibility the land owner may have is only to himself. Indian tribes acquire land as a gift from higher powers, and in turn they assume certain ceremonial duties which must be performed as long as they live on and use the land. Removing an Indian tribe from its aboriginal territory, therefore, results in the destruction of ceremonial life and much of the cultural structure.” Vine Deloria Jr.

 

To put into another perspective author Capitalist and Libertarian hero and favorite, Ayn Rand at the 1974 West Point address had this to say about Native Americans.

 

“They didn’t have any rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights which they had not conceived and were not using… What was it that they were fighting for, when they opposed white men on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence, their “right” to keep part of the earth untouched, unused and not even as property, but just keep everybody out so that you will live practically like an animal, or a few caves above it. Any white person who brings the element of civilization has the right to take over this continent.” Ayn Rand, Address 1974 West Point

 

One might ask what does this have to do with learning at all. I would respond with that is a good question if I had not witnessed within the learning field a similar situation. If we can substitute learning for land perhaps it will be somewhat clearer.

 

Over the years my room at the high school has been the school field trip for the Early Childhood classes of four-year old’s and their high school student teachers. My collection of various snakes, lizards and turtles not discounting spiders and hissing cockroaches always amazes kids and questions can be almost infinite if allowed. On one occasion a four year little fellow asked me how do snakes go to the bathroom. Almost immediately his student teacher said that’s a silly question hush. I jumped in before another word was said not embarrassing the high school student but offering some advice that no question is silly and especially from a four-year-old. We proceeded to learn about the snake’s cloacae. So often children are stifled by time and by constraints imposed with standards and a teacher’s understanding of what is to be accomplished in a given time.

 

“The gap is so great that the required subject matter, the methods of learning and of behaving are foreign to the existing capacities of the young.” John Dewey, Experience and Education, 1938

 

Children come to school as avid learners I often use the term sponges, having just recently learned to talk, walk, play and laugh at humor. Little children are truly sponges absorbing all about them. Far too often we approach these children with our adult understandings and views and miss the fact that perhaps while avid learners we have gone beyond their understanding and even instinctual capacities to learn. We want straight rows and hands on the desk and quiet and no questions. It takes only a short time till children become robots and those that do not conform are labeled as behavior problems.

 

I cannot help but think of Geronimo when he petitioned Teddy Roosevelt to go to the White Mountains of New Mexico to die amongst his homeland and birth place, his ceremonial home and was refused. A child comes to school with few rules yet morals are established and understood but the conforming rules of the society and times deemed appropriate to eat, nap and or read. No more reading because you want to but now because you have to. John Dewey wrote about this in 1938 and was considered a progressive at that time.

 

“…. all experience is an arch wherethro’ Gleams that untraveled world, whose margin fades forever and forever when I move.” Alfred, Lord Tennyson

 

Over the years I was involved a day here and there with the Foxfire Approach to Teaching courses up in Mountain City Georgia on the Foxfire Property. I would try and attend as many days as I could. It was more for me to recharge and learn than to add to the class selfishly. One evening a few courses past I invited former Foxfire students to dinner with future and current teachers who were learning about Foxfire. Sitting around a table we were discussing the impact of this specific teaching approach on their lives. The former students had been in the Foxfire program going back to 1970 and as current as 1995. All saw their experiences as life changing. They carried a love of learning forward with them. What amazed me was the anonymous overwhelming praise for this style of teaching and not just one teacher but these former students have had several different teachers all using the same approach which allows me to say it was the approach and yes teachers do matter. We had a great evening as conversations drifted from today to the past and back. The teachers to be videoed taped as they asked questions of these former students and they gave their responses.

 

A few years back I had the great privilege of meeting one of the former Foxfire instructors from the early days, Mr. George Reynolds. In only a few minutes of talking to the group his passion for learning and teaching was evident. He had been in Mountain City for a reunion of sorts visiting several former students who had made music their careers.

 

“The best reason to give a child a good school …. Is so that child will have a happy childhood, and not so that it will help IBM in the competing with Sony … There is something ethically embarrassing about resting a national agenda on the basis of greed.” Jonathan Kozol

 

Within our society education has become a business if you are watching the news on any given night school board budgets and teacher cuts are literally daily. Charter schools for profit are being formed and profit-making corporations are trying to get their way into public education. With that in mind what is the result, when only profit is a goal and success of a given student is no longer an issue. We have been fortunate in surrounding counties to not loose teachers but adjust in other areas. Class sizes and numbers of students per class have been adjusted and our school day lengthened and school year shortened.

 

Money obviously is a driving force. Going a step further to a state level and a curriculum change for example the math curriculum in Georgia was radically changed a few years ago and this offered hundreds of millions in text book purchases to someone in the publishing business. This year again the Math Curriculum is changing again and more books. Education is a big business when you get to this level and literally someone owns it being a bit sarcastic. So, when looking at the monetary aspect of education it is very similar to land someone has possession of it. National education policy is driven by economic issues. Most progressive educators would say the industrial complex is educating consumers. Our “Native” culture has been stripped away and replaced with a planned and orchestrated day by day blueprint within education to make good consumers.

 

“Education implies teaching. Teaching implies knowledge. Knowledge is truth. The truth is everywhere the same. Hence education should be everywhere the same.” Robert Maynard Hutchins, The Higher Learning in America, 1936

 

Hutchins would be happy in today’s educational world where daily you hear such phrases from administrators “if I walk into a biology room in Georgia it should look like a biology room in New Jersey”. With common core standards and standardized testing, the norm and curriculum maps and every moment choreographed Hutchins would love where education has gone. So perhaps I can blame Hutchins with the genocide of learning thought. The great educator Maxine Greene in her essay reflecting on John Dewey offers in referring to this passage by Hutchins.

 

“Emphasizing absoluteness and universality, he (Hutchins) insisted that the idea of progress was meaningless. Education had to be properly understood as the cultivation of the intellect. It could only be contaminated when windows were opened to the social, public, and political world outside.” Maxine Greene

 

John Dewey bases much of his thinking on experience be it current or past. We build on the past experiences and if done right these flow into future experiences building a learning for life scenario. Over the past few days I have been working on a simple formula along the lines of if we have an experience which combined with thoughtful reflection provides learning we can then build upon for future learning. Many hours can be hashed around deciding on what is learning and what is experience to that matter what is thoughtful reflection?

 

“Every experience is a moving force. Its value can be judged only on the ground of what it moves toward and into.” John Dewey, Experience and Education, 1938

 

As I think about Dewey and education and how we are increasing rigor I was reading in Alfie Kohn’s book, What does it mean to be well educated, and found an interesting thought.

 

“To judge schools by how demanding they are is rather like judging opera on the basis of how many notes it contains that are hard for singers to hit. In other words, it leaves out most of what matters.” Alfie Kohn

 

It has been nearly twenty years since a good friend and former principal introduced me to Alfie Kohn’s books in a book club meeting. I miss that sort of philosophical endeavor it seems more standardized reading is the norm these days. I use the idea of increasing rigor is much like demanding everyone break the world record in high jump. In simple terms, it ain’t gonna happen.

 

We increase rigor to a point where a few students are lost and many struggle trying to be successful. I read a recent front-page article on the numbers of students in college in remedial classes prior to getting into college math and literature. It was costing the state so much money. Colleges accept students based on test scores and GPA and some students may need a refresher course. I will admit I had remedial Literature my freshmen year in college and I think I failed it. Of course, my rationale was the beach was an hour away and it was warm and listening to some old bat in a literature course was not very much fun. I did turn it around eventually and was on dean’s list my junior and senior years, although there were numerous colleges and many years past the normal four.

 

So is there a solution to this issue of improving of schools and the education of our children. What is it we need in teachers? What is it we as parents expect from the education our children are getting? I recall a friend who went to Korea to teach English and in her year in Korea several issues came to the front. First families would only accept the best from the kids. They expected their children to work hard in school and at home on homework, my friend emphasized that three hours of homework was considered light. So, is it that in some countries more emphasis is put on education than in the US? You will find from data many Asian countries have very high-test scores on international standardized achievement tests. But what are the side effects for this pressure? Some of the highest suicide rates in teenagers are in these countries. We need to address our system and we need to go beyond the test scores that literally are meaningless from a validity standpoint. On the front page of our local paper was an article on test scores in the county comparing our local system which generally does well.

 

We need good teachers and good teachers are not easy to find. I have titled a paper I am working on, Attitude is the secret to teaching: Active, Tangible, Total, Intuitive, Thinking and Understanding of Developing Experience. I do believe attitude is a key to successful teachers. We need a philosophy of education that is fluid and not static that one size fits all. We need to provide relevance and context and all research points to this being a key in learning and in the retention of learning. However, one of the elements that for me that is critical is we need to have empathy as teachers. Sadly, there are few with empathy and it can go a long way. Intuition and understanding can be of a great assistance in learning.

 

I ended a short article the other day with the word conversations, there need to be conversations between students and teachers in both directions and there needs to be conversations between parents and teachers. As I head into more Foxfire my idea I have been pondering of Education as a stream and the Foxfire Core practices as stepping stones gains momentum. So solving quickly is a near impossibility but the idea is there and hopefully after three weeks of being embedded in the Foxfire Approach to teaching I will be ready for another school year. 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

Can we use the word sacred truthfully?

Bird Droppings July 29, 2020
Can we use the word sacred truthfully?

 

“Teachers who do not take their own education seriously, who do not study, who make little effort to keep abreast of events have no moral authority to coordinate the activities of the classroom.” Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of freedom

 

I have been a student and learner for some time. I would like to say I am a teacher at times sharing pieces of what I have experienced over my seventy plus years of existence. For me, it is more about sharing those pieces then using the word instruction. I somehow always conceive of instruction involving step by step directions and pieces to glue together with what we used to call airplane glue. My life has been one of numerous pathways and trails leading to the point at which I am now. Sitting writing about education and about living a life trying to maximize each breath and overturned pebble. I find it amusing as I talk with teachers those that turnover rocks as they journey looking for new creatures seem to be some of the best teachers. I admire those who are constantly looking and learning.

 

“Man did not weave the web of life – he is merely a strand in it. Whatever he does to the web, he does to himself.” “How can you buy or sell the sky, the warmth of the land? The idea is strange to us. If we do not own the freshness of the air and the sparkle of the water, how can you buy them? Every part of this earth is sacred to my people. Every shining pine needle, every sandy shore, every mist in the dark woods, every clearing and humming insect is holy in the memory and experience of my people.” Chief Seattle, 1854

 

These few words are a portion of the surrender speech of Chief Seattle in 1854, as translated by Dr. Henry Smith from a column in the Seattle Sunday October 29, 1887. So realistically on a cloudy morning what is sacred? Sounds like a silly question but for some it is the sacraments of the Church and others the Holy Bible or Qumran or Torah. Throughout the world, we could find Saturdays or Mondays or numerous differing holy days that people would be objectifying their beliefs. Native Peoples were perhaps too simplistic in their search for the concept of sacred. William Edelen, author and former pastor titled one of his books, In Search of the Mystery. I was reading emails earlier today, and a good friend from many years back wrote about easing of environmental laws for corporations and how a thimble full of mercury could contaminate all the fish in the lake and the lessening of restrictions on mercury by chance in chemical processing in the industry will release tons into our environment all because someone needs to make another buck. The head of EPA and four or five of Supreme Court Justices both worked for the same chemical company and have been involved in favorable legislation for that company.

 

“Teaching, like any truly human activity, emerges from one’s inwardness, for better or for worse. As I teach, I project the condition of my soul onto my students, my subjects, and our way of being together. The entanglements I experience in the classroom are often no more or less than the convolutions of my inner life. Viewed from this angle teaching holds a mirror to the soul.” Parker Palmer, The Courage to teach
Teaching for Palmer is a sacred thing as we impact as teachers’ children who literally are learning as we speech in just watching us as teachers. It is hard not to tie back to a mini history lesson as the first settlers wanted to buy land, and the indigenous people said it was not for sale it was sacred only to be used as needed not exploited. As the legend has it that we civilized people will destroy all animals and plants, and one day be gone when it is of no use to us anymore, and the buffalo and deer will come from hiding, and the trees will return and then “the people” can return home.

 

We all look at life around us in differing perspectives some seeing a large tree as firewood, others a wondrous living thing to share with grandchildren. Yesterday for the second day in a row a hawk was circling screaming as it flew in circles. On a previous Sunday my wife, granddaughter, son and I first heard this hawk as it circled a great sycamore tree near the house. We have had a pair of red-tailed hawks hunting around our house for as many years as we have lived here. When we first moved in they were doing a mating flight over our house circling and diving together. My first impulse was one of the hawks had died. I did a search yesterday around the sycamore tree and found nothing. The great hawk flew circles over the pines next to our house again screaming continuously. I stood in silence watching the circle follow the wind updraft and then drop again only to rise screaming every minute or so.

 

Perhaps some teachers might not need to go to work on some days as I thought back to my reading of Parker Palmers book. The idea of a mirror image of an inward look ties in with ideas of my own idea of trust, of building a comfort zone with students and then as I look beyond teaching is this not true for every aspect of our lives, teacher or not. Should we each not be going further than simple existence? Palmer describes the process as coming from within untangling convolutions and touching the soul. The word project is used and truly we do project our inner selves as we walk through life? Dr. Laura Nolte states so eloquently “children learn what they live.” Are we comfortable with who we are and where we are?

 

Daily I will find people who are seeking answers. Sometimes simple questions other times more perplexing and deeper are asked of me. It is this process of looking for answers that build who we are and develops for us what I am calling sacred. It is this process of inquiring that adds to our ability to deal with and go beyond daily issues. It is taking what seemingly is defeat and turning that into victory.

 

“It goes on one at a time; it starts when you care to act; it starts when you do it again after they said no, it starts when you say we and know who you mean, and each day you mean more.” Marge Piercy, The low road

 

I recall a trip to a plant nursery the other day perhaps one of my favorites in the area. They specialize in native plants and herbs along with landscaping plants and traditional garden varieties. They were going out of business not because they do not believe in what they do and enjoy it but because plants like so many aspects of farming prices have been rather stable for thirty years and the cost of living has not. Another landscaping business closed its retail outlet a few years back, but I recall just outside their office was a boulder with a hole drilled in it and a fountain bubbling out of the hole. This package was one thousand five hundred and fifty dollars installed. Next to the price is what constitutes the fountain, two hundred fifty pounds of river rock, two hundred pounds colored crushed lava rock, a drilled boulder which had to be near a ton, a pond liner, ten landscape timbers, 1000 pounds crushed granite and a pump kit. It took numerous pieces make a whole.

 

I was amazed by the simple fountain and how peaceful it was water bubbling out of a rock flowing over into the river stones it was a whole that was the sum of its parts. Without a pump kit to push the water and create a fountain, it was just a rock. You could say without the boulder it would have been only a bubbling of water in a pile of rocks. I have found each of us is similar we are pieces of a whole and inside a driving force as Palmer uses the word soul and heart interchangeably in his book, and it is here we determine sacred for ourselves. If that pump stopped working on that simple fountain, all effect is gone we need maintenance on our heart and not just our physical heart, but that of our emotional heart so that that fountain flows and the entire package has meaning as we go out in our days. So dear friends please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and n your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

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

Doing what you love is not really work

Bird Droppings July 21, 2019
Doing what you love is not really work

 

“To love what you do and feel that it matters, how could anything be more fun?” Katharine Graham

 

For many local teachers next week is getting back to school for teacher workdays. I am sitting here getting ready to ride down and pick up grandkids. Retirement for second time is wonderful.  Graham’s statement for me has been true about teaching for all my life. It seems I learn something every day as I wander about the internet and books I find along the way. My life’s journey the past fifty years has been one of excitement and constant challenges. Back when I closed my business of twenty plus years and left publishing I first tried to stay in that industry but very few companies hire older folks in sales. I had been away from production far too long and computers had replaced most of what I had done when I started in graphics doing everything by hand. I had been talking with a graphics teacher in high school and literally the graphics industry is now almost totally on the screen in front of you. No more negatives and paste ups even plates for presses are generated by computer direct to press.

 

One note of interest is as I find quotes I tend to either save or use directly in my writing however today the starting quote is from my father’s book of quotes that he had saved over the years which is a three-ring binder full of quotes he had used or was pondering using. This quote caught my attention as it is how I see teaching for me. I love teaching and each day I am working with students I feel it matters maybe not today but one day. As I looked up Katharine Graham I found that in her time she was one of the most powerful women in Washington. Publisher of the Washington Post it was with her permission Watergate scandal was reported and published in the Post. She was on the elite social list in Washington and personal friends with John and Jackie Kennedy, Jimmy and Roselyn Carter, Ronald and Nancy Reagan and she never had to sneak into White House functions which seem to be the fad these days.

 

As I looked further into her life and very interesting as her husband was for many years’ CEO and publisher of The Washington Post however it came to be known that he suffered from Manic Depression and after a series of nervous breakdowns and residential psychiatric treatment took his own life in 1963. Upon her husband’s death Katharine took over the company and through careful planning built it into the company it is today. I found the following quote that hit me as red further.

 

“We live in a dirty and dangerous world…There are some things the general public does not need to know and shouldn’t. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.” KG, speaking at the CIA Headquarters in 1988

 

As I watch our news and media sources banter about half-truths and often totally misleading stories I wonder as to is there material even in our high-speed world that needs to be withheld. So often in apocalyptic movies the president hesitates from telling everyone the earth is in line to be hit by a planet size asteroid and destroyed, or that the sunspots are flaring up and we will be crispy critters soon. Is it better to panic and get crushed in the milieu or simply not know and fry at some point in time? I come back to my original quote and for me it is finding that place in the circle of life that makes sense to you and that you enjoy doing. For me it is teaching. I recall when I was down about not finding work in the publishing world and my wife kept saying go back to teaching you really enjoy that. I was at the right place at the right time. Synchronicity as Karl Jung would say. A very progressive principal had just had a teacher quit due to a nervous breakdown and a job opening was there working with Emotionally Disturbed High School students. Next thing I knew I started back to teaching September 11, 2001.

 

“I teach because, for me, it’s the most effective and most enjoyable way to change the world. That’s the bottom line: We need to change this world, and this is the way I’m choosing to do it. Teaching allows me to work on hearts and minds, to guide people in becoming empowered, literate, engaged, creative, liberated human beings who want to join in this effort to change the world.” From the blog of Elena Aguilar School Improvement coach from Oakland, California, 2008

 

I am talking with former students and teachers of the Foxfire Program in Rabun County and in other Foxfire teaching settings around the country. I am finding that so many former students were influenced beyond the academics of the classes. They had each a different story but as I gather the words together each was influenced in a positive manner and each has used what they learned as the go about their journeys in life. I happened to find a site discussing a book based on the idea of why I teach. Each section of the book draws from teachers around the country and their feelings towards teaching. I Like this concept of a life-toucher.

 

“As a teacher, I want children to leave school with a social conscience, an appreciation for diversity and life, a thirst for learning, and an understanding of how knowledge can allow them to achieve their dreams. I also want them to leave the classroom with good memories because, since teachers are life-touchers, we want to be a part of children’s childhood memories. Other teachers might not admit this, but I will: Even if I might never get to hear it from their lips, I want my former students to recall their time in my class. I want them to remember something worthwhile, great or small that happened there. I hope that my students will remember my class not because it was perfect, but because of its unique flaws. Hopefully, they also will remember that I was a teacher who truly cared and strived to teach them. This is my definition of a life-toucher.” Kerri Warfield, Visual Arts teacher, Westfield, MA

 

As an active teacher I hope in my own way I am influencing kids positively so they can better manage the journey ahead. Perhaps my own rationale that it is equally about that life journey as well as academics learned along the way is in contrast to the current teach to the test idea that is driving education now. Sadly, it is a long time later that the daily life touches as Kerri Warfield states are seen. It might be ten years after you have a student and you see on Facebook a father holding a little boy and discussing how much something meant to him back in high school. That something just happened to be a small gesture you made giving a book or a word of advice in time of need. So many directions to go today and as I wind down, as always please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste my dear friends.

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

Is there a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

Bird Droppings July 21, 2020
Is there a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow?

 

In the course of a few days several storms passed through quickly each a very definitive front literally flying by and all ending with rainbows, or so I have been told. On one occasion a twin rainbow. On the other hand, my sunrises have been off this summer, in part due to clouds and an inability to scramble out and get photos. Sunrises and sunsets are simple things just numerous clouds blocking the sun and offering just an orange or pink band briefly as the sun enters our reality. So, a few brief moments and just enough to illicit a smile. A brief few moments double checking the rainbow end for that pot of gold it doesn’t hurt to hope.

 

This has been a different sort of summer for me. Pat and I got in about ten days of serious vacation along the South Carolina Coast. Last year I came home and doing some yard work damaged my Achilles tendon. So, I am still recovering getting strength back, but every day is better. I Live in the water in warm weather and the pool has been a great help. I do not recommend damaging Achilles tendons as a fun thing to do. But still all in all it has been a good couple weeks. Yesterday my wife reminded me about a spur of the moment road trip where we ended up in Nantahochee-Rabun gap. We stopped at Billingsly’s nursery which is a favorite stop. Sitting in the valley or gap the mountains are on both sides. It was a beautiful day and great time. I have not made it up to my favorite spot this summer due to the virus and I miss it.

 

“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Abraham Lincoln

 

Perhaps in the scheme of things there are people who are inherently grouchy and or by Lincoln’s view they simply want to be grouchy. Sitting here pondering this morning I can recall bumping into many people like this. They are inherently grouchy. Perhaps we should label these folks and simply walk away. As I look deeper into the simple words above, we all can be happier as I think about Lincoln’s thought it is just wanting to be that way.

 

“Whatever happiness is in the world has arisen from a wish for the welfare of others; whatever misery there is has arisen from indulging selfishness.” Buddhist Proverb

 

I had not thought of happiness previously as simply as this idea. Happiness is oriented around others and therefore unhappiness more self-oriented. Lately a series of commercials the focus of the ad is cows in various situations of being happy, as the ads portray; happy cows make California cheese or some such thing. One commercial is a cow escapes from Wisconsin and the other cows are watching and one asks the other how long she has been gone and it has been several days and the cow is only a few feet past the fence. Maybe happy cows can’t make limburger cheese?

 

“True happiness arises, in the first place, from the enjoyment of one’s self, and in the next, from the friendship and conversation of a few select companions.” Joseph Addison

 

“Happiness is a sort of action.” Aristotle

 

Happiness seems to be different for different people for some it is in doing for others, for others it is friendship. As I read this morning I agree with Aristotle it is a word of action.

 

“The really happy man never laughs — seldom — though he may smile. He does not need to laugh, for laughter, like weeping is a relief of mental tension — and the happy are not over strung.” Prof. F. A. P. Aveling

 

“Happiness is a conscious choice, not an automatic response.” Mildred Barthal

 

As I think of students and occasionally there are some who shift from happy to sad I try and make a point of asking them if everything is ok. I can think of one student I don’t even know her name who always looks unhappy, never a smile and often alone and perhaps it is in the aloneness is the unhappiness. When I am out in large shopping venues which I try and avoid, a mall or such many times I will simply observe people while my wife does whatever women do at malls. That really isn’t a sexist statement but I still am trying to figure out what malls are for other than observation projects for doctoral dissertations. I know there are various stores with goods and literally run the gambit of humankind, perhaps it is a social gathering place to meet other people.

 

“When one is happy there is no time to be fatigued; being happy engrosses the whole attention.” Edward Frederic Benson

 

“The world’s literature and folklore are full of stories that point out how futile it can be to seek happiness. Rather, happiness is a blessing that comes to you as you go along; a treasure that you incidentally find.” Louis Binstock

 

It is difficult to explain a way of seeking happiness. Perhaps we cannot truly seek happiness. I recall several months back even in today’s modern age a rainbow was blazing in the sky and people were parked as close to the end as possible looking for the end and who knows a pot of gold. Thinking about happiness I ponder what makes me happy. It could be as simple as laughing in the hallway with students, and fellow teachers. Back in the day my Para pro and I would stand at my door deliberately talking to students. Often students who are quiet and many times alone we would try and single out. One day we might ask if they were lost or looking for a room. We are not good ones for directions we have been known to give wrong directions around school, but we try and laugh with students. We would try and make passing by our door more than just like everyone else’s. We ask about their weekend or who won last night’s softball game or basketball game. We are actively involved and you know what unintentionally we come back in after the bell and we are happy usually laughing pretty good at least smiling ourselves.

 

“It is the paradox of life that the way to miss pleasure is to seek it first. The very first condition of lasting happiness is that a life should be full of purpose, aiming at something outside self.” Hugo Black

 

“The truth is that all of us attain the greatest success and happiness possible in this life whenever we use our native capacities to their greatest extent.” Smiley Blanton

 

“They say a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world. It is having; someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for.” Allan K. Chalmers

 

If only all were so simply and yet maybe life is this simply and as we move through what we do and what we hope for and just seem to grow proportionately. Our needs and wants tend to fluctuate around being wanted and our understanding of that. What would it take for me to be happy and content today may be different than forty years ago and forty years from now more different again if I am still around.

 

“Happiness comes more from loving than being loved; and often when our affection seems wounded it is only our vanity bleeding. To love, and to be hurt often, and to love again — this is the brave and happy life.” J. E. Buckrose

 

“When you have once seen the glow of happiness on the face of a beloved person, you know that a man can have no vocation but to awaken that light on the faces surrounding him; and you are torn by the thought of the unhappiness and night you cast, by the mere fact of living, in the hearts you encounter.” Albert Camus

 

I remember years ago watching the infectious smiles and happiness in a small church in Macon Georgia, The Church of The exceptional. The church founded in 1971 the idea was a place where mentally and physically impaired children and adults could worship together. Many times parents would leave children home and or not go to church. I recall one fellow Mike Porch who would greet everyone as they came in the door. He had a smile ear to ear and would shake your hand like there was no tomorrow and welcome you to his church. Mike had never been to public school, he had Downs Syndrome which in 1971 meant you would never do well in school. He was at that time a student and employee of The Macon Association for Retarded Citizens workshop.

Mike has passed away since that day, but that smile and joy were infectious and many the people were cheered up by Mike as he greeted people joining him for church services.

“Did you ever see an unhappy horse? Did you ever see bird that had the blues? One reason why birds and horses are not unhappy is because they are not trying to impress other birds and horses.” Dale Carnegie

 

“A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.” Hugh Downs

 

I was thinking that I was a creature of routine, after a long weekend it is hard to get sorted out and back on track. I am still getting sorted out from a being off from school a few weeks ago. What is funny our dog is out of sync too. After having my son move home sleeping on his bed and me sleeping late she is a bit mixed up. Mine however is not as much routine as missing contact with students and with people. Interacting is where ideas and thinking permeate. When someone thinks different pulling away is not the answer it is immersing in and offering the differences. Who knows what doors may open or windows close?

 

“There are two ways of being happy: We must either diminish our wants or augment our means — either may do — the result is the same and it is for each man to decide for himself and to do that which happens to be easier.” Benjamin Franklin

 

As I close for the day leave it to Ben Franklin to have the solution but for today 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

Pondering and thinking wiping away a tear or two

Bird Droppings July 21, 2020

Pondering and thinking wiping away a tear or two

 

I was up incredibly early today wishing I could have been doing my laps in the pool, as a great horned owl was calling in the woods. It seems it was more than one as around me several were calling back and forth in an eerie chorus. The hooting perhaps it was just the echoing of the owls through the trees which altered direction and location and crickets and tree frogs added in made quite a combination. I often joke about my monastic ways. It seems I am alone more than in a group and enjoy that. Perhaps trying to mingle is not in my nature yet I do enjoy joking around and even at times trying to be the focus or center of attention. Perhaps we all do seek attention each in our own way. A few days back I had a call from an old high school buddy I co-taught with for six years. What started to be a couple minutes on the phone ended up over an hour.

 

“Time is a jet plane, it moves too fast. Oh, but what a shame if all we’ve shared can’t last.  I can change, I swear, oh, oh, see what you can do.  I can make it through, you can make it too.” Bob Dylan, Blood on the Tracks

 

Every day when I go by the including Saturdays and many Sundays I religiously check my emails and as I sat down today reading emails a note I had received in Xanga (is that even a word anymore) a good while back came to mind. My son had posted a note in which he related that he read the lyrics to a song by Joni Mitchell. Many youngsters will not even know the name Joni Mitchell, one of the great folk singers of the antiwar movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s back in my day, the Viet Nam era. Literally daily I receive emails from friends or readers of my blog and I am end up getting to the word synchronicity and how words may be for this person or that and they may be just what was needed for this person now. It has been a few days since I wrote about morality and an email came back about a ninth grade class where the discussion went into the morality of gene therapy and the students were unsure of the concept of morality. They had to discuss morality first.

 

I am sitting in Georgia writing to friends around the country and a few overseas thinking about all that happened yesterday pondering on what will happen today and thinking about why my son was drawn to this song so many years ago. I use words from songs quite often in correspondence and in counseling and working with teenagers. Words can be so powerful and so moving and conversely words can destroy and conquer. I share these words today a simple plea from a folk singer with a quiet powerful voice, Joni Mitchell.

 

The fiddle and the Drum

By Joni Mitchell

 

And so once again

My dear Johnny my dear friend

And so once again you are fightin’ us all

And when I ask you why

You raise your sticks and cry, and I fall

Oh, my friend

How did you come?

To trade the fiddle for the drum

You say I have turned

Like the enemies you’ve earned

But I can remember

All the good things you are

And so I ask you please

Can I help you find the peace and the star?

Oh, my friend

What time is this?

To trade the handshake for the fist

And so once again

Oh, America my friend

And so once again

You are fighting us all

And when we ask you why

You raise your sticks and cry and we fall

Oh, my friend

How did you come?

To trade the fiddle for the drum

You say we have turned

Like the enemies you’ve earned

But we can remember

All the good things you are

And so we ask you please

Can we help you find the peace and the star?

Oh my friend

We have all come

To fear the beating of your drum

© 1969 Siquomb Publishing Corp. (BMI)

 

As I listened to the words I was reminded of a dear friend in Pennsylvania that I have known for many years and with whom I correspond regularly through email, the words reminded of his writings.  He had been researching a drummer boy from West Chester Pa.  He was the youngest person killed in the Union forces during the Civil War. My friend in his own way was obsessed with the story and actually is writing a book about his findings. After many years of searching he found the grave of the drummer boy. He had been to that spot numerous times as the drummer boy’s parents were buried there. A poplar tree marked the grave between the parents. A tree planted as a living memorial to their son who died in war.

 

I thought back to a day one of my students came by upset her brother had just joined the Marines. She comes from an extended family eleven kids in several marriages and step dads and moms. It is great at Christmas time and bad at times like this. How do you explain to a teenager war? The little drummer boy in Pa. was twelve when he died in battle. Years back I ran into a former teacher who had joined the National Guard he was rejected after going through training and suffering a stress fracture. When it came up he had been treated for depression he was upset he could not go and fight. Sadly this story went on and ended harshly several years later. He was arrested for his sexual contact with some of his students.

 

I recall a good friend in high school we would play ice hockey at GO Carlson’s pond in the winter pick-up games and he and I would talk often as we waited for others to show up. He did not even live in our neighborhood but would come to play. He played the bassoon in the High School band and was on the soccer team. He and I both flunked out of the same college our freshmen and were drafted within days of each other. I am epileptic and though I have not had a seizure since childhood I received a 4Y permanent deferment. He went to Viet Nam. Many years later thinking I would see him at a reunion as I drove to my tenth reunion and I found out he had been killed in Viet Nam.

 

It took several moments to sink in and immediately I thought this wasn’t possible and I sat back and wondered while more names were read. Each moment as I sat another name was mentioned another life had passed away in a war soon to be not a war soon to be merely history. Only a few years ago I went with my son to Washington DC riding the bus along the way we are told how to find names of relatives and friends in the index books located at the ends of the Viet Nam memorial. I walked down the walkway reluctantly at best to find a name then two and three and four and I can no longer look up names as I write where on the wall they are located on my hand in black ink. A recent email from a friend who lost her husband he had come back from Viet Nam and so many thoughts. I walked down the line found the spot and the name emotions tears welled up I walked hurriedly away as far as I could get and sat on a bench looking down across the wall. A squirrel wandered through my field of vision. It was an hour or so and my son found me “dad the bus is leaving we need to go”. I do not remember thinking just staring at that wall and that squirrel that wandered back and forth interrupting my thoughts.  There have been few moments in my life where I have been unable to control my emotions and sitting here thinking back tears wander across my cheek again perhaps for another reason time will tell.

 

So many thoughts as I think back as we continue to fight another war and another war I in all the talk of freedom and patriotism and macho soldier talk I still have a difficult time with the concept of war. Joni Mitchell states so eloquently, “But we can remember all the good things you are and so we ask you please can we help you find the peace and the star oh my friend we have all come to fear the beating of your drum.”  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

 

 

It takes more than one strand to make a rope, in life and in education.

Bird Droppings July 20, 2020
It takes more than one strand to make a rope,

in life and in education.

 

“You cannot contribute anything to the ideal condition of mind and heart known as Brotherhood, however much you preach, posture, or agree, unless you live it.” Faith Baldwin

 

Each day as I talk to friends, relatives and or my former students I try and set an example and not every day am I successful. Over the past few days I have ruptured my Achilles tendon had surgery and learning to live one legged in a soft cast for a week. So, I am sitting here trying to decide if I should work in the yard which is an easy no and or be lazy and take a few moments to write. Today writing wins out. Since I have been lazy about writing for a day or so writing wins out.

 

Many of the folks I talk to everyday stand alone, often due to their own choosing.

 

“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent.” John Donne

 

It has been several years since I did an experiment with a group of young people using sewing thread. I had a thread for each person and then I asked each of them to break the thread which of course was simple and easily done.

 

“The moment we break faith with one another, the sea engulfs us and the light goes out.” James Baldwin

 

After breaking the threads I gave each of them another piece of thread and one by one we joined the threads together. In the end we had a thirty strand piece of string/rope and we twisted it slightly to keep threads together. Surprisingly they were expecting the new multi-strand to break and it did not. A powerful point for some kids. Watching and listening to the political rhetoric of the past week, made me think of this story.

 

“In union there is strength.” Aesop

 

“Remember upon the conduct of each depends the fate of all.” Alexander the Great

Amazingly enough no one could break the new combined rope even when several folks pulled on each end it would not break.

 

“So powerful is the light of unity that it can illuminate the whole earth.” Bahá’u’lláh

I still carry that piece of string/rope in my wallet. It surely does make a great example when talking to students.

 

“I look to a time when brotherhood needs no publicity; to a time when a brotherhood award would be as ridiculous as an award for getting up each morning.” Daniel D. Michiel

 

It has been a few years back that I attended a demonstration up in Mountain City Georgia. The lecturer at the Foxfire Museum was using a couple of folks in the group and had them twisting and turning six strands of twine into a rope. Granted it is quite a bit of work to make a rope but so much stronger in the end.

 

“Unity to be real must stand the severest strain without breaking.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

Real unity, that is the question, and in today’s politically charged atmosphere unity is not to be found. I had shown my students so many years ago that even though having multiply strands of thread all together in a bundle was significantly stronger each time you cut a piece it weakened Exponentially .

 

“In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual progress.” Booker T. Washington

 

“We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.” Martin Luther King, Jr., Strength to Love, 1963

 

Each day when I would sit outside my door at school I witness differences in attitude and differences in brotherhood. Many are similar and in a high school that old cliché of school spirit is generally a good indicator of a semblance of brotherhood, a joining force in a body of humanity. But still there are strands of thread dangling outside weakening the whole.

 

“Cooperation is the thorough conviction that nobody can get there unless everybody gets there.” Virginia Burden, The Process of Intuition

 

I will never say everyone has to be identical. I like Booker T. Washington’s statement of each of being a finger yet still being able to be a hand. I use to think it was cool when I would see a six fingered person and in my old stomping grounds of Lancaster and Chester counties often you would see an Amish fellow with an extra finger. There was a recent ad where everyone was upset with Joe who had extra fingers because he could type so much faster and then do so much more, the ad showed him typing away and multi-tasking with his extra fingers. But the ad was also about change and new equipment equalized the office space. So often we cannot accept the differences.

 

“I have often noticed that when chickens quit quarreling over their food they often find that there is enough for all of them. I wonder if it might not be the same with the human race.” Don Marquis

 

In life far too often we spend our time fretting over differences and not looking for similarities. How can we work as a group a team? I was watching college football Saturday for a few minutes along with a jubilant football throng at the Washington Oregon football game. In the end teamwork makes all the difference in a win or loss. The winner is not always the better team. Always better teamwork will win and it can be only a minute difference, a single strand could change a game and or a life.

 

“Sticks in a bundle are unbreakable.” Kenyan Proverb

 

Interesting while I was writing about unity and I still believe in individuality and it is a difficult task. I come back to Booker T. Washington’s quote; I can be a thumb and still work as a hand when needed. It is in believing and in trusting we gain that unity and that brotherhood. Watching the rally yesterday one thing kept coming up why all the negative why not work together the problems are here and solutions can be had if there were teamwork. 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 do we know we are grown up?

Bird Droppings July 19, 2020
How do we know we are grown up?

 

“The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them; he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself; he becomes wise.” Alden Nowlan

 

Earlier this week a former student posted on my Facebook wall a simple line, “If you haven’t grown up by fifty you don’t have to.” As I read this quote from Nowlan and thinking in terms of wisdom not being confined to the age but to affect or to understand of one’s self I do after spending several days with my grandchildren and family I think we cycle wisdom. I do believe children are born wise and become through societal pressures unwise.

Looking back at the quote I started with these are amazing words as I only recently became aware of this writer, poet and essayist from Canada. I wish I had written or said these words. Over the years, I have noticed that students walking about high school for the first few days and being at that adolescent age they begin to see the flaws and imperfection but their perception is to enhance their world and creates ripples. They see the flaws and are upset and  react  in a negative fashion. Adults then reciprocate with reactions and behaviors elicit consequences.

For some of that point of forgiveness comes soon and for others may take many years after leaving home, and college and marriage and their own children till forgiveness hits and adulthood true adulthood is realized. In some cases but for that rare few, wisdom can come earlier, and they truly are wise from an early age. I find trust too follows a similar road as we move through life we realize that we cannot trust everyone, we tend forgive and forget and then we realize we should trust everyone.

 

My dear friends as we embark on a new journey every day try and trust and forgive two good vocabulary words for the day and seek peace and balance in your life. As I do every day, please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Should we consider ignorance a part of the journey?

Bird Droppings July 18, 2020

Should we consider ignorance a part of the journey?

 

“If I want to justify my existence, and continue to be obsessed with the notion that I’ve got to do something for humanity — well, teaching ought to quell that obsession — and if I can ever get around to an intelligent view of matters, intelligent criticism of contemporary values ought to be useful to the world. This gets back again to ……The best way to help mankind is through the perfection of yourself.” Joseph Campbell

 

It has been so many years ago, at first, I thought my goal in life was to do something for mankind as in some great event or task. As I sit and wonder this morning I find in Campbell’s thought so often it is searching for and bettering ourselves that we truly help mankind. Earlier I wrote today to a friend about trying to understand and reduce ignorance. I seriously think it is funny how during political campaigns ignorance seems to be rampant.

 

“Unintelligent people always look for a scapegoat.” Ernest Bevin

 

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.” Derek Bok

 

Working with children it becomes interesting as each day you see bits and pieces of ignorance fall away only to be there again in the morning as parents and all those outside of school work on rebuilding during the night.

 

“Ignorance is never out of style. It was in fashion yesterday, it is the rage today and it will set the pace tomorrow.” Frank Dane

 

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer

 

I live in a place which borders constantly on ignorance and wants so terribly to cross over to the side of wisdom. It seems those in power always want to keep those ignorant folks in the dark hence for example the Dark Ages back in the day. During that period most could not even read or write and those that could were in power.

 

Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.” Benjamin Franklin

 

“Naiveté in grownups is often charming; but when coupled with vanity it is indistinguishable from stupidity.” Eric Hoffer

 

Looking at politics Hoffer may be very right. It does seem that in every election we watch politicians play with words against rhetoric that sounds good to that group that is being addressed. I recall when the legislation to prevent the sale of assault weapons was up for renewal and how ironic that in the midst of antiterrorism it would fall by the wayside.

 

“The opposite of love is not hate; the opposite of love is ignorance.” Brian Hwang

 

“When I was fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have him around. When I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years.” Mark Twain

 

In a search for knowledge and for understanding so many roads can be walked. We can search in books, in schools, in our families, and in life in general, but it must entail a search. For to assume you are there is to cease the journey and to cease is to assume you have reached the destination. We are born with a starting point, point A and when we die we have reached point B it is that which connects A and B that is crucial.

 

“Life is about the journey not the destination” Steven Tyler, Aerosmith

 

Funny thing a year ago I was sitting at the dining room table since stairs are a bit rough to climb in a cast. Funny how an injury impacts you even a year off. I was talking with my son recently and Aerosmith’s greatest hits was playing in the background, coincidence maybe who knows but the journey continues.

 

“Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human manifestation…” Joseph Campbell, Hero with a Thousand Faces

 

I listen to the words and read the gibberish of the politicians and wonder if a hundred years ago or so would these same men and women be pushing for an Indian Territory and reservations. Today instead it is illegal immigration and Gay marriage that strike nerves in so many people. I was reading a National Geographic account of the salvaging of a slave ship. In 1698 humans were bought and sold for trinkets. Eleven thirteen inch bars of iron would buy a black man and forty pounds of glass beads a black woman. On this particular ship the historians believe they were from the Ibo tribe in Western Africa. These people believed no one was greater than any other. It was their life philosophy that made them susceptible to being taken as slaves. This tribe was a peaceful people they were human beings bought and sold as things. Not until a war was fought were black men legally human beings in the United States and it was not until the trial twenty years later of Chief Standing Bear of the Ponca tribe that Indians received the legal term of human being. This was not all that long ago.

 

“Only to the white man was nature a wilderness and only to him was the land ‘infested’ with ‘wild’ animals and ‘savage’ people. To us it was tame, Earth was bountiful and we were surrounded with the blessings of the Great Mystery.” Luther Standing Bear

 

I have become spoiled sleeping late and forgetting to see the sunrise. This morning I went out and sat for thirty minutes in the stillness of morning. Mourning doves were cooing around me and various other birds just waking up. A woodpecker started on the old black walnut trunk nearby our house and I felt at ease. So many thoughts passed through my mind sitting listening in the barely lit morning. Soon I will be back in my normal rising early and writing reading getting back into the groove so to say. So it is evening now and I must end my day may peace be with you all my friends and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

I am sharing some good words from a friends Facebook page as I read how true this simple thought is.

 

Elder’s Meditation of the Day from July 24, 2017 “Life is like a path…and we all have to walk the path… As we walk…we’ll find experiences like little scraps of paper in front of us along the way. We must pick up those pieces of scrap paper and put them in our pocket… Then, one day, we will have enough scraps of papers to put together and see what they say… Read the information and take it to heart.” Uncle Frank Davis (quoting his mother), PAWNEE

 

 

How capable do we need to be? Inspired by a student.

Bird Droppings July 17, 2020

How capable do we need to be? Inspired by a student.

 

What a contrast to only a few days ago listening to the Atlantic Ocean, the moon is coming back smiling at me as I went out in the wee hours with a crystal-clear sky. There was a gentle wind blowing, wind chimes ringing peacefully and a beautiful moon gazing at me between the pines and oak trees. I had to stand in the early morning chill and just look at the stars and moon and listen to our chimes from the back yard for a moment as I got up this morning. Life is a wonderful thing and what we make of it is literally up to us. I do not think I will be getting sunrise photos hopefully the next few morning possible storms around. It is still a few weeks till day light savings kicks in.

 

I stopped at my favorite spot for getting sunrise photos about a week ago and it was gorgeous considering clouds I was a bit too early so I headed back to the house to take care of a few errands before grand kids arrived. As I was looking out of my rear view mirror the sunrise was exploding across the sky. I did a quick U-turn heading to my spot a gray sky again as clouds moved in. So I began to think and ponder from my wonderful start to that day. As I thought back to another day and missing a sunrise or just being in the wrong place at the wrong time had I not been in such a hurry I would have caught another beautiful sunrise. I addressed moments yesterday and here I am not listening to my own words as usual. I chose to go for the bigger picture and ignore the moment too many times.

 

As always random ideas get me pondering. I was inspired by a former student who had a situation occur with a close friend. Her friend was refused service due to a Hispanic ID from Costa Rico. She posted on Facebook “what do I do?” My first response was, go vote, then I went to Gandhi’s thoughts and the quote following.

 

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

So, when applying for a job, that could be any job, when does capability come into play? When discussing this I am assuming that capability is the ability to do that particular job. Several events have taken place over the past few days and one from several months back. It has been some time since I received a sheet of paper with six questions, a voluntary questionnaire on diversification. I answered honestly and do feel diversification does not get the best person for the job. Are we effectively teaching about cultures when we mandate diversification?

 

It is interesting in that my own lineage of Pennsylvania Dutch and welsh miners diversity has never come up. Nor has it with my paternal great, great grandmothers’ tribe the Leni Lenape, part of the Delaware Nation. Perhaps they are not significant enough although a very unique culture though they may be. So I am with mixed emotions on one hand listening to a student teacher who feels social studies is the place to combat racism in high school and then my own conviction that I still consider rednecks an ethnic group provides for great discussion . How do we challenge racism? My wife came home and said she had a patient who said she would only go to American, (meaning white) doctors. So this morning sitting thinking about school coming up I sat on my porch the breeze was cool blowing through the trees, I thought wondering what is it that drives us. I read a Facebook blog recently indicating racism is genetic. I would argue that point strongly, it is learned, period.

 

“One day our descendants will think it incredible that we paid so much attention to things like the amount of melanin in our skin or the shape of our eyes or our gender instead of the unique identities of each of us as complex human beings.” Franklin Thomas

 

“I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality…. I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.” Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

I answered my questionnaire and even wrote on the back until we begin hiring the best person, go to the best health care provider, and stop thinking, as this statement so clearly states stop looking, at the amount of melanin in our skin or not. Are we not all homo sapiens? We are not different species.

 

“The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it.” Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

 

“To live anywhere in the world today and be against equality because of race or color is like living in Alaska and being against snow.” William Faulkner, Essays, Speeches and Public Letters

 

Over the years I have read numerous books and articles on Native American culture and one in particular has hit deep, the book Neither wolf nor dog, by Kent Nerburn. Nerburn’s story is one of the words of an old Lakota Sioux who feels compelled to express the differences between the Native Americans and whites, hence the title neither wolf nor dog.

 

“Laundry is the only thing that should be separated by color.” Author Unknown

 

“Racial superiority is a mere pigment of the imagination.” Author Unknown

 

How do we entangled out realities to a point where we become so embroiled in differences and how is it we forget to treat each man as a brother. Where do we get this hatred? Many consider racism a learned behavior and to date I have not read anything in research that ascribe racism to a genetic code and or DNA. Therefore it is learned and if so can be unlearned and modified.

 

“I am working for the time when unqualified blacks, browns, and women join the unqualified men in running our government.” Cissy Farenthold

 

“Be nice to whites, they need you to rediscover their humanity.”  Desmond Tutu

 

Arch Bishop Tutu met with the Dalai Lama several years ago and that is something I really would have enjoyed to hear and see. These two great human beings at one place and one time speaking and discussing. I missed an opportunity to hear Desmond Tutu when he was in Atlanta as a quest lecturer at Emory University several years back. Having had ties business wise to South Africa for nearly forty years we often had inside information on the happenings there. I recall my father coming home and relating happenings at a check point between Zimbabwe and South Africa and how he was coached as to what to say when rebels stuck automatic weapons in the car windows. I recall reading an article recently about the rise of aids in South Africa and a comment my brother made after a recent trip. He said he was told that left as it currently is the aids epidemic will wipe out blacks in South Africa in ten years. Sort of makes you wonder about conspiracy theories however in the days since foundations from around the world have turned the tide on Aids and while still a serious threat slowly getting some control.

 

“Racism is man’s gravest threat to man – the maximum of hatred for a minimum of reason.” Abraham Joshua Heschel

 

In 1968 I was in Texas going to college and at that time in that place racial hatred was not against blacks but Native Americans. I saw it rampant as comments were made and people responded. It was a carryover from the old west and the Indian wars. Even as recently as 1992 when traveling in Oklahoma I witnessed firsthand the racism against those who were here first.

 

“Preconceived notions are the locks on the door to wisdom.”  Merry Browne – “The test of courage comes when we are in the minority.  The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.”  Ralph W. Sockman

 

Listening to comments from a student teacher recently about how we need to do this and that and show this and that and then thinking to my reading of this questionnaire on diversity. You learn racism if that is a given then you also learn tolerance. You also learn to accept others, I recall from years gone by a story of a man injured on his journey.

 

“A certain man went down from Lawrenceville to Atlanta, and fell among car jackers, which stripped him of his clothes, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain preacher that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Lawyer, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain man of another color, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, and went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on peroxide and gave him some drink, and set him in his own car, and brought him to an emergency room, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two hundred dollars, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said the teacher unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.” Borrowing from my seminary days a slight paraphrase, Frank Bird III Ed.S. D.D.

 

A bit of paraphrase a bit of whimsy but not really how many times have headlines shown people standing by as someone is mugged or even murdered. We are all neighbors, we are all brothers, we are all equal in this life and as the sign as you leave the Ocmulgee National Park in Macon Georgia states that, “we are all connected”. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Doing is the best teacher

Bird Droppings July 16, 2020
Doing is the best teacher

It has been an interesting week already. Monday, I did some running around, Tuesday I cut grass and cleaned the garage, Wednesday I went to several doctors literally all day, today I am working in the yard again. One year ago, roughly I decided to do a job on my own in the yard and ruptured my Achilles tendon. A year ago I was hobbling around in an inflatable cast and watched Hawaii Five O season nine. I also started playing my guitar again. Tomorrow is work on paper day and I hope to do corrections and edits to my pre-prospectus and officially complete my outline and start chapter two.

On a different thought it has been intriguing to me how so many people view education as failing. I wonder as I sit here this morning how many saying such things anyone could pass a high school biology class of today. I was joking yesterday with my oldest son a science teacher in high school, how my 1968 college biology was nothing compared to the most current text in high school. I sarcastically mentioned something about how cells were not discovered yet in 1968 alluding to my age.

But it is folks my age who are complaining and it is not education that is to blame. We live in a culture of and society of having it now. There is little dreaming ahead thinking of the future we are so energized to have stuff now and if you cannot Google it doesn’t exist. I am bad about collecting books and the fifty or so boxes that I put in storage from my previous class room will attest to that. In my collection is a 1931 copy of William Tompkins Universal sign language which was my fathers. It is fragile and I keep it at the house. I have thought it would make an interesting lead into a literature class and I found a copy of the book in a Barnes and Noble and honestly, I have never seen this book previously.

Even as we address the concept of the Covid 19 virus this immediately keeps popping up. I want test results now today. I do not believe any of it. Do you know anyone who has the virus? How do you convince someone to wear a seat belt? I recall my father back in the day having seat belts installed before they came in cars. I had to learn to drive in an old Plymouth Valiant with installed seat belts. I stay current on my vaccinations and plan on when this one is proven. I wear a mask in public nearly all the time. I try too. I will not criticize others for wanting their freedom. I recall the days before seat belt laws and seeing folks going through the wind shield in car accidents. They believed in freedom too.

It has been a few years since my son and I went to a reptile show here locally and always there are some strange characters about. I had the opportunity to listen to world renowned reptile and wildlife photographer, Bill Love talk about taking pictures of reptiles. Interestingly enough his comment that stuck was “doing is the best teacher”.

“You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for our own improvement and, at the same time, share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.” Madame Marie Curie

Somewhere along the line the concept of “do a good deed daily” came along and it always amazes me where and why I choose a particular direction to go in my daily writings. It could be a comment in an email about only living a good life, or a comment from a snake photographer both of which kind of sort of gave me a focus today.

“Keep doing good deeds long enough and you’ll probably turn out a good man in spite of yourself.” Louis Auchincloss

As I read this morning and look through ideas a simple matter comes to mind and that is that our living as an example, it is a model to go by for others. We are all predominately visual learners and seeing is believing has been said many times over.

“One’s life has value so long as one attributes value to the life of others, by means of love, friendship, indignation and compassion.” Simon De Beauvoir

History is often the teacher and we can see how and why a particular person developed and in what ways that individual life has affected humanity. For example was there substance to their existence or did they merely take up space occupy air and land.

“The high destiny of the individual is to serve rather than to rule…” Albert Einstein

When you look back and realize historically what piece of history this great mind came from and in his development where his philosophy of life evolved it is most interesting. Einstein came from a Jewish background; he grew up in a part of the world where his people were being eliminated from humanity by a single person’s ideology. He came from a country where warfare and weaponry abounded and as he grew older he even asked forgiveness for the small piece he helped to create ushering in the atomic age. He became one of the world’s leading anti-war figures and pacifists and more concerned about service than ruling.

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Mahatma Gandhi

Looking again at history Mother Theresa, a tiny waif of a woman lost herself in service to the poor of Calcutta India yet as I write is being recommended for Sainthood in the Catholic Church. Gandhi could have been a wealthy man yet choose otherwise and served his people of India. St. Francis of Assisi was born into a wealthy merchant family and left it to serve others. As I look at these people finding themselves is that what they were doing or is it just that service to them was the right thing to do. Far too often we consider success to be accumulation of wealth.

“The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” Nelson Henderson

I have several friends who farm trees and planning is so often many years away even with nursery stock. Some rock and roll fans may know the name of a leading keyboardist Chuck Levall. He has played with many bands Eric Clapton, Rolling Stones and James Taylor to name a few but I first saw his name years ago as the keyboard player for The Allman Brothers Band in Macon Georgia, nearly 35 years ago. Chuck Levall grows trees in Middle Georgia in his spare time. While I have taken a literal twist with a symbolic quote there is a point when you plant a seed for a tree you plant it knowing the potential and know chances are you will never benefit from that potential, it is an act of service to others.

“The difference between a helping hand and an outstretched palm is a twist of the wrist.” Laurence Leamer

Sometimes there is a fine line between symbiotic and parasitic a twist of the wrist but who is to say who doesn’t receive help. Several years ago when I was daily involved in feeding families it was much easier to make a mistake and feed a family who may have food than to turn anyone away.

“Give what you have to somebody; it may be better than you think.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

I received an email from a good friend yesterday that is so often how we respond in life the fact it is a church is important to the story but it could be a school, a classroom, or an PTSO meeting many will say it is just human nature.

“One day, a man went to visit a church. He got there early, parked his car, and got out. Another car pulled up near and the driver got out and said, “I always park there! You took my place!” The visitor went inside for Sunday school, found an empty seat and sat down. A young lady from the church approached him and stated that’s my seat! You took my place!” The visitor was somewhat distressed by this rude welcome, but said nothing. After Sunday school, the visitor went into the sanctuary and sat down. Another member walked up to him and said that’s where I always sit! You took my place!” An email from a friend but many authors have used this or similar as original

Over the years I have seen many an article of a pastor or civic leader who dresses in rags to see how people think and react. Even local radio hosts, the regular guys, have sent Southside Steve one of their regulars out to get responses and you know what we always do so well. Seldom are the stories of a person offering to help park the car or offering a seat or offering a slice of bread, sadly ever so seldom.

“If you want to lift yourself up, lift up someone else.” Booker T. Washington

“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.” Albert Schweitzer

So often I find a quote or thought from this man who found his place in the darkest portion of Africa in the 1930’s to be a physician giving up a lucrative career in Europe as a musician and or doctor. As I end today so many of the people gave up all and that is not the issue it is simply the giving aspect because it is the example we set that is seen not what we say not what we bear witness to but what we as a person do each day. It is about each moment to set an example and in that way people will learn. 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