Turning an ugly face jug

Bird Droppings November 3, 2011
Turning an ugly face jug

It has been a few years since the last time I talked with and watched the late Cleater Meadors turn a jug on the potter’s wheel at Mossy Creek Arts and Crafts fair in Perry Georgia. A simple lump of clay in a skilled artist’s hands can become a work of art as each moment passes. In today’s world of folk art collecting, Cleater Meador’s pots and jugs fetch many thousands of dollars. He learned the family trade as he was the nephew of the world renowned folk potter Lanier Meadors and the son of Cheever Meadors also a renowned potter, and Lanier’s brother. That is if you are looking up folk potting in Brothers in clay by Burrison, 1983.
As I thought about Mr. Meadors and the many fond memories of days gone by I saw a similarity to education. How do we see our students that come into our rooms each day? Do we see them as unique, like the ugly face jugs of mountain potters that have no restraints in size or shape or do the current legislative policies limit us to seeing them as a just a commodity, research based, or a standard much like the graduated cylinder with a very specific and fixed amount of space that we are required to fill?
My middle son by chance graduated from Georgia Tech and when he was eight years of age had the opportunity to be hands on with Mr. Meadors at his wheel making a small pot. I asked my son recently if he remembered that time and he recalled each step in the process. I asked him if he remembered his third grade teacher and how she taught and he did not recall her name let alone what he was taught. A few moments spent working with an artist is long remembered in minute detail and yet his third grade year in school somehow escapes him. Are we missing something in this standardized system that is becoming education? As I watch within my own school system piece by piece we are losing art, creativity, imagination in classes and in our children.

“When we say that a work of art is an experiment in living, we mean exactly that it presents to us the pros and cons, what it feels like to be a murderer or the victim as a result of which you feel somehow that you have entered into the lives of other people.” J. Bronowski, The Visionary Eye

Maybe we should consider our students as works of art rather than commodities. As I tried and understand how my son recalled that moment with Mr. Meadors so clearly, and yet his class-work and teacher seemed forgotten I wondered about our educational system and Bronowski statements. Bronowski was a teacher and he said “you have to touch people” in his television series, it is about emotions and feelings and living. I use the phrase from my Dewey studies of giving context to content and I thought to my own classroom. I try to provide to my students all of whom all are classified as being in special education and many are emotionally behaviorally disturbed, opportunities for discovery. My room is a cornucopia of things from a 1955 Tonka truck, photos everywhere, posters, daily quotes from famous authors, to Stevie, the ball python and the rest of our zoo. It is by no means a sterile environment. I try and put context in the content. I try and instill imagination and creativity.

“How strange should curriculum become? Unless one can see the possible in or beyond the actual, they cannot frame a moral ideal of what ought to be; they are slaves to the actual. Imagination acquires moral import in the effort to unite the real and the ideal. Imagination is the chief instrument of the good…the ideal factors in every moral outlook and human loyalties are imaginative. In the active relation between ideal and actual imaginative art may become more religious than religions…. art is more moral than moralities. Spirituality involves expanded perception; therefore, education in all fields must involve educating the creative imagination.” John Dewey

We need to go beyond content, beyond the traditional rhetoric of compliance to standards, and we need to imagine and we are losing this. Dewey continued this idea of as he discussed the idea of spiritual in reference to art and expanding creative imagination. There is so much more to curriculum for teaches to consider.

“Education must ensure that not only the material but the inward life of the individual be developed. Education should address not the isolated intellect, as the advocates of standards suggest it ought, but the hopes and dreams of the self of which intellect – the complex reflective self – is merely a part.” Allan Block

Can we come back to imagination, context, and creativity, and the individual? How do we try and rekindle that desire in teachers and most importantly in students? Please my friends keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and let us look inward.
namaste
bird

Into the depth of our souls

Bird Droppings January 26, 2011
Into the depth of our souls

I watched most of the State of the Union Address last night but being as I normally fall asleep about nine o’clock it was rough. I felt good listening to what was said in the first half hour. Part of my problem with staying up late is I like morning and by three thirty this morning I was reading responses to the SOTUA. I almost wonder how some people think on both sides of the political arena. Repeal health care comes out loud and clear but in the next breath when my government frees health care start as one freshman congressman was heard asking. All of this provides fodder for the satirists be it cartoonists who for me are where the deepest cuts can be seen in the editorial pages of the newspapers that are left. Drawing political cartoons is almost a dying art form. Then the political satirist of comedy central lay waste to all that is left and for years I have always been amazed at how Steven Colbert has milked the conservative image for more than it is worth.
However I have an issue with humor that plays to our dark sides. Perhaps even primitive aspects of who we are. We see it in movies like Jack Ass and the humor that is portrayed narrowing in on human frailties and often disabilities. John Stewart and Steven Colbert are mild compared to South Park for example. Stewart and Colbert are on a higher intellectual plane than South Park but audiences thrive on it sadly enough. I think it is this aspect of humanity that allows the atrocities of man to happen as well. I remember once in Sixth grade a girl in special education who lived in the worst part of the community not even public housing but in shacks along the river outside town. The joke was calling people names derived from that community and or specifically people that lived there. I look back and I know I probably did this as well yet maybe it is my karma to be making up for my part working with the kids I do now. I still cringe when I hear the word retard even more so than the n-word. I am reading the philosopher Foucault currently and much of his base in this book is focused on mental institutions and “normal” versus “abnormal” and I wonder as I read and see watching more so previous American Idol shows and how judges belittle people, some who are special needs, what a sad state our society is in.

“Humor is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humor; for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit.” Aristotle

Often having been in the teaching of special needs kids when with other teachers who have been in similar situations we will joke about events of the past, not at a students expense as much as the moment and ourselves. It might be about being bitten or changing a really nasty diaper or having to chase a student across campus. This is often common place in some settings. One of my favorites over the years was an OCD student who once asked me fifty four times if he could hold our class room pet, Stevie the wonder snake, a ball python. I ignored him and was working at my computer this was before school and a general education student who did not have the capacity for patience and or ignoring that I do final blurted out to the young man, “I love you” and tapped him on the shoulder. He took off to farthest corner in the room, she then asked me “did you not hear him” and I said I use planned ignoring and really did not after three or four times. I still have contact with this OCD student and he is in his early twenties not in school and unable to work because of his disability. When our last principal took over eight years ago this former student was so terrified from middle school of this man he couldn’t be in the same building so he sat at home and watched TV.

“Humor is also a way of saying something serious.” T. S. Eliot

As I think and wonder maybe it is seeing the issues at hand and simply using as a medium for truth for opening eyes as I look at some of the dark humor of our time – but I do not see people viewing that way – I see people watching a movie or show and laughing – at often human frailty – human aspects – Over the past weeks I have written several papers dealing with the search for the human soul – An aspect that Jung, Hillman, and Moore all psychologists and authors write extensively on –

“Education must ensure that not only the material but the inward life of the individual be developed. Education should address not the isolated intellect, as the advocates of standards suggest it ought, but the hopes and dreams of the self of which intellect – the complex reflective self – is merely a part.” Allan Block

We in public education get so caught up in testing, pretesting, predictor testing and testing of testing we lose sight of who children really are and or could be. I have used the term funneling in several articles I have written that is forcing as much as possible into a bottle through a funnel and seeing how much will over flow. It is often these aspects of individuality and context for example that get left behind when we funnel in teaching.

“Piercing through the illusions of modern life is extremely difficult, given a culture where advertising and other media forms are organized so persistently to produce mass public deception” D. G. Smith

This is an ongoing issue that we have in finding who we are and why. The illusions, Smith, continues, “Obliterate the lines between fact and fiction”.
We live in a society where deception is part of life. We listen to politicians tell us what we want to hear and or think we want to hear and we follow blindly. Why do we have to win a war “divisively”? Why do we even want to be in a war? I was very frustrated listening and knowing how much was based on deception on lies and yet billed as we have to keep going what ever it takes in regards to our current armed conflicts. In all of this we slowly lose our humanity.

“Maybe this is the time to embark collectively on a new long journey inward, not for the purpose simply of celebrating our personal or collective subjectivities, but for the more noble one of laying down the outward things that enslave us.” D. G. Smith

This inner look is mentioned often as psychologists and theologians struggle with the concept of who we are.

“We need to know more of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself” Carl G. Jung

Uncovering our past and memories is part of looking at who we are. The idea that soul or spirit is just confined to religion can be seen in the understanding of what constitutes that inner search. A word used often as a search word is faith and is explained in Dr. James Fowler’s book The Development of Faith published in 1981.

“Faith is not always religious in its content or context. To ask these questions of oneself does not necessarily mean to elicit answers about religious commitment or belief. Faith is a persons or groups way of moving into the force field of life.”

The search and looking within trying to understand who we are trying to find soul is part of who we are. It is what makes us human and drives how we interact with the existing world and how we perceive that world. Spirit is then who we are subjectively?

“The subjective side of spirit is nature, matter and human life. But this subjective side that moves through us is unconscious” Dr. Marla Morris, Georgia Southern University, Department of Education

“Somewhere between reality and fantasy, between need and want, between the affect and the idea, and between dependency and autonomy, there can emerge the material from which the subject spins a life” Deborah Britzman

We end in metaphysical subjectivity as to what is this entity of spirit and or soul? Deciphering the concept of soul which too often is tied to a religious connotation is challenging. Thomas Moore a student of James Hillman, who was a student of Carl G. Jung, was a former priest and is now a psychologist and counselor defines soul in this way.

“Soul is not a thing, but a quality or dimension of experiencing life and ourselves. It has to do with the depth value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance. I do not use the word here as an object of religious belief or something to do with immortality. When we say someone has soul we know what we mean.” Thomas Moore

“Renaissance philosophers often said that it is the soul that makes us human. We can turn around and note that is when we are most human we have the greatest access to soul” Thomas Moore

Mary Aswell Doll in the introduction to her book Like letters in running Water, includes in her thoughts her interdisciplinary studies with religion and psychology that help probe the inner workings of soul. It is only through coming to terms with inner understanding that we can address outer concerns. It takes inner looks to stir and fire up the imagination and to build and develop ideas and expand learning.

“To talk about the “soul”, we might as well say inner life of children. My latest book Education and the soul talks about Soul in a moral sense, which is really taken out of a religious sense” Jack Miller

It is that inner being of who are that is our soul. Is it soul that we are leaving behind in our effort to be the ultimate consumer? Is it to produce children who can test and test well and take another test and do well? Is it to make children who will listen without questioning the deceit of politicians and advertising and buy products they do not need and support wars not needed and politicians who are not needed many times? Today I have so many thoughts to ponder but as always please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Looking into the depth of soul

Bird Droppings November 18, 2010
Looking into the depth of our souls

I received an email from a dear friend nearly three years ago after writing about humor and it truly made me think and as I pondered last night I responded to the note the following morning and it scares me how we can humorize our dark side often to a point of distain or callousness:

Dear Bird,
How about the humor of John Stewart and S. Colbert? Does anyone ever think that some incidents are too sensitive or horrendous to allow for satire or humor?
Frances

My response: I have an issue with humor that plays to our dark sides at times. It might be conceived perhaps as even being a part of that primitive aspect of who we are. Movies like Jack Ass 3D and the humor portrayed, John Stewart and Stephen Colbert are mild compared to South Park for example. Stewart and Colbert are on a higher intellectual plane than South Park and Jackass. But the audiences thrive on it sadly enough. I think it is this aspect of humanity that allows the atrocities of man to happen as well. I remember once in Sixth grade a girl in special education who lived in the worst part of the community it was not even public housing but shacks along the river outside town. The joke was calling people names derived from that community and or specific people that lived there. I look back and I know I probably did this as well. Maybe it is my karma to be making up for my part being in education today. I still cringe when I hear the word retard even more so than the n-word. I am reading on Foucault again and much of the base in this book is focused on mental institutions and “normal” versus “abnormal” and I wonder as I read and see watching American Idol and how judges belittle people some who are special needs what a sad state our society is in. bird

“Humor is the only test of gravity, and gravity of humor; for a subject which will not bear raillery is suspicious, and a jest which will not bear serious examination is false wit.” Aristotle

Often having been in teaching of special needs kids when with other teachers who have been in similar situations we will joke about events of the past not at a students expense as much as the moment and ourselves. It might be being bitten or changing a really nasty diaper for example. They are often common place in some settings. One of my favorites over the years was an OCD student who once asked me 54 times if he could hold our class room pet Stevie the wonder snake, a ball python. I ignored him and was working at my computer and this was before school. A general education student who did not have the capacity for patience and or ignoring that I do final blurted out to the young man “I love you” and tapped him on the shoulder. He took off to farthest corner in the room. She then asked me did I not hear him and I said I use planned ignoring and really did not after three or four times. I still have contact with this OCD student and he is now twenty two or so and did not finish school which is another story. When our last principal took over nine years ago this OCD student was so terrified from middle school of this man he couldn’t be in the same building. So he sits at home and watches TV in effect his disability keeps him from life.

“Humor is also a way of saying something serious.” T. S. Eliot

As I think and wonder maybe it is seeing the issues at hand and simply using humor as a medium for truth for opening eyes as I look at some of the dark humor of our time. But I do not see people viewing that way in all situations. I see people watching a movie or show and laughing often at human frailty and human aspects. Over the past weeks I have written several papers dealing with the search for the human soul. This is an aspect that Carl Jung, James Hillman, and Thomas Moore all renowned psychologists and authors write extensively on.

“Education must ensure that not only the material but the inward life of the individual be developed. Education should address not the isolated intellect, as the advocates of standards suggest it ought, but the hopes and dreams of the self of which intellect – the complex reflective self – is merely a part.” Allan Block

We get so caught up in testing, pretesting, predictor testing and testing of testing we lose sight of who children really are and could be. I have used the term funneling which is forcing as much as possible into a bottle through a funnel and sadly much will over flow. It is often these aspects of individuality and context for example that get left behind.

“Piercing through the illusions of modern life is extremely difficult, given a culture where advertising and other media forms are organized so persistently to produce mass public deception” D. G. Smith

Smith, points to an ongoing issue we have in finding who we are and why.

The illusions “obliterate the lines between fact and fiction”. We live in a society where deception is part of life. We listen to politicians tell us what we want to hear and or think we want to hear and we follow blindly. Why do we have to win a war “divisively”? Why do we even ….. ? I was very frustrated listening and knowing how much was based on deception on lies and yet billed as we have to keep going what ever it takes. A recent election shows as we slowly lose are humanity.

“Maybe this is the time to embark collectively on a new long journey inward, not for the purpose simply of celebrating our personal or collective subjectivities, but for the more noble one of laying down the outward things that enslave us.” D. G. Smith

This inner look is mentioned often as psychologists and theologians struggle with the concept of who we are.

“We need to know more of human nature, because the only real danger that exists is man himself” Carl G. Jung

Uncovering our past and memories is part of looking at who we are. The idea that soul or spirit is just confined to religion can be seen in the understanding of what constitutes that inner search. A word used often as a search word is faith and is explained in Dr. James Fowler’s book The Development of Faith published in 1981.

“Faith is not always religious in its content or context. To ask these questions of oneself does not necessarily mean to elicit answers about religious commitment or belief. Faith is a persons or groups way of moving into the force field of life.” Dr. James Fowler

The search and looking within trying to understand who we are trying to find soul is part of who we are. It is what makes us human and drives how we interact with the existing world and how we perceive that world.

“The subjective side of spirit is nature, matter and human life. But this subjective side that moves through us is unconscious” Dr. Marla Morris

Spirit is then who we are subjectively?

“Somewhere between reality and fantasy, between need and want, between the affect and the idea, and between dependency and autonomy, there can emerge the material from which the subject spins a life” Deborah Britzman

We end so often in metaphysical subjectivity as to what is this entity of spirit and or soul might actually be? Deciphering the concept of soul which too often is tied to a religious connotation is challenging. Thomas Moore, a student of James Hillman, and a former priest and now psychologist and counselor defines soul.

“Soul is not a thing, but a quality or dimension of experiencing life and ourselves. It has to do with the depth value, relatedness, heart, and personal substance. I do not use the word here as an object of religious belief or something to do with immortality. When we say someone has soul we know what we mean.” Thomas Moore

“Renaissance philosophers often said that it is the soul that makes us human. We can turn around and note that is when we are most human we have the greatest access to soul” Thomas Moore

Mary Aswell Doll in the introduction to her book Like letters in running Water, includes in her thoughts her interdisciplinary studies with religion and psychology that help probe the inner workings of soul. It is only through coming to terms with inner understanding that we can address outer concerns. It takes inner looks to stir and fire up the imagination and to build and develop ideas and expand learning.

“To talk about the “soul”, we might as well say inner life of children. My latest book Education and the soul talks about Soul in a moral sense, which is really taken out of a religious sense” Jack Miller

It is that inner being of who are that is our soul? Is it soul that we are leaving behind in our effort to be the ultimate consumer? Is it soul in that consummate effort to produce children who can test and test well and take another test and do well? Is soul developing constituents who will listen without questioning the deceit of politicians and advertising and buy products they do not need and support wars not needed and politicians who are not needed? There are so many thoughts to ponder this early in the morning but please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird