About birddroppings

I am a College instructor part time, formerly retired Special Education high school teacher in Georgia now back in class room. I have been teaching most recently for twenty years. I have an extensive graphic arts background and industrial management training experience. My education includes undergraduate work in psychology, graduate degrees in behavior disorders, curriculum, education and theology.

An epiphany of sorts on a chilly October morning 

Bird Droppings October 6, 2021
An epiphany of sorts on a chilly October morning 

I spent the better part of yesterday avoiding any sort of direction so intent on the moment I was missing cues to the past and future. It was two years ago that our neighborhood changed. On top of everything I was worn out from the weekend, so I was set back emotionally, physically, and spiritually. We went from being in the country to a subdivision in less than six months, I ruptured my Achilles tendon, my 71st birthday came and went, our grandkids moved further away, and my own educational crisis hit me and I had a pacemaker put in. As an empathetic human being I get caught up at times in the emotions and feedback of the present. When I allow my wisdom to kick in and help determine pointing the way so to say I can be a formidable teacher and advocate.

John Dewey writes about experiences past, present and future and how they are interrelated and interchanged often. I am working on a notion of curriculum that is continuous not finite as most teachers try and do in practice. William Pinar discusses curriculum as running the course that it is ongoing it intersects each aspect of life and time. So, as I sit here today pondering my previous day, present moment and future I see the interplay that so easily can be hidden in focusing solely on the moment. So, a swig from my meditative mug of strong chai tea and into today’s thoughts.

“I do not write from mythology when I reflect upon Native American spirituality in this book. In my own opinion, mythology leads to superstition; and superstition has proved fatally destruction to many millions down through time. It is ironic, then that Dominant Society accuses Native practices of being based on myth.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

My wanderings in general are the expanse of my almost seventy-one years of life experiences over several days of traveling, thinking and observing mankind. Just a few nights ago my son and I walked out to a choir of coyotes just a few yards away deep in the pines. It was literally an opera of coyotes howls and yells. While only a few minutes the sounds were an eerie reminder that even in a civilized world nature was only a few feet away in its wildest. I was walking this past Sunday morning just in my back yard. I have been away from my former quiet spot due to the development near my home in Between Georgia. Around me birds would occasionally fly into and out of the trees but most of the time without a sound. I was essentially alone sitting listening while everyone else was inside. Only a few hours earlier I had a wonderful experience watching nearby my house as the sun came up and starting this particular book Nature’s Way.

Ed McGaa is a Lakota Sioux and an attorney by education. He chooses his words wisely and does not simple offer a book to fill a spot on a shelf. He points to observations as a basis for our spiritual views rather than heresy or simply taking the word of another. It has been a few weeks since we drove home from a quick trip to see my son and his wife and our grandbabies we noticed nearly fifty hawks sitting on the wires watching as we drove by. If you have ever seen a hawk hunting observation is a key. Every detail is seen as they look for a food item crawling or scurrying along the ground.

Clearly we are meant to think, analyze, and deliberate. And yet humans seem to have some sort of fear (or is it plain ignorance?) of exercising the simple freedom to think. Why are we so prone to let others do our thinking for us – to lead astray and control us?” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

Watching TV today we are going through one of the most biased and perhaps most sheep lead to slaughter political periods I have ever experienced in my life. The negative ads are the vast majority of all from either side. Here in Atlanta several of the mega churches are going through serious upheavals with pastors who after years of preaching and blasting various human characteristics and or issues are coming out themselves and in turn being who they preached against for twenty years and built empires against. One of the themes I have seen in politics and religion so blatant in the past year is the “letting of others do our thinking for us”. I received a copy of a book in the mail from a friend in New York after he published. I had known the title for months prior but seeing it and beginning my initial reading the title hit me. “Hustlers and the idiot swarm”, how appropriate is that to our society today. Opening up Reverend Manny’s book and turning to the very first page there is a quote and thought that permeates our society if even unknowingly.

“For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert  liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.” Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. I, Ch. X

It was within a day or two of first setting foot in Washington that a newly elected Congressman who ran on a ticket of repealing the newly legislated Health Care bill was upset that his government health care insurance did not start immediately and he had to wait twenty-eight days and made a scene in his first official meeting. During the course of the past year lies about the health care bill made headlines more so than points that were significantly important to many families. I grew up in a family with a severely disabled brother who would never have been insurable under most standard insurance due to preexisting conditions. Even more significant is my son still in nursing school who is over twenty-five but is covered with new health care law. If not for that not sure where we would be after his accident in May of this year with over three hundred fifty thousand in medical bills that were covered.

I really did not want to get into the idea of politics since reality is not an issue there sadly. I started my thoughts the past few days thinking about how we find our own center and understanding of the world around us.

“The Sioux believe that lies, deceit, greed, and harm to innocent others will never be erased, and neither will good deeds of generosity and caring. Dominant society on the other hand, leans towards “forgiveness” theory which claims that bad deeds can be purged.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man, Nature’s Way

As I started getting into this idea of each of us formulating and ratifying our own understandings of all that is about us it became clear this will be more than a quick note. I walked out of the house earlier and had on R. Carlos Nakai on my ear phones and rather loud. The CD is one of Nakai who is a seven-note cedar flute master playing with a symphony his various melodies and it was almost haunting as the visage of a clear sky and quiet surrounding the trees. I had to stop listen to the music and see this quiet still image before me. The two interplayed as I got ready to leave the house. As I turned from observing I noticed a flat tire on my son’s truck which brought me back to reality and the moment.

To close this quick dropping and getting on with the day I remind everyone to please keep all in harm’s way on their minds and in their hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is

Bird Droppings October 5, 2021

Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is

I got a text from my middle son about a year ago that a package was coming from my granddaughter and was very fragile. My box came, I thought I should open while videotaping. I carefully opened as per instructions from my granddaughter. I pulled out the stuffing and padding and found a hand made piece of pottery. It was an ugly face jug. My son told my granddaughter I used to collect them, and she made me one. On the back side was the crucial piece. She made some red flowers.  I received a text explaining the flowers and a tape of Harry Chapin singing “Flowers are Red”. I highly recommend teachers and parents; listen to this song. A little boy goes to school and colors and the teacher corrects him.

“And she said…Flowers are red young man and Green leaves are green There’s no need to see flowers any other way Than the way they always have been seen But the little boy said…There are so many colors in the rainbow So many colors in the morning sun So many colors in a flower and I see everyone.” Harry Chapin

It seems lately the pressure of old age has been weighing on my mind. Today is the first day in out of the past several I felt rather good could be my ugly face jug I received from my granddaughter sitting beside my computer helped. It was last year on a spur of the moment while grocery shopping, I bought two pumpkins for my grandkids to paint. That turned out to be a great success along with an herbed pork loin I recall cooking that evening. With the chills setting in my days of getting flower pictures and spiders are numbered. I hopefully will be gathering in my plants that do not enjoy the cold this weekend I hope to make the mountaineering festival in North Georgia coming up I missed last year due to both my wife and I being incapacitated.

I am a member of the National Association of Educators and receive their weekly publication. An article caught my attention in a past issue. In Georgia we had Standards that drive the curriculum throughout the state in line with federal and state mandates. Essentially the article was about teaching to the test.

“Preferring concrete guidance, teachers make what is tested their de facto focus. The unfortunate result is that tests become the curriculum. And because tests are filled with multiply choice items that do not adequately reflect important higher levels of cognitive demand, instruction becomes less rich that it should be.” Susan H. Fuhrman, Lauren Resnick, and Lorrie Shepard, Standards are not enough.

As I thought I recalled a quote I have used many times before and how it applies to education.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Wayne Gretzky

It was last night as I was working on pulling some files together and books for my ideas that this Wayne Gretzky quote popped up again. Considering that I had played ice hockey in college and most my life it was sort of cool. Gretzky is a hero to hockey kids just like Michael Jordan is to basketball players. Gretzky’s records cover several pages of HHL record books, he holds or shares 61 NHL records. As an example, a recent ESPN top twenty five sports records that will never be broken had Gretzky’s feat of 2857 points (goals and assists) right near the top since number three player, Gordie Howe at 1850 holds the longevity record as well and number two is 1887 points. But what does this have to do with the price of beans or with education?

“There is a growing recognition of the importance of the view of the classroom community in developing respect for human dignity as well as preparing students to be active participants in their own learning and in democratic communities. The theme around which programs in the School of Education are built is Preparing Proactive Educators to Improve the Lives of Children. Our students learn to be reflective, scholarly, and proactive educators.” Dr. Jane McFerrin, retired Dean, School of Education, Piedmont College

Proactive is a good word. “Acting in advance to deal with an expected difficulty” is how Dictionary.com explains the word proactive. A good friend has the Gretzky quote up on his wall, I gave him a copy nearly nine years ago and it still is in use. I first used this quote over nine years ago when my friend was principal at our high school. He has moved on but Gretzky’s words ring true, be it in Ice Hockey, teaching or in life. I have expectation as a key element though in this quote, be where the puck is going to be not just where it is. Be thinking ahead rather than thinking in stagnation.

“For, he that expects nothing shall not be disappointed, but he that expects much – if he lives and uses that in hand day by day — shall be full to running over.” Edgar Cayce

“Life… It tends to respond to our outlook, to shape itself to meet our expectations.” Richard M. DeVoe

Much of Cayce’s reading can be a bit much but these are good words and our daily outlook does mold where and how our day will be.

“We advance on our journey only when we face our goal, when we are confident and believe we are going to win out.” Orison Swett Marden

Marden was the founder of Success magazine and is considered to be the founder of the modern Success movement.

“We lift ourselves by our thought, we climb upon our vision of ourselves. If you want to enlarge your life, you must first enlarge your thought of it and of yourself. Hold the ideal of yourself as you long to be, always, everywhere – your ideal of what you long to attain – the ideal of health, efficiency, success.” Orison Swett Marden (1850 – 1924)

I am always amazed at teachers who will have few expectations for students. Research has shown time and time again that students live up to the expectations of the teachers. Teachers literally set the pace by their expectations of a student if you expect little that is what you will get and conversely expect much and you will receive. A bit of a paraphrase of Gretsky.

“Teach to where the learning will be not to where it is” Frank Bird

As I thought this morning teaching is much like any other activity you plan, you implement and you have expectations. If we only teach to where learning is soon you find you are truly going nowhere. For years I will at times use words far beyond operational vocabulary of students, my response is always “look it up and learn a new word”.

“By asking for the impossible we obtain the best possible.” Giovanni Niccolini

“The world is full of abundance and opportunity, but far too many people come to the fountain of life with a sieve instead of a tank car… a teaspoon instead of a steam shovel. They expect little and as a result they get little.” Ben Sweetland

I really liked this concept so often we teach the use of a teaspoon, I do it too, and thinking that this kid will never learn that or this kids’ reading level is too low. Sweetland writes about expectations and offers this.

“We cannot hold a torch to light another’s path without brightening our own.” Ben Sweetland

When that difficult student succeeds you as a teacher succeed and your path is brighter. Years ago, I worked with severely disabled students and a simple movement often would warrant a celebration. So often I use the quote from Aerosmith’s song, Amazing.

“Life is a journey not a destination” Steven Tyler

As I was reading this morning Ben Sweetland either listens to Aerosmith or Steven Tyler reds Ben Sweetland’s books.

“Success is a journey, not a destination.” Ben Sweetland

After looking up publishing dates Steven Tyler read Ben Sweetland’s book. Many of which were published in the 1960’s. If we as teachers impose parameters on learning, if we set goals far to low and or do not teach to lofty goals we set, we in effect are the issue not the student. Maybe every teacher needs to tack over their door as my dear friend, the now Georgia Principal of the year at Osborne High School has.

“I skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it is.” Wayne Gretzky

Let us set some records now, records of learning of successful students and children in our communities. As I went out into the chill of the morning a bit earlier to walk my dog as I looked to the southeast the constellation Orion was clear as a bell over me. I could not help but notice that today was the first day in months it was silent in the morning. No tree frogs, crickets, cicada’s absolute silence. I have often wondered as to the abient temperature for silence in the morning. I was reading in a small book written between 1953 and 1954 by a Trappist monk, Thoughts in solitude and a passage struck a chord in the silence.

“Living is not thinking. Thought is formed and guided by objective reality outside us. Living is the constant adjustment of thought to life and life to thought in such a way we are always growing, always experiencing new things in the old and old things in the new. Thus, life is always new.” Thomas Merton

Perhaps I was not listening close enough as I went out just a few minutes ago when I said it was silent. I stepped out again with my other dog and a great horned owl was calling there is always more always knew if we constantly adjust thoughts and perceptions. Merton was a prolific writer and his works have stood the test of time he died in a small hotel in Southeast Asia in an electrical accident protesting the war in Vietnam back in the late 1960’s and as I ponder this morning please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts namaste.

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

Why are we deliberately wrong?

Bird Droppings October 4, 2021

Why are we deliberately wrong?

I stopped playing the lottery nearly four years ago. However, I will admit that I am pondering retiring for real with a Powerball jackpot of nearly seven hundred million dollars if I win, might need to play my numbers.  I would if I won devote time to education more positively than what today’s teachers are allowed. Due to so many mandates, edicts, pontifications, justifications, and whatever other impeding education our school, local, state, and the federal government has imposed, it is honestly hard to teach. Generally, over the years each semester, a teacher with a challenging class talks about changing careers or retiring. This past year it was a pandemic. Teachers, I consider some of the best are dwindling, and others tired of the constant imposing of near-impossible attainments for students with no curriculum changes or courses they are told to teach to the test. As with so many issues, education has been bastardized and taken over by those seeking to make more money.

“I am tired of talk that comes to nothing. It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and all the broken promises. There has been too much talking by men who have no right to talk. Too many misinterpretations have been made; too many misunderstandings have come between the white men about the Indians.” Chief Joseph, Nez Perce January 14, 1879, addressing representatives of the President of The United States

I am saddened nothing has changed in the over hundred fifty plus years since Chief Joseph surrendered. Today, over three hundred thousand complaints against the Bureau of Indian Affairs are unanswered and in courts throughout the country. The highest suicide rate of teenagers in the nation is on reservations. Around the country, we are arguing about illegal immigrants. In Arizona and New Mexico, many of these people’s ancestors were kicked off their land when we won the Spanish American war. Navahos, Apaches, and many other tribes were dispersed to the Indian Territories in Oklahoma, never allowed to return to the ancestral homes. We are so self-centered that we can argue about illegal immigrants; maybe we are genuinely illegal immigrants. An old Indian was approached by an anthropologist and asked what your people called this land before the white man came. He calmly said, “Ours.”

“If the white man wants to live in peace with the Indian, he can live in peace. There need be no trouble. Treat all men alike. Give them all the same law. Give them all an even chance to grow and live.” Chief Joseph

My thoughts often come random after a few hours’ sleep and rising to take the dog out, and a point or idea will stick. Last night about two-thirty, I got off the phone after talking with a good friend from many years ago. We talked for nearly three hours, and in heading to bed, something came to mind. It seems the powers to be back in the day and now always want to mass-produce. In the late 1800s, as far as Native Peoples go, they came up with a blanket policy and no pun intended to cover all tribes. There was no consideration of culture, family, language, and history; this included education using the Carlisle School as an example.

The white Christian way was the best and only way. No exceptions Indians should be farmers like white folk; no more hunting and gathering, no more Sundance ceremonies banned in the late 1800s or rituals that might offend Christian folk. Treaties and promises were made almost with little or no attempt to indeed fund and implement that plan. Does this sound vaguely familiar? Corruption ruled what little funding did find its way to reservations and holding areas. As I thought it was very easy to tie this government outlook to the education of today coincidently.

In 2004 a massive educational bill was passed entitled No Child Left Behind. A key point being that by 2014 all children would be on grade level in math and reading. Sadly, funding was left by the wayside and for states to implement as best they could. However, penalties were still in place for not meeting standards imposed. The idea of all children being to standard includes all socio-economic, cultural, children with disabilities, ethnic groups, and any other sort of subtitle that might be thrown in. Children would be evaluated with standardized tests given in specific grades and to graduate. Dr. William Ayers, that same fellow accused during the previous presidential election of being too friendly with our past president, has a nationally known educator and author.

“The root of the word evaluation is ‘value,’ and authentic assessment includes understanding first what the student’s value and then building from there. An authentic assessment is inside-out rather than outside-in. It is an attempt to get away from sorting a mass of students and closer to the teacher’s question: Given what I know, how should I teach this particular student.” Dr. William Ayers

One of our states’ efforts to get an assessment in line with national standards and accountability has been a new math curriculum and subsequent testing. On the front page of a past Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Only 52% of the students who took the End of Course test for Math II in May 2017 passed.” This was across the state averages in high schools on this particular test. State department of education people say they will get it will take time for students to get used to the new curriculum. In special education, we have been told to start telling parents in IEP’s that kids may be in high school for five or six years due to higher standards for graduation. Interesting by chance, should you take over four years to graduate, you are considered a dropout until recently when the graduation rules were again changed.

I question who is setting the bar up and why? As I read the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, it is due to mandated standards set in the No Child Left Behind legislation. What about schools that are so far behind that no matter what bar level is set, it will not happen. Many reservation schools and inner-city schools have never hit AYP to date in nearly ten years of testing. Another low point is that it is common knowledge among administrators and educators that test scores and zip codes have a strong correlation. How is that for a statistic? Borrowing a phrase now that is a Catch 22, yes, most definitely, zip codes and test scores do correlate. I had an idea last night after a brief discussion in a blog over what could be done. I asked for some time to think about solving this dilemma. By chance, I went by Barnes and Noble to get some backup material.

Great educators have known the answer; John Dewey offered suggestions and thoughts well over a hundred years ago. Numerous other authors have expanded on and clarified Dewey’s thoughts. All seem to conclude the solution is not in one test fits all; one curriculum fits all; it is not about leaving children behind, which is currently happening at an alarming rate. So here was walking my dog last night, and a thought came to me. It is about one child at a time.

“Teachers are explorers. As they explore their students’ world and lives, they cast lines to different ways of thinking. Teaching is often bridge-building; beginning on one shore with the knowledge, experience, know-how, and interests of the student, the teacher move toward broader horizons and deeper ways of knowing.” Dr. William Ayers, to teach the journey of a teacher, 2010

You might say, where do we start? Step one, we start asking students. After talking with many students of the Foxfire program who have graduated many years back, I see that there are commonalities in their opinion of what they learned. They learned about community more so than any other topic; this has come up numerous times. It was not a measurable academic lesson or standardized test score it was the interactions with others in a useful and viable manner. It was being allowed to be an individual and to be creative. It was about one child at a time.

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

John Dewey emphasized the democratic classroom and giving students a voice and allowing their past experiences to be utilized, not just those perceptions and experiences of the teacher. One Child’s idea at a Time may sound a bit farfetched, but when you look at how we currently test and evaluate, it is not truly an indicator of what a child knows or even cares about. It is what has been drilled in the past semester. You will often hear the term life long learner and yet is cramming for a standardized test lifelong learning? Is 52% of students taking tests failing lifelong learning? What if we could take a bit more time to learn who the student is to allow students to incorporate their weaknesses and strengths into the learning process. Wouldn’t it be great if we could do an individual IEP for all students instead of a blanket testing policy? Would it not be great if each student had a portfolio that accompanied them in each grade, showing progress and showing their achievements? It is one child at a time that is the key to educational success and or failure. I will wander more another time so please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Walking and listening among the Cotton Woods

Bird Droppings September 30. 2021

Walking and listening among the Cotton Woods

I walked outside earlier as I do many mornings listening observing trying to understand this reality I am walking about in. The sky was brilliant this morning with a very haze settling over the corn field and a few wisps of clouds were visible. Over the years I have spent many days in the mornings alone sitting observing in the wee hours sometimes even wrapped in a blanket for the cold. Today I was wrapped in my father’s old overcoat. A black cashmere coat warm and soft it was his favorite often even wearing it inside when it was chilly.

In days gone by I would spend my time listening and watching as I sat listening. There were mornings when falling stars by the hundreds would pass by and I would feel as if I was the focus of their attention watching all in space aim towards me. I would sit and hours later write poetry and verses logging down emotions, events and moments in my journal of sorts.

“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.” Confucius

One day recently I was told I had a great vocabulary. I came home and asked my wife; “Do I have a great vocabulary?” I was really hoping for an answer to boost my ego and she said “it really depends on who you are talking too.” You know at first, I was hurt but then she said not that many people have seen or heard what you have in your life and sharing that expands their vocabulary as well. I instantly felt better. Perhaps a reason why I enjoy teaching, and sharing experiences I have had over my seventy plus years.

“Knowledge, a rude unprofitable mass, the mere materials with which wisdom builds, till smoothed and squared and fitted to its place, does but encumber whom it seems to enrich. Knowledge is proud that he has learned so much; wisdom is humble that he knows no more.” William Cowper

In days gone by and even today I will pick up an encyclopedia and read the volume much like a book, ok tonight’s light reading is the H Britannica. In our Google it world of today few children ever even see an encyclopedia let alone open one. Last week in class I was using my ancient Britannica’s to help a student with a Venn diagram on Achilles and Odysseus. Once he started with the book versus Wikipedia he was caught up and started looking through the pages. Even asked if he could take the volume home saying Mr. Bird this is pretty cool.

“Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you: you must acquire it.” Sadie Black

We have all grown up with the statement about how curiosity killed the cat but a lack thereof will also keep the world at a standstill and nothing will happen as well.

“Today knowledge has power. It controls access to opportunity and advancement.” Peter F. Drucker

A great guru of business Peter Drucker has written many books helping people manage their businesses. If you look at our society and the pace of new information and technology we are living in a world where while you sleep things change. This statement is even truer today than when Drucker wrote it in the sixties.

“I would have the studies elective. Scholarship is to be created not by compulsion, but by awakening a pure interest in knowledge. The wise instructor accomplishes this by opening to his pupils precisely the attractions the study has for himself. The marking is a system for schools, not for the college; for boys, not for men; and it is an ungracious work to put on a professor.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I have come to enjoy Emerson and I use his sayings often. He was a rather grizzly looking old goat of a man. When I read this, I realized several times recently this is how I described what a school should be like. It should be literally a teacher, as a door. With the teacher or door person simply opening the door at appropriate times allowing information to go in. As the student becomes more and more adept the doorman is needed less and less till soon only a receptionist is needed to assist in organizing thoughts.

“Knowledge, without common sense, says Lee, is folly; without method, it is waste; without kindness, it is fanaticism; without religion, it is death. But with common sense, it is wisdom with method, it is power; with clarity, it is beneficence; with religion, it is virtue, and life, and peace.” Austin Farrar

I recall a few years back when I sat and spoke at length over lunch and walked back to class with a good friend who had served a year or more in Afghanistan. We were talking of cultural differences, to us sometimes these differences are ridiculous and yet to the people within that culture they are a part of life. I have been fascinated with a tiny group of people and have been reading several books lately dealing with the Sans or “Bushman” of the Kalahari in South Africa as well as several other indigenous peoples who have been stripped of their homes and culture for the sake of mankind at least that is what we are told.

It seems diamonds have been found in the Kalahari and the Sans who have lived there for tens of thousands of years, hunting and gathering now must leave and go learn to farm to be civilized. Perception was left out of many of the verses today for a hunter in the Kalahari may not know of Quantum physics but he or she does know where to find and how to find water and juicy grubs for dinner. What if the antelope has escaped during the hunt as a Bushmen you know the signs to track and finish the job. Knowledge is of when and where you are now is crucial to existence, going back to my wife’s comment to me this morning and my own vocabulary learned through so many experiences and books read.

“Gugama, the creator, made us. That was a long time ago – so long ago that I can’t know when it happened. That is the past, but our future comes from the lives of our children, our future is rooted in the hunt, and in the fruits, which grow in this place. When we hunt, we are dancing. And when the rain comes it fills us with joy. This is our place, and here everything gives us life. “Mogetse Kaboikanyo

Mogetse Kabokikanyo was a Kgalagadi man who lived alongside the Gana and Gwi Bushmen in the Central Kalahari Game Reserve. In February 2002, he was forcibly relocated to a camp outside the reserve. He died just four months later. He was probably in his fifties; his friends said his heart stopped beating. After years of struggling to remain on his land, Mogetse was buried in the desolate relocation camp, far from his ancestors’ graves. We citizens of the United States talk of human rights and dignity but in a case closer to home, it is very similar.

In about 1909 or so Geronimo of the Apaches was told finally he would not be allowed to return to the mountains of New Mexico to die. He must remain at Fort Sill Oklahoma on the Apache reservation literally a prisoner of war where he died shortly thereafter. I have been to the grave site of Geronimo many times in my travels to Lawton Oklahoma. Driving out past military vehicles and such to a quiet spot along the river where no visible modern sights can be heard or seen. Immediately around you are only the rustling cottonwood trees, and the flow of water over the stones in the river alongside the grave yard provides a backdrop of peaceful sounds. A rolling landscape and meadow of grass go up from a small parking area into the plains of Oklahoma. Not many people come to this corner of Fort Sill.

Many times, as I sat alone staring across the meadow listening to the stream and feeling a breeze brush lightly it seems as if time rearranged and it was so easy to slip back to days when people buried here had names and were not simply numbered markers. Knowledge is an elusive, ethereal, entity flitting about as a monarch butterfly travels many thousands of miles between hills in Mexico and Georgia. Knowledge is elusive in how it conveys power to some and solace to others. Knowledge is walking along the stream by a grave from a time long gone and knowing we can change mankind we can make a difference. It is the Geronimo’s and Mogetse Kaboikanyo’s, who are the real teachers of this world.

It may be one step one small tiny speck at a time but one day others will be able to stand among the cotton woods in Oklahoma or beneath a bush in the Kalahari and know tomorrow is a far better day. Hopefully mankind has learned more as we increase our abilities to convey understanding. One day, maybe not today, knowledge will truly be instilled in everyone. But till then please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and try to offer a hand to any slipping as they cross the stream on their own journey and to always give thanks namaste.

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

Searching for integrity

Bird Droppings September 28, 2021
Searching for integrity

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.” Buddha

I watch the news and pundits lauding their integrity and truthfulness as they command hundred thousand dollar speaking fees and first-class accommodations. Then I think to a Hindu holy man who sat for twenty-seven years with his arm up stretched in honor of Vishnu one of his Gods. We in America say it’s the American way and many will pay to see that star struck speaker who has little or nothing of any significance. I look back at that crazy holy man who after all those years of piety can no longer use his arm and a bird nested in his hand and a faint smile comes to his face as he has been of use. Who do I respect there in all honesty should not even be a question.


Over two thousand years ago another holy man walked about and taught that we were to forgive our brothers. He as their faith goes died for all others sins so no one else would need to die. He was to be a blood sacrifice for all of mankind according to the writings that followed of this faith. A man who distained wealth, war, injustice, and greed and yet in today’s times it is those very things that are driving forces within the faith that bears his name. How can we bastardize to the extent we have those founding concepts that were so far from where they come?

“Character is higher than intellect.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

“If we are ever in doubt about what to do, it is a good rule to ask ourselves what we shall wish on the morrow that we had done.” John Lubbock

“You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.” James D. Miles

The past two mornings I have noticed things as I walk out to drive to the school. Obviously, a full moon or near full moon greets me and glowing away as I drive down the dark roads towards school. Yesterday an Opossum scurried across the road tail held high in defiance as she or he dashed across the road. Only a few yards further and an eastern box turtle was sitting near the edge of the road just looking. It was an odd time for a turtle to be out especially as the highway as I pulled to the stop sign. As it turns out it was someone on a little tiny Vespa scooter and coincidently, we both ended up at Quick Trip. So I wonder at these synchronistic events looking back each only a brief second of my days but each has stuck with me. Was there or is there meaning and significance or were these simply events that would have happened even if I had not been there to witness them.

“I thank Thee first because I was never robbed before; second, because although they took my purse they did not take my life; third, because although they took my all, it was not much; and fourth because it was I who was robbed, and not I who robbed.” Matthew Henry

“My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.” Thomas Paine

“Never let your sense of morals prevent you from doing what’s right.” Isaac Asimov

Prior knowledge and or experiences John Dewey refers to as a basis for education that is to be. We build off of that base and add to it almost as if prior understandings are a foundation for the construction of all further understanding. So I argue what if someone lives with criticism will they be able to learn tolerance. If a child lives with hostility will they ever be able to understand peace. If a child lives with ridicule will they ever be able to understand or know praise. It is possible for a child who lives with shame to ever know forgiveness. I am loosely borrowing from Dr. Laura Nolte’s “Children Learn what they live” poem from 1971. As I ponder that aspect of prior understanding and look towards some of the politics of our current society I do wonder how people learn to be so self centered and greedy. In his speech to the UN Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said capitalism is in its death throes as we build a class of ultra wealthy on the carcasses of everyone else. I look at Wall Street which has always amazed me and how fortunes are made owning nothing but paper and someone else’s desire to own that paper.
Many people talk about and write about how our society is going down hill. As I watch and read it is so often those who I feel are sociopathic and mentally ill who are the driving forces in that rhetoric and those people who reap fortunes on gossip and innuendo. Our local paper has a spin meter and sorts through each day the political spin that follows each candidate and each piece of legislation. We talk of repealing the healthcare and I wonder how many parents of severely ill children will want that now that insurance companies can not dump them or exclude for preexisting conditions. I wonder how many breast cancer survivors will encourage their legislators to promote this plan as preventive medicine is given and free mammograms are a part of the provisions. It all comes down to those with do not want to give up anything and see everyone else as a parasite. Sadly we have come from an understanding world view to one of self centeredness and sadly it appears we hold aloft editions of that.

“Dignity consists not in possessing honors, but in the consciousness that we deserve them.” Aristotle

It has taken a long time to honor men and women who have shown braver in combat. Recently some of the first Congressional Medal of Honor Winners were awarded from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. I wonder why many times we hold off on such events. I wonder about why I see what I see, and others see nothing. I ponder daily why I can relate better to a Hindu holy man holding his arm aloft than to politician or former politician getting paid a small fortune to jabber on about a version of reality that only they see. It leaves me with my daily credo please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

We all know the slogan, “just do it”, but I would add when?

Bird Droppings September 27, 2021
We all know the slogan, “just do it”, but I would add when?

I shared a story of The White Buffalo Calf Woman on my Facebook page several months past. Today while at home I went to read again on my iPad and it was restricted it seems since it was an old school ipad it is no longer able to update even though I bought it for twenty bucks. I tried another story of the Eight Prophecies of the Anishnabek, and it too was restricted. I typed in seven prophecies and got all sorts of Christian prophecies including bizarre Edgar Cayce writings. I was upset first assuming I had a religious filter on my iPad from school. So I typed white buffalo calf and thousands of hits and sites. That led me to type woman and it was restricted. I tried Congress woman it too was restricted. Now the great control factor I typed in man and no problem. I typed Congress man and White Buffalo Man no problem. With the issue of women’s rights in political forefront of nearly every election and several other civil right issues as well I borrow from two very famous and wise women in history to start today. I often wonder why sexism never came up when these two powerful and very involved women’s names come up.  Although at one time Texas wanted to ban Helen Keller from their History books.

“I am only one, but I am still one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something. And because I cannot do everything I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.” Helen Keller

“There are two kinds of people: those who do the work, and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there.” Indira Gandhi

As I read this morning these two statements stood out I doubt from what I have read if some of the current various political pundits around the country would recognize the names out of history. These two great people were tremendously influential in their time. Helen Keller was blind and deaf yet addressed world leaders and lectured throughout the world. Indira Gandhi daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru and the first woman prime minister of a leading world country. I will try and simplify their remarks, “don’t just sit there do something”. So often people sit and wait many times for someone else to do whatever needs to be done.

“Don’t wait for someone to take you under their wing. Find a good wing and climb up underneath it.” Frank C. Buraro

“Never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.” Benjamin Franklin

Each day I see teachers and students hesitate myself included, “I can get it done tomorrow” or “I can’t do it”. I am the worst procrastinator ask my wife. In the end so often what gets done is only adequate and could have been so much better, we hesitate, we procrastinate, we accept partial over a whole, and we will take a seventy percent on a paper “its passing”. I see red when I hear that and yet I remember when I too would accept that grade and walk away happy with less work and less studying.

“Do you know what happens when you give a procrastinator a good idea? Nothing!” Donald Gardner

“There is nothing so fatal to character as half-finished tasks.” David Lloyd George

Every day it takes effort to try and explain that it only takes a bit more effort a bit more energy for an A over a C. Is it human nature to seek the easy path in life I am starting to believe and really think it is becoming worse in our society?

“Don’t wait; the time will never be just right.” Napoleon Hill

“Putting off an easy thing makes it hard, and putting off a hard one makes it impossible.” George H. Lonmer

I had a student explain why it took so long for him to finish projects. He wanted to be sure it was right. I told him it was because he didn’t work at it he assured me it was seeking perfection that was his down fall. I am all about keeping data, the key to many choices in life. Yesterday my perfectionist unknowingly was observed for ten minutes. In each half of ten minutes anytime someone mention anything he would get up and walk over to see what it was or come over to me to see what I was doing. So in perfecting his work nearly two thirds of his time was getting out of doing it. I made a comment to him, “if you put that hard work from the three or four minutes out of ten you actually worked into all ten minutes you would be done in time and have plenty of time to spare”.

“How soon not now, becomes never.” Martin Luther

“Don’t wait for extraordinary circumstance to do good; try to use ordinary situations.” Charles Richter

We wait, we pause, and we hesitate, I wonder at what point in our evolutionary makeup pausing came in. I am sure it was not when running from the huge cave bears of bygone days or saber tooth tigers. Maybe with the advent of remote controls borrowing from the movie blink where Adam Sandler could stop everything else and get things done. I would think if you paused when a saber toothed tiger was chasing you it would only be once; there it had to be when remote controls came around.

“Throughout history, it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most that has made it possible for evil to triumph.” Haile Selassie

“During a very busy life I have often been asked, “How did you manage to do it all?” The answer is very simple. It is because I did everything promptly.” Richard Tangye

When it is time? When it is time to rather than putting off and often doing only a partial job to know when to the job and when not to do the job? When is it not wasting time either? Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have back those ten minutes here and there?

“The greatest amount of wasted time is the time not getting started.” Dawson Troutman

“The best labor saving device is doing it tomorrow” Source unknown

Each of us will have excuses for waiting but in the need perhaps we should put aside excuses and get the job done. Today 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

Do we need a bit more soul?

September 25, 2021

Do we need a bit more soul?

“Soul is different from spirit; the deep soul is the way we live every day, our longings and our fears.” Thomas Moore 

It has been nearly thirty years since I first read The Care of the Soul, by Thomas Moore. I picked up a copy in about 1993 or so. I was impressed as I read this great thinker’s words, he had studied under James Hillman, and Hillman had been a student of Carl Jung. In his previous experiences, I found some similarities with my own that drew me to his writings. Moore had studied most of his life to be a priest, and after graduate school and wanting to do more than minister to a church, he went into secular psychology and therapy, leaving the priesthood. As I have journeyed through life over the years, my spiritual aspirations have evolved and deepened, although some might argue with me. 

“It’s the aspiring spirit that gives life to the intellect and keeps it from being just a mind and a set of ideas.” Thomas Moore 

It was nearly twenty years back. A student’s parent introduced me to an author that filled some voids in my thinking. I was coaching the high school swim team, and this parent somehow caught an inkling that I enjoyed reading about Native American thought. She recommended Kent Nerburn. Nerburn is an artist by training, and education with his doctorate is in sculpture. He traveled the country searching and practicing his trade, and in that, he began writing. I do recommend his works and enjoy his philosophy of life. 

“Remember to be gentle with yourself and others. We are all children of chance, and none can say while some fields will blossom, and others lay brown beneath the August sun. Care for those around you. Look past your differences. Their dreams are no less than yours, their choices in life no more easily made. And give. Give in any way you can, of whatever you possess. To give is to love. To withhold is to wither. Care less for your harvest than how is shared, and your life will have meaning, and your heart will have peace.” Kent Nerburn

In traditional Native thinking, we are one with all. Existence is considered sacred and of importance to the interconnections. There is an interconnection and interdependence of all things. There is a thread running through all things. Many years ago, Chief Seattle said that “man is but a strand upon the web of life”. 

 “Soul is different from spirit—the deep soul is the way we live every day, our longings and our fears.” Thomas Moore

My interpretation of what the soul is is not that far from where Thomas Moore identifies the soul? I have thought about this concept of the soul over many years. It is tough to define. I have read articles where researchers weigh bodies before and after death arrives, claiming there is a weight to the soul. We are such curious creatures, and when we find the answer, so we often ignore it. Somewhere yesterday, an article on flat earthers popped up. I have always been curious what’s on the bottom if the earth is flat, what’s on the other side? I wandered away a bit, but it is who we are that is the soul. The essence or substance of who we are. 

“…to the soul, the most minute details and the most ordinary activities, carried out with mindfulness and art, affect far beyond their apparent insignificance. “Thomas Moore

“A genuine odyssey is not about piling up experiences. It is a deeply felt, risky, unpredictable tour of the soul. “Thomas Moore

We journey through life following the pathway set in genetics, culture, society, environment, and many other factors. Each of us travels along a different path; we intersect at times and travel side by side. I have found that observing and listening and then perceptions give each of us another view of the journey. Somebody might say that our soul can decipher all of the input we have as we journey. Each of us will tell a different story of the same journey. 

“How many times do we lose an occasion for soul work by leaping ahead to final solutions without pausing to savor the undertones? We are a radically bottom-line society, eager to act and to end tension, and thus we lose opportunities to know ourselves for our motives and our secrets.” Thomas Moore

As I ponder the concept of soul issues of politics and societal contradictions come into play. Sadly, we have done this to ourselves. Living in a southern state that is either fourth or fifth in numbers of illegal immigrants primarily seems states with agriculture as a major commodity. Having worked with many students, I am sure it is questionable. I wonder how we have done things in the US. Growing up in Coatesville, Pa., I can recall having been asked if I was interested in working at Lukens Steel Mill. My dad, who was at that time in management, had been a union steelworker. All children were almost sure to get jobs if your father or mother worked at the mill when you graduated from high school. Ten years ago, on my last trip back to Coatesville, Lukens Steel Mill left nothing left. 

I was following the news as much as I can one item popped up in the past day. In the past few weeks’ legislation to stop tax incentives to companies outsourcing jobs was defeated primarily along party lines, although some democrats did help prevent it. We have been under the foot or maybe the boot of industry for some time and allowed to live a “happy” life until a more profitable means to do business comes along. I watched a Georgia Senator’s ad last night on TV as he promoted more flexible regulatory legislation and lower taxes and less government. The other side of the coin is that he also introduced a bill not to allow airlines’ unionization into Congress. Delta airlines is one of his biggest backers, and Delta has been in a fight for some time over unions. Delta is based in Georgia, which is a right to work state. Where am I going with unions, the way it was, and illegal immigrants, and outsourcing? We have stood by and allowed wages and perks of union-driven groups to go through the roof while driving product cost up and often driving the industry, such as steel, to leave the country.

We have allowed industries for as long as I can remember (not just in this political season) to hire and bring in illegal workers for jobs at low wages. Many of the industries doing this in Georgia also back Senators and politicians who, by chance, are Republican. We support outsourcing to the point that most customer service is a joke anymore on the phone. A recent ad played on this with a fellow in Siberia with fifty phones ringing. He answers, hello this is Peggy in customer service hold please, and proceeds to make a sandwich. I guess my issue is we have allowed this; we have allowed the banking and mortgage problems to happen because of our greed. Sadly, it will take more than elections to change the souls of people.

“When we relate to our bodies as having soul, we attend to their beauty, their poetry, and their expressiveness. Our very habit of treating the body as a machine, whose muscles are like pulleys and its organs engines, forces its poetry underground so that we experience the body as an instrument and see its poetics only in illness.” Thomas Moore

One piece of my doctoral studies and writing is based on the loss of soul in education, which I firmly believe is going on. We have taken creativity and imagination away in so many instances and replaced them with memorization exercises and drills. Critical thinking has taken a hit instead of teaching to the test. Texas was trying to ban critical thinking in schools. My first response was this is insane. Coming back to thinking about Thomas Moore and soul only reminds me that so much needs to be considered in our quest for improving education beyond the simple cure of more money and or more testing.

“There are apartments in the soul which have a glorious outlook, from whose windows you can see across the river of death, and into the shining beyond; but how often are these neglected for the lower ones, which have earthward-looking windows.” Henry Beecher, Life Thoughts

“I simply believe that some part of the human Self or Soul is not subject to the laws of space and time.” Carl Jung

We are so much more than profits or capital as some business minded educators refer to students as. Many of the school choice advocates live off profit-based companies who want into education and want those easy dollars. Several millions of dollars are being spent to open the market in Georgia this November. So for my Georgia friends, vote no on the Charter school constitutional amendment. Maybe if we could grasp that piece of us that some call soul and encourage a bit of fertilizer and replenish it so that imagination and wondering could take precedence over the type of clothes you wear, the car you drive, or jewelry that is hanging on your arm we might make some severe changes to our reality.

“Many of the religions I’ve been exposed to preach, reaching for an impossible ideal, and my attempts as transcendence have left me inevitably frustrated with myself, others, and my life. That is why I appreciate Thomas Moore’s philosophy. Here is, in a nutshell: don’t try to transcend your humanity, embrace it. Moore’s ideas would resonate with spiritual wanderers and people who view life as an artistic work in progress. When Moore was a therapist, he noticed that many clients would come to him, wanting him to remove a flaw of theirs. They went to him like patients seeking a surgeon to remove a tumor. Our culture celebrates light, and many feel ashamed when we aren’t happy. However, Moore contends that sadness is, in a sense, a gift, for it gives one depth and perspective. Healing can take time. It rarely occurs overnight.” An unknown blogger

 “Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library, and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensify human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

I am into another day. I went out, took some photos, and have been sitting for an hour pondering and reflecting. At times I miss the students unleashed in the hallways, then again, perhaps I am still floundering in my meandering about the soul. It could be the chill of fall has me enthralled as I get out in the cool air in the mornings. But for today, 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

Seeing all is connected and intertwined

Bird Droppings September 23, 2021
Seeing all is connected and intertwined

As I thought about the Sydney J. Harris passage below and walked out to my car I thought of my quiet spot on my back porch where I meditate, and something hit me. I generally sit facing east towards the rising sun, daily the gossamer threads of life interconnect with everything. Spiders busy the night before spin threads of silk across the terrain. They are always iridescent and softly moving with the wind. Occasionally one thread would disconnect and float effortlessly upwards sparkling and dancing as it goes ever so slow into the clouds. Each twig, each plant and leave seemed to be connected. Each rock and branch a tiny thread weaving through the entire visage before me.

I sat on my back porch for a few minutes and watched a black and yellow garden spider working on her web and decided I needed to go for a walk. I followed the strands of silk fining several orb weavers and more writing spiders. I am always amazed at the simplest of things catching my attention. My brief walk uncovered fifteen different flowers and seven spiders before I sat down and lit some white sage. As the smoke spiraled and my mind cleared the interconnectedness of all hit me hard. Thinking back on my former students as I communicated with one today who is college to teach special education hopefully, I provided a piece of the puzzle for them.

“When we try to pick anything out by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” John Muir

Most people would read this and scoff yet in the early morning as the sun rises and begins to move across the skies spiders have been at work all night moving between plants and rocks trees and leaves leaving threads of silk. If you were standing in the midst of them, they would be invisible yet with the sun behind sparkling in the light a beautiful scene. As I sat pondering as to an old man sitting looking towards the east in the early morning many years ago and coming in to tell his grandchildren as I started the passage. On the back of my t-shirt it reads all things are connected and rightly so by a thin gossamer strand of silk. So many thoughts today as I sit and ponder. How we interact with our children and grandchildren in my case is of the utmost importance.

“Our task is to make our children into disciples of the good life, by our own actions toward them and toward other people. This is the only effective discipline in the         long run. But it is more arduous, and takes longer, than simply “laying down the law.” Before a child (or a nation) can accept the law, it has to learn why the law has been created for its own welfare.” Sydney J. Harris

Today I am faced with dealing with how to accomplish all that needs to be finished by Friday. Several job applications and chapter one and two of my dissertation. I was reading and discussing how procrastination is a form of anxiety. My nephew is a clinical psychologist and he and I were comparing notes on autism and then discussed anxiety.  I would have never considered myself anxious but as I researched perhaps, I am and then manifest through procrastination.

“What it lies in our power to do, it lies in our power not to do.” Aristotle

“Self-command is the main discipline.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Many years ago, I spent six months involved in counseling on a psychiatric unit in a state mental facility. There was never a question about why something happened being that they were considered combative psychotic adolescents which was the term used to describe the unit. When someone got upset it was solitary confinement and rather large doses of drugs and a few strait jackets were employed. Little was occurring to change the behavior and or rationalize those behaviors and or find why that behavior even occurred simply deal with the moment.

“Anybody who gets away with something will come back to get away with a little bit more.” Harold Schoenberg

“Better to be pruned to grow than cut up to burn.” John Trapp

Often as I find a quote the person behind those words has more to offer as if the situation with Schoenberg who is a scholar of music. He is also a very prolific writer about great musicians and their music. John Trapp was a bible scholar with several biblical commentaries to his credit both men were writers who themselves were very self-disciplined.

“THE STUDY OF WORDS is useless unless it leads to the study of the ideas that the words stand for. When I am concerned about the proper use of words it is not           because of snobbism or superiority, but because their improper use leads to poor        ways of thinking. Take the word ‘discipline’ that we hear so much about nowadays        in connection with the rearing of children. If know something about word derivations, you know that ‘discipline’ and ‘disciple’ come from the same Latin root discipulus, which means ‘to learn, to follow.’” Sydney J. Harris, Strictly speaking

Sitting here looking up references and quotes related to behavior and ending up with the example, to learn and to follow this is semantics as we go. In order to operate a public school, we have to have standards to operate by, so we have rules. Looking at this from a behaviorist standpoint it is easy to say ABC, Antecedent, Behavior and Consequence. First you have an antecedent that stimulus is what causes the behavior. Then you have the behavior which is the event or action that we see, feel, or hear about. Finally, we have consequence which can be what we do in response or what the students or person issuing the behavior receives for eliciting that behavior.

“What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to his piece of debris? What’s the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood?” Leonard Cohen

“Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you act.” George W. Crane

“To know what people really think, pay regard to what they do, rather than what they say.” Rene Descartes

It is always about what we do. Over the past few days, I have with several teachers and friends been discussing perception that is how we see events and happenings. One of the categories in writing a behavioral plan for a student is planned to ignore that is often simply tuning out a behavior. Often with no stimulus to keep it going a behavior will disappear. So often it is getting attention that is the desired consequence.

“People don’t change their behavior unless it makes a difference for them to do so.” Fran Tarkenton

“Physics does not change the nature of the world it studies, and no science of        behavior can change the essential nature of man, even though both sciences yield technologies with a vast power to manipulate the subject matters.” B. F. Skinner

These lines from a football hall of fame quarterback and the father of behaviorism are intriguing as these two men from distinctly different arenas yet have come to remarkably similar conclusions in their thoughts. Tarkenton has built an internationally known management consulting firm based on his thought. It must make a difference to the person for them to change. Skinner sees we can manipulate the subject matters we as we can offer alternative consequences to hopefully change the behaviors to ones we can accept. A Sydney J. Harris line caught my attention this morning as I started on discipline as I prepare for several IEP’s later this week some related to behavior.

“…by our own actions toward them and toward other people.” Sydney J. Harris

So often it is not the consequences that deter or change a behavior but our actions towards the person and those around them. It is the example we set and not what we say that matters. Please today as we venture out 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

Is the seat of the soul in the heart or mind?

Bird Droppings September 21, 2021

Is the seat of the soul in the heart or mind?

I believe I was prepared from childhood to discuss this topic. It has been many years since my first introduction to Native Peoples. I was three or four years old when I first remember my father’s Little Strong Arm and Black Eagle stories. The term Native American was not argued, and the word Indian was not officially becoming politically charged, so we grew up with Indian stories. My father’s stories came from his background in the Boy Scouts of America; he had been an Eagle Scout, a scout leader, and a summer camp program director. Indian lore was a significant portion of Boy Scouting in those days. As he told us as kids, some of the stories came from meeting the code talkers on his ship in the Navy ferrying marines onto the beach fronts. I am borrowing from a favorite book on Indian Crafts my father told us of counting coup. W. Ben Hunt explains the word and meaning.

“Riding into battle with no weapons save a coup stick, and touching your enemy then riding back. It was considered a great honor to count coup” W. Ben Hunt

My father worked his summers during college in New Hampshire at Camp Waunakee using Indian Lore as a base for camp activities, and he was chief of the campfire. During his military service, as a medic on a navy LSM in World War II, I learned he had spent many hours talking with Navaho code talkers as his Navy ship delivered them to islands in the South Pacific. He would say he was part Indian through all of those years, but it was not until he was in his seventies that his sister uncovered my great grandmother’s lineage, Leni Lenape, a clan of the Delaware tribes, and confirmed it. To me, as a child, Indians were special, my father instilled this in us, but there was always a spiritual aspect I could not explain. As I was reading for this dropping, a thought I pulled out of another old book from my childhood days by William Tompkins. My father would use this book to teach us rudimentary sign language if we ever needed to converse with Indians.

“The originators of the Indian signs thought that thinking or understanding was done with the heart, and made the sign “drawn from the heart” Deaf mutes place extended fingers of the right hand against the forehead to give the same meaning” William Tompkins

As I read this line, thinking and understanding come from the heart in so much of Indian philosophy; perhaps this drew me to this group of people. I grew up with feathers, drums, rattles, and other Indian paraphernalia always around the house. In my own experiences, the spirituality and acceptance of all things as sacred in Native people’s culture intrigued me. As I started into a graduate school program on curriculum theory, it had never occurred to me how education had been so misused and so often deliberately so in history. Those in power avoided teaching some things; I use the term fine print concerning our indigenous peoples.

Modern culture used the trust inherent in their culture, and their understanding of life and nature was turned against them for profit and greed. Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, a member of the Dakota tribe, a medical doctor and known in his tribe as Ohiyesa is quoted in Kent Nerburn’s, The Soul of an Indian as he addresses a significant difference in white and Indian thought.

“Many of the white man ways are past our understanding …. They put a great store upon writing; there is always paper. White people must think that paper has some mysterious power to help them in the world. The Indian needs no writings; words that are true sink deep into his heart, where they remain. He never forgets them. On the other hand, if a white man loses his papers, he is helpless” Dr. Charles Eastman, Ohiyesa

In reading and discussing in graduate school, not much is different from the many innuendos in today’s education and curriculums of hidden agendas and political maneuvering. As I progressed in my own schooling, I learned that Columbus mistakenly called the indigenous people he encountered Indians thinking he had found a way to the Spice Islands of the West Indies. The name would stick until more recently as we became politically correct and use the term Native Americans. Columbus even wrote in his journal of presenting letters from the King and Queen to the Great Khan, thinking he was in China or near, according to noted historian Ronald Takaki.

 As I became older and too sought out my understanding of Native Peoples and my readings went deeper. During my undergraduate years, I spent a semester in Texas and experienced firsthand a powerful hatred even then in 1968 for Indians. My journey very much paralleled my spiritual and educational pathways as with each step, my ties and understanding grew. I was looking for answers even back then.

“When you see a new trail or footprint, you do not know, follow it to the point of knowing.” Uncheedah, grandmother of Ohiyesa

I was searching for answers even in those days. As I finished up my undergraduate program at Mercer University, I realized why Indians were never taught to read the fine print. In classes and from friends, I received books and articles to read, adding to my understanding. From one of our course texts, Author Joel Spring points out the concept of deculturalization.

“Deculturalization is one aspect of the strange mixture of democratic thought and intolerance that exists in some minds. The concept of deculuralization demonstrates how cultural prejudices and religious bigotry can be intertwined with democratic beliefs. It combines education for democracy and political equality with cultural genocide – the attempt to destroy cultures. Deculturalization is an educational process that aims to destroy a people’s culture and replace it with a new culture.” Joel Spring

From earlier on, there was an effort to assimilate and dismantle the Native peoples’ cultures in America. In the early 1500s, Spanish colonists were first to deceive and destroy the native people? Several nights ago, a recent History channel episode was based on Cortez and the conquering of the Aztecs. One of the historians made a statement that in fewer than two hundred years from that first encounter with Cortez, ninety percent of America’s indigenous people were either killed or died from European-based disease. The Europeans enslaved a new world.

 So many times, it was through deception. As the white man pushed into the new world, treaties and agreements were signed often with little understanding of the Native peoples’ part. The land was not for sale, yet the white man is offering us trinkets. How foolish is the white man? Vine Deloria Jr., states very clearly in his book Custer died for your sins:

“In the treaty of August 5, 1926, almost as if it were an afterthought, an article (III) stated: The Chippewa tribe grant to the Government of the United States the right to search for, and carry away, any metals or minerals from any part of their country. But this grant is not to effect title of the land or existing jurisdiction over it. The Chippewa’s, in the dark as to the importance of their mineral wealth, signed the treaty. This was the first clear-cut case of fraudulent dealings on the part of Congress. Close examination of subsequent Congressional dealings shows a record of continued fraud covered over by pious statements of concern for their words.” Vine Deloria Jr

I wonder if the Indian agents held their hand over portions of the treaty or wrote in such small lettering that most people could not read. It may have been perhaps using Old English lettering and only having taught in Times Roman fonts, which would bewilder most educated people even today. This concerted effort by those in control throughout American History was even condemned by the US government who were themselves, orchestrating much of it, as shown by Joel Spring in his book.

 “The US Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare issued in 1969 the report Indian Education: A National Tragedy-A national Challenge. The report opened with a statement condemning previous educational policies of the Federal government: “A careful review of the historical literature reveals that the dominant policy of the Federal Government toward the American Indian has been one of forced assimilation…. Because of a desire to divest the Indian of his land”, Joel Spring

In many ways, it was a naivety that undermined the Indians in their dealings with the Europeans and, eventually US Government. But it was also an inherent trust that bound the various tribes and peoples together. There was no fine print to an Indian; his word was bond. It would be many years and near extinction till Indians realized the treachery. Kent Nerburn writes extensively about Native Peoples Spirituality and offers.

“The rule of mutual legal compact, with its European roots, had no precedent among the individualistic native peoples of the continent. In addition, the idea of land as personnel property, a key principle on which the United States was basing its treaties, was alien to the native people. How could one own the land?” Kent Nerburn

Our current curriculum study shows many overlapping and residual effects, and it goes far beyond just Native Peoples. Those in power write fine print for one reason so that is not read and essentially control the overall outcome and direction of whatever is in question. My position is we have been as a people continually dealt with agreements; contracts riffed with the fine print regarding education and curriculum to a point it has become what we expect.

Each year teachers sign their contract with numerous areas of extremely fine print. Daily we are being handed fine print in the news and through the media about Ukraine, Iran, Iraq, politics, religion, and many too numerous to mention, including our president-elect by the electoral college. Maybe one day, we can indeed have a democracy in our democratic nation funny thing is educator John Dewey said and felt the best way to ensure democracy was through a democratic classroom. So, as I set my thoughts to paper and close for this morning, please help others read the fine print, and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

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Being human

Bird Droppings September 20, 2021
Being human

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” Mother Teresa

Such a simple opportunity for us as humans and we have been given that with recent events be it floods, earthquakes, mining disasters, poverty, and so many more events worldwide that impact feeding people. We live in a time when we have plenty often so much more than we need so evident with the greed that has permeated most of our society and extravagances that seem to be on nearly every channel reality shows. I have been watching news stories where entertainers and businesspeople offer a million dollars here and there, I am sure Mother Theresa would smile at that. But I am also sure that those of us who only have a dollar would garner just as big of smile from this great humanitarian in her time if we gave our only dollar.

“Abandon wrongdoing. It can be done. If there were no likelihood, I would not ask you to do it. But since it is possible and since it brings blessing and happiness, I do ask of you: abandon wrongdoing. Cultivate doing good. It can be done. If it brought deprivation and sorrow, I would not ask you to do it. But since it brings blessing and happiness, I do ask of you: cultivate doing good.” Anguttara Nikaya

I was going through my files when I found some photos from several years ago. I was taking photos of new construction at my old school and as I walked out noticed a plowed spot that had been simply a barren piece of ground it was being cultivated and of course a few more photos. It made me think back in my own life years ago when we moved to a piece of land where over many years’ nature had reduced the land to patches of cultivatable land between kudzu and overgrowth. We spent the better part of two years clearing debris and scrub. So that where there were a few acres of cleared land we then had pasture and trees growing. I did allow hedge rows and areas for quail and wildlife however after consulting with my extension agent it was not a clear-cut operation. However, the old cars and tractors and old buildings covered in kudzu were removed. As humans we need to cultivate our own lives as well through reading and thinking.

“Self-discipline motivated by concern for others: this has been the standard of conduct which I have attempted to reach.” Roger Barnes

Looking at this short statement it is a simple thought yet very deep. So often we focus solely on self and forget there are many others we meet each day.

“So, I vowed to keep myself alive, but only if I would never use me again for just me — each one of us is born of two, and we really belong to each other. I vowed to do my own thinking, instead of trying to accommodate everyone else’ opinion, credo’s, and theories. I vowed to apply my inventory of experiences to the solving of problems that affect everyone aboard planet Earth.” Buckminster Fuller

This is a big IF ONLY what if each of us adhered to Buckminster Fuller’s adage and tried to solve the world’s problems and not simply our own.

“The charities that soothe and heal and bless are scattered at the feet of man like flowers.” William Wordsworth

Often, I have used the illustration of translation and perception with a simple word from The New Testament, Agape. In Greek agape translates as a supreme love, a love of Gods. All with agape, Eros and philos are each aspects and definitions of love. When translating the word in the early days of the Church of England the word was translated as charity in the King James translation. As I read Wordsworth it struck me is not our highest form of love that which we can show towards another at no desire for return a totally one way love a giving.

“Man is harder than rock and more fragile than an egg.” Yugoslav Proverb

“That in man which cannot be domesticated is not his evil but his goodness.” Antonio Porchia

“Man is the only creature that refuses to be what he is.” Albert Camus

Is it who we are? Is it what we are? Is it why we are that causes the difficulties? I have watched the most callous person cry and adorable little girl veer into a banshee wail at the drop of a hat. I have observed humankind in its depravity and in its charity. One day that has stuck with me was walking through the prison ward of a mental hospital. Bold yellow lines separated us from them, but the stares went to the marrow of our bones. These were men who had killed raped and pillaged society and were deemed too sick mentally to stand trial and or were sentenced to this place. At one point in their lives each started as a fragile baby, each at one time was innocent.

“A human being: an ingenious assembly of portable plumbing.” Christopher Morley

“The universe may have a purpose, but nothing we know suggests that, if so, this purpose has any similarity to ours.” Bertrand Russell

“Ocean: A body of water occupying two-thirds of a world made for man who has no gills.” Ambrose Bierce

“Man is harder than iron, stronger than stone and more fragile than a rose.” Turkish Proverb

Pieces of a puzzle thrown in a box jumbled mixed up swished around and then scattered about that is the summation of life. We search and search and slowly unravel and discover each piece each facet and as we slowly regain understanding. We find we are little more than when we started if at all if we are looking for the destination. If we are looking at the journey than each piece each nuance has significance and reason and purpose.

“Man is the only kind of varmint sets his own trap, baits it, and then steps in it.” John Steinbeck

We are the varmint and the trap and the bait which is interesting. Can we change this can we escape this inevitable circular motion that is self-perpetuating?

“In nature a repulsive caterpillar turns into a lovely butterfly. But with humans it is the other way around: a lovely butterfly turns into a repulsive caterpillar.” Anton Chekhov

As I sit here having pondered and wandered this day and ending on a riddle of sorts, I do believe we do escape even though rarely. We can regain that butterfly. We can make are way back and not fall victim to our own bait and trap. We can answer the questions and solve the mysteries. We can walk unimpeded midst the yellow lines and stare back. We can if we choose to and if we choose to feed that one instead of waiting to feed a hundred and never feeding any. If we choose to keep in our thoughts those who need our understanding and giving and if we choose to look beyond the caterpillar and see the butterfly in others, we can make a difference. But most of all we do have a choice. 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)

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