Why am I looking for data in a data-less environment?

Bird Droppings February 12, 2018
Why am I looking for data in a data-less environment?

 

I read earlier this morning a dialogue of sorts from a young man who is currently serving in the military. He is trying to decide on his future as he pieces together in his dialogue options and possibilities not just in his immediate moments but days ahead and in the process asking for suggestions and thoughts on the various options he presents. It was interesting reading and moving through his process of elimination and multiple choice responses almost while in the first person from a differing view analytical and calculating. Essentially his process was taxonomy of job futures. If then this and if that then this. I began to think back to my own choice nearly sixteen years ago to return to teaching after a twenty plus year vacation away.

 

“I’d rather be a failure at something I enjoy than a success at something I hate.” George Burns

 

I could easily wager most of you have never seen George Burns on TV or in a movie but then he only recently in the past few years passed away at 100 years old. George Burns and Gracie Allen were a husband and wife comedy team staple dating back to vaudeville. Gracie passed away many years ago and George continued acting in films and on the stage for many years always with his trade mark cigar in hand.

 

“It’s simply a matter of doing what you do best and not worrying about what the other fellow is going to do.” John R. Amos

 

Several years back I designated my class room name as SUCCESS 101 in a joking sort of way. Yet for some students being a success is a unique proposition. Cheering on all students in school has become a passion for me, coaching, leading, guiding students to succeed on tests and papers and to eventually graduate from high school has become my mission in life.

 

“The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration.” Pearl S. Buck

 

Perhaps I am passing by Mr. Burns original point it is not simply success that is important. Mr. Amos adds “doing what you do best” and community is added by Ms. Buck noted anthropologist and student of humanity. It isn’t only about success it is being happy and finding joy within what you do.

 

“Success is important only to the extent that it puts one in a position to do more things one likes to do.” Sarah Caldwell

 

“Real joy comes not from ease or riches or from the praise of men, but from doing something worthwhile.” Pierre Coneille
Even on days when you could swear a full moon is out and students are on the verge of perhaps somewhat less than, approaching that point that would bring sweat to your brow it should still be fun. You know what, it is still fun in all of it even when nothing seems right and then is still right, and it still should be fun. When you can have joy and happiness in what you do then you are finding success, regardless of whatever assessment tool or what others think. When a student wants to come to class when a student will rather stay in class doing what they do not want to do or so they say they do not then maybe just maybe success is near.

 

“Occasionally in life there are those moments of unutterable fulfillment which cannot be completely explained by those symbols called words. Their meanings can only be articulated by the inaudible language of the heart.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

It has been a while since sitting in a research class and listening to an instructor explain about evaluative measurement and how data is something you can see and measure. Also adding that touchy feely stuff while possibly existing cannot be adequately measured. I was thinking to myself one of the greatest aspects of humanity is touch, it is that no measurable quality that we innately have within ourselves of feelings of the touchy feely. Can we truly measure happiness or joy or better yet that Jungian term synchronicity? Many years ago the two partners split over measurability of science versus “the touchy feely”. Jung knew something else existed that affected human nature something beyond Freud’s measurable data. He spent his life looking and defining that aspect of humanity and as Dr. King offers in his quote “the inaudible language of the heart” may be that aspect.

 

“Warm weather fosters growth: cold weather destroys it. Thus a man with an unsympathetic temperament has a scant joy: but a man with a warm and friendly heart overflowing blessings, and his beneficence will extend to posterity” Hung Tzu-Cheng

 

What is in a man’s heart is what leads and drives a person forward in life and it is that aspect that guides our next step across the stream and keeps us from slipping on the wet rocks.

 

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

 

It wasn’t too long ago I offered up the experiment of smiling at people. Have you tried it? Simply decide to smile for a day and then look at responses from people around you. Not just smiling and grinning or staring at people, but a sincere smile. You will be amazed at how people respond. More often than not people smile back and personally I would rather be around people smiling than frowning. I have used so many times this thought from Albert Einstein in my wanderings.

 

“The real difficulty, the difficulty which has baffled the sages of all times, is rather this: how can we make our teaching so potent in the motional life of man, that its influence should withstand the pressure of the elemental psychic forces in the individual? “ Albert Einstein

 

Freud and Jung have split many scientist and teachers, those who want to have a measurable commodity to focus on and as Einstein quotes there is human nature to contend with. So how do we make our lessons so potent as to withstand the pressure of the measurable how do we take the immeasurable and find substance in it? Can we measure heart? Can we find a way to understand why we respond beyond empirical data? Maybe one day we will and all of Jung’s searching will be not have been in vain. Until then the journey continues 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

Hearing an owl

Bird Droppings February 10, 2018

Hearing an owl

 

“If you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, growing double dahlias in his garden. He will not be searching for happiness as if it were a collar button that has rolled under the radiator.” W. Beran Wolfe

 

Within this life we want to feel as if we are pursuing happiness. Many people feel that this aspect, happiness, of who we are is illusionary and so many times as I look at various students, former students, and friends and associates it may be. Is it the peer pressure perhaps, the group psyche coming into play and molding that which we see and what we are perceiving others seeing into a common thread or weave though it may be purely in our minds.

 

For me however happiness is an individual entity, it is something from within not a transitory effort to have or to be like everyone else. I have become a fan of few television shows but have taken to watching NCIS lately and Gibbs, the main guy is always building a boat in his basement by hand even though we never know how he gets them out. It is while he is working with his hands on his boat you generally see a smile on his face.

 

While reading emails and looking through other electronic mailings and postings I happened to read one about how the ideal guy would wear specific clothiers or have specific hair color, eye color, or even physical build. Sadly nowhere it seems do we look deeper. We seems to want the trappings and it is this outward appearance and back to my first paragraph that is what seems to bring happiness to far too many. We want this ideal person to be who we want to be, and who we want to be around.

 

As I do so many mornings walking out into the darkness listening to the sounds of the night and or morning as today seemed to be. I had awakened from a very vivid dream and gathered myself and let our husky out only to encounter two owls calling across the stillness and still chilled from the night. It was not raining although a front can be felt moving in unfortunately and the crickets and the tree frogs were silent from the chill. Perhaps the owls were on the hunt, my oldest son tells me often of being awakened by the owls hearing them at night out here in the country. I too hear them often but have never been awakened by them however this was my first experience hearing them so close as I went out.

 

The dueling owls went back and forth for several minutes in the stillness. As I sit here thinking and pondering still trying to recover from a cold, in my imagination so many myths and legends of owls. For some cultures there is great magic in owls for others they are harbingers of evil and death. But as I listened to the two back and forth mimicking calls perhaps territory perhaps a pair hunting perhaps the visages of spring have sparked a more sensual meaning to their calls.

 

For me there was not a fear but a sense of grandeur as the sounds soon dissipated. I wondered why tonight or I should say this morning as the crescent of moon gleamed in a clear sky about 4:30 AM or so. I pondered reading this simple quote that I started with by author Wolfe and then searching further.

 

“One important source of unhappiness is the habit of putting off living to some fictional future date. Men and women are constantly making themselves unhappy because in deferring their lives to the future they lose sight of the present and its golden opportunities for rich living.” W. Beran Wolfe

 

Perhaps the owls were a reminder of things needing to be done or of stopping the procrastinating. For there is joy in life for each of us now, it is not a distant event to be reached when the right clothes, job or thing is finished done or bought. Happiness, true happiness is now with us if we choose. It is in the contentment of knowing you have succeeded and you are where you need to be right this minute, this second. It is that all you have done in your life has been to get you here to this point. Wisdom is about accepting what and where you have been and are learning from this now. Happiness, true happiness is being content, and most of all it is about being alive. I am sitting here writing as the water from a bamboo and fish tank provides a relaxing venue for which to ponder.

 

I had wanted to work in the garden a bit more this week but between cleaning up in side and reading and writing ofr grad school I have put it off. It always amazes people when I say some of my happiest times have been sitting on the mower going in circles thinking, imagining, pondering and assuredly content for that moment. Please dear friends keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

 

“It does not require many words to speak the truth”

Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

Is it saying goodbye or is it hello?

Bird Droppings February 9, 2018
Is it saying goodbye or is it hello?

 

I was thinking about Boy Scouts and a recent memory from last year. It might have been the fact I had never pulled out my Eagle Scout card from 1967 in class before that got me thinking. While mired in controversy nationally in recent years the Boy Scouts of America have contributed greatly to our culture and country. However in today’s hurried and rushed society it seems fewer children are involved in Scouting. By chance two kids in one block at school were both active in troops in the area and asked me if I had ever been and it was a chance to talk Boy Scouts and I carry my worn and tattered Eagle Scout card in my wallet from so many years ago. It seemed almost yesterday however that it took me back about nine years to preparing for my father’s funeral July 1, 2007. It was exactly seventy years ago that day the first National Boy Scout Jamboree started in Washington D.C. and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed an official invitation to Boys Scouts’ nationwide. My dad was the Boy Scout of the year in New Jersey that particular year and of course going to the Jamboree. I had pulled out dad’s 1937 Jamboree neckerchief and his merit badge sash for my mother to put out at his service.
I have written so much on curriculum the past ten years as I work on my doctorate in curriculum studies. William Pinar is a leader in the field and addresses curriculum from its root “curre” which he loosely translates as to run the course. I have written on curriculum several times that it is our life, piece by piece, much more than simply a track of lesson plans as so many teachers have been told. My grandfather was a steam train engineer in New Jersey and in one paper I even used the analogy of a train track for curriculum. We stop here and there visit a bit a move on to the next station. Curriculum is more it is life even more so when you add the daily experiences that build our ability to learn and retain. My father all through his life would borrow from Native American lore and mythology. We grew up listening to stories of the great chief Little Strong-arm and numerous other stories from his experiences and imagination. In my own search in life I too have been drawn to a culture and faith in life that permeates Native American thought, one of sacredness in all. Many years ago a Sioux Holy Man had a vision which was recorded in the book by John Neihardt, Black Elk Speaks.

 

“You have noticed that everything as a human does is in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round….. The Sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nest in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours…. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk Oglala Sioux Holy Man 1863-1950

 

I wonder as I sit this morning pondering that day nearly ten years back and celebration of my father’s life. My father’s friends literally came from around the world to say their goodbyes. As a family we looked through thousands of old photos the night before sitting around remembering stories and events that had significance to each of us. I recalled my dad wanting buffalo which fascinated him and how when presented one Christmas with a buffalo robe he sat wrapped up watching TV for several days warm and cozy inside of his robe. We eventually had buffalo on the farm and so many fond memories of my father taking bread out to feed his buffalo. Living deep in the farm at the time Crowfoot’s message and thought was real for myself and my family growing up as we had buffalo grazing in our yard and during the night you could hear the great bull walk about guarding his cows and calves sniffing and snorting till he felt safe to rest.

 

“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” Crowfoot, Blackfoot warrior and orator

 

On that day in July ten years back we gathered as a family and with our friends to say our goodbyes but I truly believe it is only a minor station in my father’s journey. For many weeks after stories and memories flooded the mail, email and phone lines from his friends and our families as they recall trips and lectures and articles all of which made him who he was. Just yesterday as I did a web search I found an author arguing one of the mainstays of my father’s thinking an accident pyramid. He had first seen the idea in a German author’s work and then being with an insurance company at the time gathered data. Nearly one million incidents were covered in the research. The author stating my father’s idea was a myth said no research was used. In writing saying the pyramid of accidental effects was fiction he seemed to ignore the fact it was based on data accumulated from actual accidents. What struck me even more was he had no alternative. Basically accidents are an act of nature.

 

This past week the passage from Black Elk came back to haunt me. Ten years ago I used this passage in a wedding ceremony for a dear friend of my middle son’s. Jamie and Katie wanted a non-religious ceremony and wanted me to officiate. Not religious was easy but I had to get ordained. I finally got that taken care of and sat down and we planned the wedding. I should say they planned the wedding. Last Saturday my wife said John our son had called and was upset. Jamie had passed away. He had collapsed running a half marathon and could not be revived. Reading, listening to and watching videos and photos flash across social media reminded me of the power Jamie held in his soul.

 

In science we show energy cannot be destroyed only altered.  Religion often flaunts the soul and after life. If you do this you will get this and so forth. I do not argue with folks over their own version of what happens beyond conventional life. I tend to treasure the moments alive. It is in our living we accumulate the memories in others and moments and jot them down, take photos, video, and store away all of these for recall one day. I spent most of last week recalling memories and images of a young man. I started to think of a jig saw puzzle vision I had many years ago.

 

In my vision I saw millions of tiny intricate pieces falling into place. I could see the moments and seconds of my life as they fell into the vast image of the puzzle. I could not see what was forming only each tiny piece. As I thought this weekend of losing a friend or loved one and those pieces of our life’s puzzle coming out and going back on the table it hit me. I have beside me those pieces of my life to reflect on and recall. I look ahead watching and wondering what life has in store.
I have been sidetracked slightly thinking, wandering and pondering, while we say goodbye on one hand we embraced a hello to a new journey. Sitting here in the wee hours of a Monday it is amazing what thoughts a tattered Eagle Scout card will invoke. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

It is only a dropped feather?

Bird Droppings February 8, 2018

It is only a dropped feather?

“If we consider the eagle feather with its light and dark colors, we could argue that ‘the dark colors are more beautiful and, therefore, naturally more valuable,’ or vice versa. Regardless of which colors are more beautiful, or necessary, or valuable, the truth is the bottom line: Both colors come from the same feather, both are true, they are connected, and it takes both to fly.” Dr. Michael Garrett, Medicine of the Cherokee

 

A seemingly inconsequential event that of a bird dropping a feather only to be found along the way by someone like me or you. I am always amazed at how special that moment becomes. Maybe back when I started this morning venture of rising early to journal, read and write for me it was a way of dropping feathers and it seems nearly every day one or two emails reinforce my thoughts.

 

“All birds, even those of the same species, are not alike, and it is the same with animals and with human beings. The reason WakanTanka does not make two birds, or animals, or human beings exactly alike is because each is placed here by WakanTanka to be an independent individuality and to rely upon itself.” Shooter, Teton Sioux

 

It has been several years ago we had several large ferns on our front porch and I was checking the fern and forgot about the nest of purple finches who had adapted our ferns and front porch, three babies sat there looking at me as I checked the fern for moisture surprising me as much as I them. There were three tiny babies sitting huddled in a fern basket all expecting breakfast and it was only me. As I think back I am not sure who was the most scared, me by the shock of three hungry mouths gaping or those tiny birds with a big hand poking in checking the moisture of the fern.

 

“We learned to be patient observers like the owl. We learned cleverness from the crow, and courage from the jay, who will attack an owl ten times its size to drive it off its territory. But above all of them ranked the chickadee because of its indomitable spirit.” Tom Brown, Jr., The Tracker

 

It has been a few years since my first trip to Piedmont college and I am sure there will be many more to come as I am working on my doctorate in conjunction with several faculty members at Piedmont. However that first trip was one of meeting the Dean of Education for acceptance into the School of Education when I was working on my master’s degree. It seems I had forgotten getting accepted in the education department and that aspect of my journey, something you are to do first rather than last, be accepted into the education school. As I left the education building walking to the parking lot a flock of geese met me walking along weeding as they do across lawns at Piedmont back before the lake was drained, fifty or so Canadian geese scurrying about looking for tender shoots in the morning coolness. As I walked a bit of down crossed my path a tiny feather. I picked it up and my immediate thought was of Forrest Gump sitting on a bench waiting for a bus and the feather that starts and ends the movie.
I thought deeper as I saved the feather and still have it pressed in a book on my shelf. So often that little bit that tiny piece of fluff that we often miss it doesn’t have to be a feather it could be a kind word a hand shake a certificate from first grade for spelling everything right and it can provide the catalyst for the next day and for some a lifetime. As a teacher, parent friend many times we are the ones who have to drop a feather now and again a tiny piece of fluff to keep another person going.

 

“We must protect the forests for our children, grandchildren and children yet to be born. We must protect the forests for those who can’t speak for themselves such as the birds, animals, fish and trees.” Qwatsinas (Hereditary Chief Edward Moody), Nuxalk Nation

 

In primitive societies a feather can be a very sacred and holy thing. The Aztecs made the cloak for the king from Quetzal feathers emerald green iridescent and no one else could even own one of these feathers under penalty of death. Native Americans would use feathers as signs of bravery and honor awarding an eagle feather for counting coop which is not killing your enemy simply touching and riding away and other great acts of bravery. I am intrigued as we now wage war often from an office with drones and smart bombs. What a battle that must have been back in the day to see a brave ride in touch a few people and ride out.
We have come so far in today’s world we “nuke em” no need to touch no need for honor for a bit of fluff blowing along the ground. As I walked about my yard a few nights back getting some exercise along with my wife who was checking her plants to see if any bulbs were sprouting and a feather caught my attention. It was a black tail feather from a crow. My day was made as I placed it on my desk with a hawk feather and owl feather from previous walks. It is the tiny pieces that count on our journeys. So for today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

What if treaties and promises were all kept

Bird Droppings February 7, 2018

What if treaties and promises were all kept

 

I begin each typical morning waking up, fixing breakfast for my wife and her lunch, talking with my son for a few minutes, fixing my own breakfast and eventually finding my way to my computer. A little later as the sun rises I take the dog out if he wants to and try and catch a few sunrise pictures. Lately the clouds and rain have hampered that endeavor. As I get back on my computer I try and settle in, answer emails, various postings and write a bit before getting into anything else. I am back into graduate school and writing and reading to complete my dissertation. I have a busy day ahead and am looking forward to hopefully warming temperatures perhaps less rain. My middle son and his family are enjoying the sun in Jamaica this week using up his frequent flyer miles.

 

My original plan was to put in some effort on the word reform. That will have to wait a day or two. This morning as I answered an email with a thought from the other day and in thinking about today I found this thought.

 

“One does not sell the land people walk on.” Crazy Horse, Sept. 23, 1875

 

A great warrior and chief Crazy Horse died on the reservation because he was feared by the army but he never understood why the soldiers wanted the land that was sacred to the Sioux. He never understood the concept of that we wanted to possess it, to own it, and in that comes a driving force for us to win at all costs. Over the years I have been involved in many discussions about culture. Cultures vary and each is often about seeing the world differently. Several of my current reading efforts look at the world through feminist eyes and or those of Indigenous women’s eyes from around the world.
While I finished my graduate classroom studies nearly seven years ago it feels like it was not that long ago we discussed these books and the culture of feminism. We discussed how we tend to look at others only in terms of our own beliefs and ideals. Bell Hooks in her writings discusses the appreciation of Paulo Friere and how he never wrote about feminism actually he addressed it but the title sort of went a different direction. A recent blog post on education addressed how could he Friere as a male truly write and or address feminism which is a valid response. Recently a former student of mine wrote about how can anyone who is not mentally ill, truly discuss mental illness. As I look at my direction today how can anyone who does not understand someone’s beliefs and culture even think they can relate.

 

“My father, you have made promises to me and to my children. If the promises had been made by a person of no standing, I should not be surprised to see his promises fail. But you, who are so great in riches and power; I am astonished that I do not see your promises fulfilled!” Shinguaconse, Little Pine

 

In many ways we too still do this if we have control we promise much yet it is only to get more and a trusting person would not question a man of authority. If it was a questionable person maybe yes but we do this we use trust to get what we want still today. Look at our politicians on both sides and never before have sides been so distant since the day our current president was elected. Throughout history in the conquest and overpowering of peoples lies have done far more than war. The broken promises do more damage than any weapons. Look at students in class rooms as we go through a school and all the broken promises. We even legislated that all children will be reading on grade level by 2014. I said it was absurd in 2004 when the law passed as a teacher of special needs kids I knew not all children will read on grade level unless we decide to selectively euthanize eighth graders who do not meet standards. Who knows maybe in the political arena that concept will come up. Realistically if all children are homeschooled by 2014 as one candidate suggests or all in select charter schools where special needs are not allowed it is no big issue. People joke but there are charters asking to be and that are exempted from IDEA today around the nation.

 

“I would have been better pleased if you had never made such promises than that you should have made them and not performed them. . .” Shinquaconese

 

As we go through life as friends, parents, teachers, and employers so often we take advantage of the inherent trust. We use it to gain from to go forward with our ideas and concepts. We use promises we know we will never keep to accomplish our goals. The ends justify the means is our motivation. Look at how we are discussing oil exploration and destroying wilderness. No one is going to use it why not destroy it. It has taken me three weeks to get a photo of a male and female duck on a lake nearby so that we could identify them. By chance a large group was near the bridge Saturday and I got a photo as they all took off. In one frame of several images I shot a male and female together and ring necked ducks were identified. This duck is a Canadian winter transplant to Georgia. But what if greed supersedes and we destroy all the rainforest and wilderness and kill all the whales. My great grandchildren will never know what waking to the sound of a red-tailed hawk calling or morning dove sounds like. I am sorry but to me that is worth not drilling or fracking and looking at other rationale to the twisted world of oil and gas profiteering.
I got a bit off on an issue that is bothersome to many but we currently are selling gas in surplus overseas and certain politicians still cry drill, drill, and drill. Public opinion says if we open up more drilling in North America our gas prices will go down. Does not work that way oil prices are fixed internationally and it is a supply and demand. Right now China and Mexico are buying all the gas and oil refined they can get from us. So pricing is based on capitalism not regulation. Interesting fact we sell quite a bit to China who is supposed to be a competitor for our gas and oil. As we do have a free market American oil companies are in business for profit and selling gas and oil where ever the best price is. Currently US consumption is down and many countries are rising and willing to pay more than we are. So we are victim to our own free market capitalism. So sad we never look at both sides of any issue and only listen to what we want. In the current state gas companies are under pressure from low gas prices forced by no cuts in production.
Parents use the promises of a toy or treat with small children and the child quiets down later the parent forgets or maybe never intended on supplying the prize. The child at first is confused but soon as it happens again and again becomes jaded calloused and resentful. In school so often children with learning problems get passed along and soon distrust, resentful, jaded and calloused they are behavior problems or quit. Employers use similar ideas and goals to accomplish the task at hand getting the job out and soon employees are too calloused and unionized. Although now in Georgia we are in effect passing a law that is in direct conflict with the constitution in the freedom to protest against tyranny. A state legislator in Georgia is trying to get a law passed that union organizing is a felony. We are being warned as teachers not to use our “teacher email” for politics.

 

“… I have seen that in any great undertaking it is not enough for a man to depend simply upon himself.” Lone Man (Isna-la-wica) Teton Sioux

 

Imagine a world where word was bond, where promises were kept where a hand shake was a contract for real and students and children knew they were respected loved and would be cared for. Imagine that what was said would be and not change or be different. We do need each other. We are social creatures and dependent on one another. We ourselves are to blame for so many of the issues we are confronted with through distrust and broken promises. A simple guide when you say something, do it. Perhaps I need to begin with myself as we all do. 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

 

Should our children be going to school?

Bird Droppings February 5, 2018

Should our children be going to school?

 

I drove to my son’s house to watch and get y grandchildren ready for school and then take them to school. My granddaughter was up early and we talked and she played for a bit on an art app I have on my phone requiring artistic skills but also it is great for eye hand coordination. A bit later my grandson was up and I used my backup phone and he was reading his favorite story, The three little pigs, and then we looked up kookaburras.  He was enthralled with the silly birds. Along the way one video explained they are related to kingfishers. Immediately what do kookaburras eat? I tried to explain they eat mice and other small animals. He was insistent they eat worms. Finally worms and mice. As I sat there teaching about kookaburras and showing my granddaughter how to use a 35mm camera my thoughts wandered to an article I read recently.

 

After reading Joel Spring’s book, Political Agendas for Education, one might wonder why we even have schools. Spring’s implies they are simply to create and mold youth into whatever it is those in power deem feasible. His idea is that it is consumers first and then employees willing to work at meaningless tasks and not question those in power. While Spring’s book is not quite to that extreme, the book raises questions about agendas of various groups, political entities and some very powerful people within our nation.
The massive shift to high stakes testing and accountability based on that testing leading to teaching to the tests rather than the actual needs of the children that are involved. Is this where we have come to? Teaching specific curriculum, approved researched based curriculum has become the catch word. The big question always in research is who is backing the research. I used a reading program where all the research was done by the company producing the books and program. In terms of scientific research it was not a very reliable study yet according to Federal standards it is a research based study. I often wonder if the actual students are ever talked too.
One of the segments used in the reading research study which directly applied to the students I was working with at the time was a group of 14 Emotionally and Behaviorally Disturbed middle school students with average to above average IQ’s and one to two years behind in reading. The research showed how successful the program was, with a one hundred percent improvement to where all were on grade level. In years past I was told this study applied to a group of students I was working with who were eighteen to nineteen years of age with IQ’s less than 75 and were ten to twelve years behind in reading level. I did question the data and program and actually called the publishing company to verify what type of student study group the research was done on. My direct supervisor was needless to say upset I questioned the data. So where do we go as teachers, educators and students? When in our gut we know the data those in charge are wrong where do we go?

 

“The aim of education should be to teach us rather how to think, than what to think – rather to improve our minds, so as to enable us to think for ourselves, than to load the memory with thoughts of other men.” Bill Beattie

 

Each day I get up write and work on more research reading unless I happen to have a day off. Next week I can goof off and write most of day and watch the sunrise. I thought we might get a flurry but only under a winter storm watch in northern Georgia yesterday. As I sit here wondering I hope I am teaching my grandkids how to think. Hopefully I am teaching them a desire to learn.

 

“The whole purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows.” Sydney J. Harris

 

I was introduced to Sydney J. Harris’s columns nearly fourteen years ago by a fellow teacher and refer to Harris often in my writing. Each time I find a thought I am intrigued anew. In life this is what education should be about creating windows in people’s lives.

 

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” Albert Einstein

 

Far too often we preach content especially now in our teaching to the test mentality, when it is context that is the powerful glue that could hold it all together. I see context as the how does this apply in real life, how is it relevant to me all the pieces of the educational puzzle. I have looked at reports from observers where a teacher ties geometry into the real world and how much more powerful is that lesson when students can see where and when and how it actually has meaning. John Dewey was preaching context and experience in early 1900’s it is not a new idea even today John Dewey is considered progressive. I find so-called education reformers tend to build on new packaging of the same traditional industrial complex philosophy with the added value today of profit as a driving force not education of children.

 

“The school is the last expenditure upon which America should be willing to economize.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

 

President Roosevelt said this nearly seventy five years ago and we have said this daily as teachers yet education is one of those things so often put aside when budgets comes up in state and federal spending.

 

“It’ll be a great day when education gets all the money it wants and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy bombers.” Dr. Ronald D. Fuchs

 

Amazing as we have spent hundreds of billions the military and our military spending is significantly higher than what we spend on education.

 

“An educational system isn’t worth a great deal if it teaches young people how to make a living but doesn’t teach them how to make a life.” Author Unknown

 

Semantics so often is the dividing line and as I read this simple thought about making a living versus making a life I am made aware in a deeper way of how conflicted our system is. We so often put all into economic means a dollar value yet life is so much more than how much do you make.

 

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

 

Daily I will comment “swearing shows ignorance and currently you are pretty ignorant” as kids utter language of inappropriate content and even context. Yet this is what they hear at home and where many learn the words and meanings. It is these same parents that pay taxes and complain about the cost of education.

 

“Education… has produced a vast population able to read but unable to distinguish what is worth reading.” G.M. Trevelyan

 

I put my thoughts on several blogs, websites and in an daily email and as I read comments on student’s sites one that so often bothers me is when they answer the question of what books do you read and many answer, none. Read who reads when you have the internet and text messaging. How scary can it be when our children are not reading since it is far too easy to get on line or on the cell phone and pull up twitter and a hundred and forty characters of gibberish or Facebook or yahoo news? There is even a new program that reads to you from written word although it is being tested in court as a copyright infringement on audio-books.

 

“Nations have recently been led to borrow billions for war; no nation has ever borrowed largely for education. Probably, no nation is rich enough to pay for both war and civilization. We must make our choice; we cannot have both.” Abraham Flexner

 

When the military, industrial, oil complex has a means of generating revenue from education, money will be spent there. About six  years back a family friend of George W. Bush in Texas, actually a cousin raised nearly a hundred million in seed money from oil and mining interests for a computer module software company for schools. Interestingly enough it fit into federal legislation, NCLB as an alternative form of education. We pay companies to look for oil to develop new missiles and one of my favorites recently is we have stock piled millions of rounds of VX poisonous gas around the world. There were thirteen million rounds on an island in the pacific, several million in the northwest, and nine million rounds in Anniston Al. and now we are paying billions to clean up since containers are corroding and leaking VX gas. Just for the record that is the stuff movies have been made about and what we didn’t find in Iraq.

 

“Education is a better safeguard of liberty than a standing army.” Edward Everett

Would it not be great if we could prove this?

 

“Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It’s like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won’t fatten the dog.” Mark Twain

 

The great humorist and author over a hundred years ago saw what was needed and how it affects society I find that amazing.

 

“Why should society feel responsible only for the education of children, and not for the education of all adults of every age?” Erich Fromm

 

Wise man and philosopher state that school should not be just for kids but an ongoing ever present learning effort and what a world could be built if we would educate truly educate all people.

 

“Education’s purpose is to replace an empty mind with an open one.” Malcolm S. Forbes

I recall a button my father used in his safety campaigns in the steel mills of Pennsylvania back in the day, it read simply, “IF ONLY”. That was all that was on the button, and it represented, if only we could, if only I would, if only has so many applications.

 

“What does education often do? It makes a straight-cut ditch of a free, meandering brook.” Henry David Thoreau

 

I was never the fan of Thoreau and Emerson back in my own high school days perhaps I never tried to really read into their thoughts. This one line from Thoreau has significance for me. Education should be not forcing the content but allowing that content to be put into context.

 

“Did you know America ranks the lowest in education but the highest in drug use? It’s nice to be number one, but we can fix that. All we need to do is start the war on education. If it’s anywhere near as successful as our war on drugs, in no time we’ll all be ‘hooked on phonics’.” Leighann Lord

 

A bit long winded today but a good thought to end on as I think so many law makers are trying to destroy public education in the US. What if we truly did apply ourselves, what if? So please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts till that day when no person is in harm’s way and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Listening to a five note flute and thinking about friends

Bird Droppings February 4, 2018
Listening to a five note flute and thinking about friends

 

A year ago I was fishing with my grandson at the Atlanta Children’s Museum, when my wife, who I could see with our granddaughter a hundred feet away playing in the moon sand called me. I looked over as I reached for my phone and she was upset I could see. She informed me my middle son in North Carolina had called and a dear friend of the family had passed away. In my own strange way I was close to this young man who we had known for twenty five years. He came to me almost ten years ago asking if I would perform his wedding service. He and his wife had talked and my name popped up. I had never officiated a wedding and at that time was not ordained. So checking into things I followed up and got ordained those years of seminary and church work paid off.

 

Jamie, Katie and I sat down to plan a service. First thing it was not to be religious, which was easy for me, this was about their love for each other which was infectious to say the least. Second the wedding was going to be in the old Trolley Barn, a venue in Atlanta. The story went on and a wedding service and almost nine years of watching a love grow and flourish on social media and our occasional meetings.  They restored a home in Atlanta and eventually a career move took them to Tampa, Katie kept a running account of their projects and life in a blog. Then a phone call on a Saturday.

 

My wife and I both felt as if this were a dream. We had been through second grade through graduation with Jamie and his parents. Both our boys were band kids and they gathered after school for projects and craziness including several movie projects they all worked on. College many of that crew went to Georgia Tech and Jamie had a loft at Georgia State just a few blocks away. The friendship continued to flourish. I used this passage in Jamie’s wedding service.

 

“You have noticed that everything an Indian does in a circle, and that is because the Power of the World always works in circles, and everything tries to be round. Everything the power of the world does is done in a circle. The sky is round and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball

and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves.” Black Elk, Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux 1863-1950

 

We each continue our journeys in life. Each morning of school I stop by our local Quick Trip and stock up. Water bottles, protein ng in the moon sandbar, a banana, and whatever else I need to make it through the day. Today was no different till a young man approached me and stuck out his hand, “Mr. Bird great to see you”, and I rushed through my memory banks looking for a name. He began asking about animals in my room, former class mates and was I still teaching. He had seen a photo I posted on Facebook of my room at school and was thinking about me. Funny thing, it just hit me his name was Stephen, we talked for several minutes and I bought his coffee and we parted ways, both of us heading to work.

 

As I drove to work another student popped in my mind. I left teaching in 1977 and this particular student at that time was fifteen. He had several issues all rolled into a neat label of learning disabilities. I knew after two years of working with him more was at stake and administrators did not want to push my more loaded probing. After I left teaching I kept in touch with school and students. He came up the summer of 1979 to work on our family farm for me. We had a day camp and he helped cut grass and work around camp area. One evening he and his buddy another one of my former students asked if we could go to the new movie opening, Dawn of the Living Dead. We did go and about thirty minutes after dropping them off at the camp lodge a knock on our door. Could they sleep in our house that night? Sadly my predictions came through several years later and he is serving three life sentences. I looked him up one day on the Georgia Correctional web page. I recall his sisters desperate call after he was arrested telling me what happened. The family pleaded for life sentences due to psychiatric issues and signed off on no parole he is now a ward of the state.  Could it have been different a gesture here and there a word.

 

I listen quite a bit to flute music played and recorded by Carlos Nakai, a renowned musician and Grammy nominee for Native American music. He plays a handmade wooden five note flute often unaccompanied except by echoes from his own flute. As I looked through news on yahoo earlier this morning an interesting article. The Dakota Sioux are playing scrabble to preserve their language. In the Sioux nation less than 205 members of the tribe are fluent in the old language. A good friend who happens to be Creek told me of going to boarding school in this day and age, he is my age and he was punished for speaking his native tongue, old style Creek. He grew up speaking only Creek from living with his grandfather who was the medicine man to the Creek nation and would only speak Old Creek, while knowing the language he refused to speak English having given up on the white man many years previous.

 

“The American Indian is of the soil, whether it be the region of forests, plains, pueblos, or mesas. He fits into the landscape, for the hand that fashioned the continent also fashioned the man for his surroundings. He once grew as naturally as the wild sunflowers; he belongs just as the buffalo belonged…. Out of the Indian approach to life there came a great freedom, an intense and absorbing respect for life, enriching faith in a Supreme Power, and principles of truth, honesty, generosity, equity, and brotherhood as a guide to mundane relations.” Luther Standing Bear, Oglala Sioux, 1868-1937

 

I was amazed at offerings that we used to have at our high school. In the previous catalog were courses in Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, German, French, Spanish and Latin and yet in our lifetimes or at least in mine we refused an indigenous people the right to their own language. I recall a scene from “Into the West” a several years ago mini-series that recently replayed, it is a rerun on Home Box Office movie with a different slant. Children were brought to the Carlisle School in Pennsylvania from reservations in the Dakotas and elsewhere and we tried to make them “normal”. Actually I am not just about Native Americans today but our feeble attempts at normalcy. Our guidelines we draw and rules we make it was not that long ago left handed children were forced to write right handed. In numerous research papers the concept of mixed dominance came up and showed significant damage being done to left handed children neurologically. Even today many traditional teachers will try and get kids to write with their right hand. Seems it is easier on the teacher. Here I am with a granddaughter who favors her left hand. We tend to forget you are right or left sided as well, eyed, and footed, literally your entire body.
Normal is such a simple word pretty much everything that is not abnormal borrowing from philosopher Foucault. But in schools it is the norms that drive everything. We look for patterns in testing, for averages, for norms all those things we can put numbers on and measure. I recall year’s back I had a student who would go to the door before a period and ask to be let go early because there were no norms about. He did not want to be recognized as a SPED, a Special Education student. I would have snuck him out the back door but we didn’t have one. What was funny it became a joke eventually as I would go to the door and determine who was a norm or not and clear the way when the bell rang.
I think back to my own high school days before IDEA became law in 1974. This was before most disabled children were allowed in schools. I worked in a private center with severe and profoundly disabled children and adults. Our kids were normal and we viewed the rest of the world as disabled and we talked this way. They were disabled because they were unable to experience what we did every day. To have an appreciation for little things, reading your first word, taking a step without a wheel chair, not having a seizure for a day or two.
I read blogs and bulletins about clothes and music and think back. I see jeans purchased with holes in them, we earned ours and yes I had numerous pairs of jeans with holes and patches my sons have claimed them all now. But we earned the holes and patches with wear and tear on and in our jeans. Back in the day we did not have fifty brand named labels to argue over it was simply Levis or Wranglers period and they all had brass rivets on the back pockets. It was funny as a matter of fact in high school we could not wear jeans because of rivets scratching seats at school. This is what we were told and girls could not wear pants although I am not sure other than the puritanical demeanor of dress code in those days. That was over forty five years ago.
Thinking back to what was normal and what a word that is. I recall special education back then and how one student who was special education all her life graduated from college and retired recently as a teacher. Now a days she would have been labeled as learning disabled and I wonder as I sit here thinking where will we be in another forty years. It was once estimated that by 2025 the Dakota Sioux language will be extinct and many said so what. It is sort of like so what if we lose a piece of wilderness for more oil as some politicians are calling for again with the drill baby drill chant at such endeavors as teabag rallies. So what if the Grizzly bear is extinct or eastern red wolf or some nondescript fresh water mussel no one ever sees or a rain forest tribe who is better off in a house and raising crops than hunting in the forest.
Something we tend to forget is all is interrelated, Mitakuye Oyasin (We are all related in Lakota), each piece connects to the other and by losing a piece, the puzzle will never be complete. There are selfish people who really do not care about 2025 and whether the Dakota Sioux language disappears or the wilderness is gone as long as they make their billions now. I wonder what you can do with billions of dollars when you are gone maybe that is the part I have a hard time with and on a smaller scale looking at lists that drive popularity on Social networks. Things like do you have a cell phone, IPod, car, Jet Ski, etc. I will admit I do have a few collections, still I keep books and I store literally hundreds of thousands of photos all bits and pieces of my life and understanding.
So where do we go and what do we do? We look for each connection to the next. We look for the coincidences and chance happenings we look for the synchronicity in life. I have found after a day or two of looking you will find amazing things. It is if the pieces fall into place and life takes a whole new outlook and what was important may not be as crucial anymore. Try reading Thoreau, there are several good sites on the internet. He walked about for several years just to learn. Enough of my wandering for today peace be with you all and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Life is a puzzle falling into place and the inter-connectivity of all that is presents the final image

Bird Droppings February 3, 2018
Life is a puzzle falling into place and

the inter-connectivity of all that is presents the final image

 

It was a Monday a few years back when my co-teaching partner shared a card with me from one of our students. On the first day of the semester we handed out a card and the kids fill in information about themselves. This student’s card was detailed to say the least. Across the top several small figures representing issues the student has. She is almost blind in one eye from an injury in childhood. She has a brain tumor. My teacher friend and co-worker said but what is this? I knew immediately it was a puzzle piece and beside it was the word autistic. I was entranced since I have a back ground in autism and even more so with the number 139 circled in bold. A statement was next to it. “IQ is one point higher than Albert Einstein’s”. Wow was about to be a great semester.

 

I got up late as I tend to do on weekends. I decided to try a zero weight watchers point’s omelet of veggies and two eggs.  So I used some baby kale and cauliflower and sautéed them with a little olive oil and garlic and herbs and threw in two eggs. After breakfast I ran up to the corner store for a couple of water bottles and as always a conversation. As I stepped to counter a fellow next to me called my name and was a kid who worked for me thirty years plus ago. We sat and talked caught up in the brief moments of a morning stop.

 

Thinking back to that day and note from an autistic student as I walked past the school building and looked over the parking area, a large red tailed hawk swooped to a tree directly in front of me. We shared a few minutes before the bell and students moving sent him to relocate. A morning of coincidence perhaps but uplifting none the less. I am always amused at though often memories slide by as we get older some stick with such fortitude.

 

“Every footstep is the journey. Every sight, every sound, every touch and taste and smell with which we are blessed is the journey. All of the colors before us are the journey, and we are the journey. May we always keep our feet on Mother Earth, our eyes and minds above the treetops, our spirit with the Greater Universal Spirit? And may we always walk the path of Good Medicine in harmony and balance, with a sense of humility, kindness, wonder, and respect for all living things as we follow the sacred trail of those who have come before us and those yet to come.” Dr. Michael T. Garrett, Walking with the Wind, 1998

 

It has been nearly fourteen years since I last heard Dr. James Sutton speak. When I drove to Macon Georgia to hear him that last time, as I always do I pick up on as many details as I can driving down the back roads that I travel. I never know what pieces may fall into place for me at a later date or as it might be happening right that moment. I was going to listen to Dr. James Sutton, a psychologist from Texas who lectures around the country on Conduct Disorders and Oppositional Defiant Disorder which is quite a mouth full. I had been to several previously of his seminars and always came away renewed. I was in need of a recharge and some energizing as I drove. Occasionally we all need a break from the mundane even though so often I find vast amounts of material in the simple ordinary things of life. As I filled in my evaluation form as I left back eight years ago the question stated; what did I gain from this course and I responded energy and revitalizing.

 

“A chief event of life is the day in which we have encountered a mind that startled us.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

When I walked in the room Dr. Sutton who I met several times over the years previously in similar seminars and who has been on my Bird Droppings list since that time announced as I came in the room, “Let me introduce the premiere educational philosopher Frank Bird.” I think my hat size went up three notches. As we went into the day pieces fell in place with ideas and thoughts jotted down on bits of paper and class notes. Several illustrations used were referring to puzzle pieces which fit right into my thinking. I have had an affinity for the concept of life being a puzzle for some time and the comments lent well to that thinking. A friend from my school had attended the course with her husband and coincidentally another friend from many years ago was in attendance now a teacher in a nearby county. As I thought of why each person was there was it advertising sent out by the sponsoring group, for me it was an email from Dr. Sutton and then others through word of mouth?

 

“The journey is not ‘somewhere over there’ or ‘some other time.’ It is with us right here and right now. It is a part of us in everything that we do and everything that we are. What we perceive as our “pot of gold” may in fact be something very different when and if we find the end of the rainbow. What if the rainbow has no end? What if it is a circle that wraps itself gently around Earth in a continuous cycle of energy?” Dr. Michael T. Garrett, Walking with the Wind, 1998

 

Over the years reading various books by Michael Garrett and his father J. T. Garrett the concept of interconnectivity, which is such a big word flows through their writing as it does in most Native American philosophy. As I went to lunch nearly six years ago we discussed children federal guidelines and spirituality. The discussion wandering about between parents seeking help and my own listening and observing it seemed I was gathering far more than I was sending out. I was given a slip of paper with a similar story to one I used recently about a family pet being put to sleep. Sitting back in the class listening to other teachers and their views gave me ideas on how to deal with and not deal with students I see each day. A little trick from that day that turns out to have a several thousand year old proverb attached to it, when trying to get a child who is defiant to do something offer options. You want three things done offer five. You only get three out five but you only wanted three. Offer ten and the child responds even better amazing thinking that they got one over they only answered three of ten. As I sat down this morning I found this thought.

 

“If one has to jump a stream and knows how wide it is, he will not jump. If he does not know how wide it is, he will jump, and six times out of ten he will make it.” Persian Proverb

 

So often in education especially in today’s test driven society students are failing because that score is out there. The teachers and students strive for that score. As I drove to Macon so many years ago I was thinking about all the, what ifs. What if we tested students coming into school and placed that number on the table as point A and then test at the end of ninth, tenth , eleventh and twelfth grades all points on the graph now we have a true picture of learning with this child not an arbitrary SCORE stuck out in no-where land. What if we evaluated the growth of information rather than what information is available at the end of the journey? I would really rather know what a student learned along the way than what they knew at the end. That would give me a far better idea of what was really learned but this is only me.

 

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

 

I find it funny as I think back to the day I first saw this quote of all the interconnections, those pieces that seemingly are meaningless at one point in life find significance and meaning when all the pieces slowly fall into place. So often it is difficult to see what is forming in a jig saw puzzle when you only have the corner pieces or a few side pieces set in place. The true image does not come into view till more is in place. But each piece while on its own is really just a piece of a puzzle is needed to complete the whole.

 

“As we walk, all of our ancestors walk with us. As we dance, all of our ancestors dance the Sacred Dance. Each step that we place is an important one. All of our relatives are walking with us, speaking through us like the many colors of the rainbow. Listen and you will hear their steps, their voices, their colors. Listen, and you will hear your spirit calling upon all our relations, and you will feel their energy. Our spirit is an extension of them and they are an extension of us. Our spirit connects us with the memories of all that has gone before us, all that is, and all that will be. Our spirit connects us with all of our relations in the Circle of Life. Listen, and you will hear Water speaking, Wind dancing, Sun smiling, the heartbeat of Mother Earth pulsing beneath our feet.” Dr. Michael T. Garrett, Walking with the Wind, 1998

 

The interconnectivity of life as I was thinking back to that drive to Macon and a conference and to when I had been sitting at lunch discussing a trip to Stillwater Oklahoma which I would never have made had I not been in the sheep business. But the point I recall and borrow on is a side trip to Fort Sill and Geronimo’s grave site not the fact I was in Lawton Oklahoma looking for show lambs for 4H projects. It is the pieces of that journey that are significant not the destination. I am sure as I glean through my thoughts today and tomorrow other bits and pieces will come up. I walked out this morning and felt I needed to share that moment and typed a hasty status update in Facebook.

 

“I walked out into the chill of the morning. I was standing still and to the east a smiling moon and tree frogs chirping. To the south a coyote was calling. North of my quiet spot an owl seemed to be irritating a rooster to the west. It is a good day. Peace be with you all.” Frank Bird Ed.S. D.D.

 

So sitting in my classroom finalizing a few words for the morning there are pieces that I may not even be aware of as of yet some I simply need to recall and connect with others waiting to happen. In closing today as I have for over a decade now 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

Writing for some, seems so difficult in a digital world

Bird Droppings February 2, 2017
Writing for some, seems so difficult in a digital world

 

“Experience is not what happens to a man; it is what a man does with what happens to him.” Aldus Huxley

 

In 1965 I was introduced to this author in a tenth grade English Class. The book was Brave New World, written in 1932 and you would think that a book thirty years old would not have been that controversial. However for our class and the reading list we had, an English teacher was let go. What amuses me is how these books we read did impart more than simply the words contained between the covers; it was a catalyst for thinking that was developed. Today on another hallway in our school English teachers use the books my tenth grade teacher was fired for as part of their reading list as do many high schools across the country. Such books as 1984, Anthem, and Brave New World which were so controversial in their time fifty to seventy years ago and still today can inspire students and adults to think and ponder.

 

“To write is to make oneself the echo of what cannot cease speaking — and since it cannot, in order to become its echo I have, in a way, to silence it. I bring to this incessant speech the decisiveness, the authority of my own silence.” Maurice Blanchot

 

In a crazy writing world of words and music lyrics interpretation becomes a part of the art as well. The response from the person receiving the words or lyrics is an essential piece of the reality of the work. I seldom in my own writing throughout symbolism and or metaphor. I tend to rely on others to provide through various quotes and feedback differing opinions and realities. My oldest son and my wife have Sirrus XM radio and both by chance are listening to Tom Petty radio currently. For forty years Tom Petty blessed us with words and lyrics. In all of that time until just recently even though of my top twenty all time rock songs Petty was there I did not consider him for my play list until recently.  I watched a documentary on his life put out in 2007. Tom was the narrator throughout the film clips. As I watched I realized how amazing this song writer was. Great musicians and song writers sought him out as a peer. Hence the group The Traveling Wilburys. A compilation of some of rocks greatest song writers. So as the day unfolded a few moon images of a waning moon and a quick drive to QT and a song flew by and words that caught my attention at 4:45 AM this morning.

“Well I started out down a dirty road. Started out all alone and the sun went down as I crossed the hill and the town lit up, the world stood still. Well, the good ol’ days may not return and the rocks might melt and the sea may burn. Well, some say life will beat you down break your heart, steal your crown. So I’ve started out for God-knows-where I guess I’ll know when I get there. I’m learning to fly, I ain’t got wings coming down is the hardest thing.” Second chorus: “I’m learning to fly, around the clouds but what goes up must come down”

Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty

I got home and asked my son and wife as to how they took the song. Several differing views and I found as I searched others too differed in their interpretation of the song. I went to Tom’s own words for how he described the song.

“I think i was coming to grips with the view that you can be optimistic, hopeful and as good a person as you want to be, but its not going to make life simple for you. Nothing will. You can have all the success you want and its not going to make your life-really your personal life-much easier than anyone else’s. The song was also influenced by the Gulf War. It was written during the time the war was breaking out, everything was very grey, and there were burning oceans and oil fires. I was disappointed by the war and the attitude of the American people. I certainly didn’t blame the soldiers for going there, but I felt that few people wanted to challenge the Bush administration on its lies. It was a bad time and I really think it influenced the tone of the album (Into the Great Wide Open).” As per Tom Petty

Words on paper seemingly simple language and yet such differing ideas. Drugs was a leading rationale for many. But Petty was writing about life and politics of the time. Petty was a fan of Bob Dylan and I think back to a great Dylan tune and words. “The times they are a changing”. I seriously wish I had paid more attention to Tom Petty while he was around. A great writer he will be missed.

 

“Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement. Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the public.” Sir Winston Churchill

 

Each morning as I sit down and wonder about the direction that the ideas may or may not flow. I try and find a spark a starting point for the day. Sort of my kick start of the day to revitalize my own cerebral cortex. I was thinking of experience as a start earlier but within the semantics of the word so many limits the concept of experience. I was seeing a teacher and most as I read were seeing experience as a limit, coming back to a note the other day and actually I used yesterday talking with future teachers, the idea of a container as per students. That was until I read this line from Huxley and heard a tune from Tom Petty.
Over the past few days numerous emails from former classmates in high school perhaps prompted by nostalgia and finding a few in Facebook, remembering fondly a nearly forgotten class of tenth grade yet one that truly started a process of thinking that has continued for me nearly forty five years later. But the direction changes as I look, it is through writers and writing that we convey so much.

 

“To write what is worth publishing, to find honest people to publish it, and get sensible people to read it, are the three great difficulties in being an author.” Charles Caleb Colton

 

“I never know what I think about something until I read what I’ve written on it.” William Faulkner

 

Each day I walk outside and look at the sky. On an almost clear morning much today with no clouds to be found as the front passed through earlier I can see stars spreading through the sky. Constellations, for some they are beacons of direction and purpose. If it is clear tomorrow I may be following the waning moon for a bit in the morning when I get up and check on the sun rise. As the seasons pass the constellations change as to time of day and position in the sky and often as I go out I am greeted by a new or slightly different sky appearing before my front door. If by chance I am writing at home as I have for a few years now I can go out into the back yard surrounded by pine, pecan, black walnut, persimmon and oak trees depending on where I stand much will be obscured and I see only a shrouded sky laced with the branches.

 

As I read the Faulkner note so often this is true, we do not think about something till we read what we have written. Many the times I will return to a piece weeks or months later and find a new meaning or understanding of what I was thinking at that time. I wrote a philosophy of teaching paper some time ago and until it was returned with comments I wasn’t sure what my philosophy was. A journey that began in reading, then in experience and moves through writing for it does take written word to be read.

 

“You must often make erasures if you mean to write what is worthy of being read a second time; and don’t labor for the admiration of the crowd, but be content with a few choice readers.” Horace

 

I find in working on my dissertation and reviewing previous thoughts from even seven years ago my interpretations of others writing is differing. What is art for example? I start each day reading and then more reading.

 

“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.” Samuel Johnson

 

It is true as I write each morning glancing through previous writings and reviewing articles and emails and any books handy at that moment looking for and pondering where and how I will direct my thoughts. Often my morning consists more of reading than actually putting words to paper or computer screen. It is so many times a search for an idea a thought that has eluded me.

 

“If written directions alone would suffice, libraries wouldn’t need to have the rest of the universities attached.” Judith Martin

 

“Although most of us know Vincent van Gogh in Arles and Paul Gauguin in Tahiti as if they were neighbors — somewhat disreputable but endlessly fascinating — none of us can name two French generals or department store owners of that period. I take enormous pride in considering myself an artist, one of the necessaries.” James A. Michener

 

What comes so easy for some it has been said may not be for others. I sit each morning writing two or three pages reading numerous articles and emails and then as a teacher go into a class and ask students to write 500 words about what they learned this year in school. Most will say nothing, since that makes it so much easier to write. As I think as to where that student is coming from, maybe they never read Brave New World. It could be because somewhere, somehow, and or someone did not give them the opportunity.
I have found both in the past and currently it is because somewhere and someone did not teach them to read effectively or to think beyond just surviving day to day. It might have been that was the only alternative. I was reminded in an email of Dr. Laura Nolte’s famous poster, “Children learn what they live” as I spelled checked I made an error I had typed “Children learn what they love”. As I thought a bit you know what? That is just as true too especially in education. So how do we help children love learning, and love reading? I wish it could be an easy answer. Perhaps we can start with ourselves. Perhaps it is the teacher content with only a bachelor’s degree or basic certification and insists they know all. Perhaps it is the teacher who stops reading and insists they do not have time or interest. Today I am searching reading wondering and still trying to teach as I go. Let’s all set an example today and 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)

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