Bird Droppings February 8, 2022
A series of paradoxes and bewilderment
I received the following in an email several years ago. A friend of mine sent it out, and as I read it the first time, it was humorous. However, as I pondered then as a teacher, I read deeper into what was being said. I listened by coincidence to a few words from a former Georgia Congressman and Speaker of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC. I recalled about fourteen years ago, early in the morning, as I hit the AM button in my car by chance. It was a very conservative talk show and on the extreme conservative side. But the comment was, “If a Democratic Congress gets in, they will spend the first two years investigating the last two years of the current administration and then raise taxes and…”, and he went on. It interested me that he is saying something has been done wrong that needs investigating, and now we are living this story again. Daily news stories imply that, or are they just trying to stir conservatives to get out and protect their money. Anyhow my email forward from a friend:
“Why do I tell you this? Because of the evolution in teaching math since the 1950s: Teaching Math in 1950’s – a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit? In teaching Math in the 1960s, a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit? In teaching Math in the 1970s, a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit? In teaching Math in the 1980s, a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80, and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20. Teaching Math In the 1990s, a logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? After answering the question, the topic for class participation: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers.) Teaching Math in 2005-6 un hachero vende una carretada de madera para $100. El costo de la producción es $80”
As I read this, I wondered if this is really what the general public thinks. I realize in many ways; people believe this. There are numerous books out on the dummying down of American education. No one ever mentions we are one of the few countries with free public education for all children regardless of race, sex, disability, and income. In turn, the only one trying to hold accountable educational systems for getting everyone to the same level. I was talking yesterday about NCLB and a mandate that all children would be on grade level in reading and math by 2014. There was a two percent group considered to be mentally impaired that would not attain grade level, but all other children would.
Each of the educational eras has had issues in its systems. However, let me add I took a general biology course in my second year of college, and the current general biology text for ninth graders at our high school is significantly more in-depth and has numerous subjects and information not even conceived of in 1968. So, I look at the above email and see 1950; all was well, 1960 we were concerned about fractions, 1970 we were worried about semantics, 1980 we are now concerned about correct underlining too much Christmas treeing of answers on standardized tests and in the 1990’s we are concerned about the environment and each other and asking why and how come questioning and wanting to perceive how this as wrong. I was amused at math in the 2000s and how it was a touchy-feely sort of kind of thing. They left out the math in 2010, where a forester pays poachers in the rain forest of South America to strip a piece of land unregulated by any laws and sell it to him at a dirt-cheap price and then wander off, so literally, we have a near 100% profit.
In 1919 John Dewey used reflection as a teaching tool very successfully; he was considerably ahead of his time. Sadly, reflection and discussion take time away from memorizing. With teaching to the test as we are now, kids have to memorize volumes of material in every subject, and many teachers do not have the time, or they at least think they do not. Then looking back at 2005-2006 math comments and inferences to diversification, it was not too many years ago that women could not go to school and or hold positions in many companies. Even today, women are stereotyped in certain situations.
A good friend is writing a doctoral thesis on gender biases in administration in public schools; with all the general hoopla about immigration, I still recall a parent conference five years ago when a good old boy wearing scruffy shorts, no socks, boots untied, and dirty white T-Shirt explain it so eloquently to me. It seems he was out of work as he was a construction worker and essentially a gofer. He would be the one toting boards and bricks, whatever. I was filling in forms since he did not read or write and his son was about to end up in the alternative school. I asked what he did for a living, and he informed me he couldn’t get work. I was aware of the construction situation in our area of few houses being built. However, his answer took me by surprise. He commented with a few expletives, “The @#$% Mexicans work too #$@% hard.” For him, it could have been Afro-Americans, Native Americans, Eastern Europeans, and or Hispanics; it was anyone willing to work and not like him. Did I mention he did not smell terrific, sort of like a few old beers and cigarette stale smoke, a paradox of sorts?
And so why am I bewildered? We often complain and whine and criticize and often only because we do not understand or lack information. Put it is ignorance among the so many wonderful reasons. Parents expect wonders from teachers, and we often do deliver, but I wrote about the sixteen-hour syndrome years ago. Teachers have kids for eight hours and are expected to work miracles only to go home to parents, TV, video, friends, drugs, and many other misc and other distractions, and they have sixteen hours to undo all they learned in those eight. It is a losing battle in many situations.
“Grown men can learn from very little children, for the hearts of the little children are pure. Therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss.” Black Elk
As I read this thought from Black Elk, a Lakota Sioux holy man, some years ago, I was intrigued by how we adults take these innocents and make them adults, losing all of their innocence. I used to watch the four-year old’s around school from our demo school. They are inquisitive and wondering, yet in a few years; they will be blank-eyed and listless, stripped of all of their joy and purity by our cultural efforts to make automatons and provide vehicles for the productivity of our manufacturing and corporate greed. That could be why I am bewildered that we have come to this in a free society and, in reality, are more imprisoned than many so-called third-world countries. Imprisoned by our self-serving and self-centeredness and greed and watching calmly as monopolies are forming again, the big three oil companies are the only oil companies, and ma bell is soon to be in charge again. I am paraphrasing and borrowing from an old folk song, where have all the steel mills gone, or have all the textile jobs gone? Simple, they have gone to countries everywhere. Then the chorus, oh when will we ever learn, oh when will we learn.
Paradoxes and complexities, bewilderment and wonderment, I look at Black Elks’s words and wonder why we can not learn from children and maybe get back some of our lost innocence. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your heart’s namaste.
My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,
(We are all related)