Sometimes we can offer a sigh of relief

Bird Droppings November 10, 2011
Sometimes we can offer a sigh of relief

“It is about learning not about teaching.”
Dr. Max Thompson

A semester is nearing the end and my daily journey for this semester will end. But it is a relief in some ways. While I have really enjoyed the classes, students and teachers I am working with it in many ways it is still a learning process for me. I have been working the past few days with a young man who is in our Early Childhood Education program. One of his projects is to write a philosophy of education which over the several years of graduate school I have done now several times. Each time it evolves and grows. I am hoping as I help this fellow finish his own philosophy he will gain an understanding of what education is all about. In my own defining I often look to Jean Piaget and his ideas on educating children. .

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

Maybe someday I will be famous too for studying my own kids or grandkids, yet out of that narrow window of research came some very insightful ideas on children and education. Something that intrigues me however is how much time Piaget spent with his children observing listening and I have always wondered if he interacted.

“I am entirely certain that twenty years from now we will look back at education as it is practiced in most schools today and wonder that we could have tolerated anything so primitive.” John W. Gardner

Interesting how John Dewey who died in 1952 was making statements like this in 1914 John Garner was making this statement in

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

Several times as I have written I have borrowed from Sidney J. Harris who compared education to stuffing a sausage or finding a fine pearl, which would we prefer. Many so called teachers liken education to the bucket filler we only have this amount to put in and then it’s full in this confined space, limited space at that. I prefer to think that a child is like a vast field or forest and when applied correctly and in a manner appropriate fire can make that field grow and flourish, a controlled burn, years ago lightening would do it now with society so restrictive it is controlled. This is somehow so similar to education.

“Education is too important to be left solely to the educators.” Francis Keppel

We are each directly involved in our own education as well as the education of every person we come in contact with. We are teachers to friends, family and even our teachers, professors and even enemies. Education is something that occurs continually not simply in school or college but it is elemental to existence.

“Education, we see, is not merely gaining knowledge or skills helpful toward productive work, though certainly that is a part of it. Rather it is replenishment and an expansion of the natural thirst of the mind and soul. Learning is a gradual process of growth, each step building upon the other. It is a process whereby the learner organizes and integrates not only facts but attitudes and values. We have been told that we must open our minds and our hearts to learn. There is a Chinese proverb: Wisdom is as the moon rises, perceptible not in progress but in result. As our knowledge is converted to wisdom, the door to opportunity is unlocked.” Barbara W. Winder

So education is far more than the confines of school of a class it is a task we are participating in from the day we are born till the day we cease to function as human beings upon the earth.

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Chinese Proverb

For many years I had upon my wall a banner with this saying, a simple concept, but when you apply it to knowledge to education it becomes so much more powerful.

“Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation.” John F. Kennedy

Dreams and aspirations can be achieved through education, we can and will fulfill our dreams if we continue to learn, to advance in our journey in life. It is those who halt who stagnant and flounder in the stream who never achieves their dreams. A movie title “What dreams may come?” Actually more about a concept of afterlife but as I look back life here now is what we make of it.

“Our dreams, and if we can think of it we can attain it” Frank E. Bird Jr.

My dad once told me that when I was a child and as I think back watching him putter with pieces of plastic, metal and such on the kitchen table, nearly fifty years ago. He was looking at various safety toe shoes as he puttered. I wasn’t sure what was going on but somewhere he had an idea a dream and eventually it became a metatarsal guard for heavy industry and reduced foot injuries and damage significantly. Dreams aided by education and we can accomplish anything.

“Nurture your mind with great thoughts, for you will never go any higher than you think.” Benjamin Disraeli

It is Thursday morning and a our week is over since tomorrow is a holiday and to finish off one last quote from nearly 3000 years ago and with that have a great week and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

“Only the educated are free.” Epictetus

Looking for truth in an untruthful world

Bird Droppings May 6, 2011
Looking for truth in an untruthful world

I am later than normal getting to my writing as I was lazy earlier and spent a bit longer pondering the stars. It is the last day for another week of spring but here in Georgia the mornings have been a bit nippy the crickets and frogs have been silent. My dog decided to celebrate early getting me up almost before I was good and asleep. My youngest son and his wife headed south to Florida to visit my daughter in laws family and get in some beach time since college is finished till summer for them. It was a very strange evening not seeing my grand daughter in her room when I left for school or taking pictures last evening. I was discussing grand parenthood the other day with a fellow new grand parent and how it is so much fun watching the babies grow and learn. When my own were this age I was more concerned with feeding and clothing than observing and playing. Although we played a lot as they grew up.
Fortunately it was at about two this morning clear, the stars were out for the first time in a few days, we have had a lot of rain for which I will not complain about, as it has been so dry for so many summers. This will be actually one of the first in several years’ getting on towards Memorial Day that boaters in our Georgia lakes for their weekend will have a slightly more than full lake. It was not to far back we were bone dry and getting back from fifteen feet down took some time.
I was reading through my old yearbooks and entries by students who had signed it many not really my students but kids who stop by on a regular basis asking questions, holding Stevie the ball python, needing advice, or just because I happen to have a sofas in my room to sit on. Each one had similar connotations and touched my heart. As I am sitting writing another staff member just emailed where is your Bird Dropping’s on my Friday morning. Funny how something so simple in a routine can alter a day and hopefully my few moments of delay will be worth it.
Children see the world differently than adults and sadly most teachers never realize that. Piaget actually made reference numerous times in his writings and lectures to this point. In trying to understand children and even adults in all of the years I have observed and watched the world, I have found trust has been a focal point for building relationships with children and adults. We live in a world that forces us to distrust and this compounds the issue. Sadly we live in an untruthful world which is easy to see as we watch the financial debacles unfold and how many unscrupulous business people made fortunes while others struggled. In our own county insurance companies took in premiums and never generated policies as an example of a local business run amock. Millions of dollars were made for the agents and now as people are ready to retire or get injured and they have nothing. Several have gone to jail over that. I still find it interesting that Bernie Madoff was just on house arrest for so long for over fifty billion dollars in swindles and even now has had oppurtinities for vacations outside jail a time or two.

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

Sometimes in the simplest way we can get a point across but nothing can describe more adequately than example.

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

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

As I read what these great thinkers have to say about truth it is sad that they see truth as an uncommon commodity something that is few and far between. We watch news and read newspapers each day and choose to believe or not believe what we see. One of my favorite heroes Bat boy, is having plastic surgery to look normal was the title of a grocery store tabloid back a fed days. One of my favorites was when Bill Clinton was in office and he was having an affair with an alien. Most of us see these doctored photos and total fabrications and pass them off as such but some people do take to heart. There are many who believe Apollo missions were total fabrication even with evidence debunking theories as to why the missions were faked and the thousands of people who would have to have been involved to cover it up and numerous other events in history that many of us consider to be real.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We so easily get caught up in deceit because this is what we want to hear truth may be painful or difficult to take and so the fabrication becomes the reality. A movie from a few years back portrays the world of a schizophrenic, A beautiful Mind. Dr, John Nash is played by Russell Crowe very convincingly. Dr. Nash eventually realizes the duplicity of his reality and learns to deal with it. Many of us never accept the unreal we create each day as we fabricate and manipulate that around us. We are brought up expecting untruth and we have professionals and politicians who work at telling half truths and fabricating to do their jobs and sadly they run the country. Wouldn’t it be an interesting world if politicians could take a medicine and become truthful sort of like Jim Careys character in Lier, and then we wouldn’t have a use for politicians and anyone could run for office?
Would it not be great if we could know the president was telling the truth or which ever politician is on TV? As I look at this concept it is truly sad.

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

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

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

We live in a society where morality is bantered about as a catch word. We live in a world where peace is elusive often because truth is no where to be found. We live in a world where politicians are counting how many times the other side has changed their minds and or rhetoric on issues. We live in a world where many are in harms way and many are due to untruths which we then justify by additional information and rationales mostly untrue. Do we even remember what and why? So as we sit reading and writing this morning please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.