A chilly morning for so many reasons as I ponder educational genocide

Bird Droppings February 21, 2012

A chilly morning for so many reasons as I ponder educational genocide


I was huddled in my blanket as I went outside to sit and think a bit earlier granted I was barefooted. The air was still except for a slight rustling in the branches and pine needles with the breeze. All in all it was so very quiet this chilly morning even my dog was silent this morning sitting on the porch waiting for me to let her back in while I was there staring at the sky thinking. It might have been too cold for my dog to bark and yap as she does most mornings.


“Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” Sitting Bull


A good friend once emailed about a conference he was going to hold in Georgia. It is funny how ideas often co-mingle in the cosmos. At that same time I had a mother and co-teacher needing help with a son and she had been finding answers in my friend’s books. Along with that several students I was working with at the time needed assistance. But as I read this note from the great holy man and war leader of the Sioux nation so many years ago I was intrigued. Sitting Bull wasn’t looking at the now he was looking ahead, “What life we can make for our children”. His own was cut short as he held his grand child’s hand. Legend has it as the Native American marshals were arresting him for instigating a ghost dance ritual they thought he was going for a weapon and shot him. As the story goes his grandchild dropped a toy and he was picking it up it was not a gun.


“I do not wish to be shut up in a corral. All agency Indians I have seen are worthless. They are neither red warriors nor white farmers. They are neither wolf nor dog.” Sitting Bull


It was many years later that Kent Nerburn wrote a book borrowing from this comment entitled, Neither Wolf nor Dog. The book was the editing and recording of the words of an elderly Sioux man who felt the need to relate the Indian view of reality and life for others to read.

In recent days as End of Course tests and Graduation tests results have been published and passed out and as I deal with children who have issues we tend to look at test results based on norms. As it is I love bell shaped curves sarcastically, we want everyone to fit in this percentile or that. But the interesting thing about a bell shaped curve everyone does not fit in on both sides there are extremes and legislative fiascos or endeavors such as No Child Left Behind do not allow for that 12.5% on each end who are on the extremes of the curves, that is twenty five per cent of the population. There is no magical cut off point. This child is in and this child is out yet we have imposed these boundaries through legislation.

We have stripped away individualism and seek to make all children equal and fit in the same mold, and the same parameters. Recently I saw an entrance requirement for a class in vocational studies requiring a certain level of math.  Many students who could have benefited are now out. The funny thing I believe it was back in Germany when specific requirements for existence be it hair color and skin color became issues for international debate and war and history and yet we now are instituting educational cleansing by weeding out children who cannot pass tests.

I know a student now a mother and in the work force who five times when taking the end of course test in science missed passing by a total of ten points combined and several of those times by only a point. By chance I read graduation tests for some special education students and for instance question seventy on the test used a few summers back was of a nature no answer was correct technically. The answer was essentially to be a logic oriented response yet hidden within was an answer that in actuality was correct but only if students watched a Disney movie on Desert Life made in 1963 they would know the real answer. Semantics played in and what is so sad the question was probably worded wrong. I questioned the testing board and the question is not out there anymore. But what if that was one of the questions the little girl missed who missed five times what if she failed to graduate because of a faulty question no one caught five times? We have normed out of parameters so many children.

In recent months I have watched students withdraw because of tests or because of standards. I have watched select students get credit and others not for the very same issues. Perhaps we are practicing educational genocide maybe somewhere there is a conspiracy to eliminate from the gene pool students who cannot pass this test or that one. A school I have great faith in has dropped its undergraduate special education major. With current laws for highly qualified most special education teachers are being delegated to assisting regular education teachers. We are setting aside disabilities and or assuming they are not there and working on deficits only, the symptoms. It is funny how it may be the disability that caused the deficit, albeit educational genocide. Sitting here playing with NCLB, Norming, Children, Leaves the Best, what a society we have.


“I am tired of talk that comes to nothing” Chief Joseph


Watching critiques unfold of recent test results and listening to teachers criticized for low test results it is sad that we put so much emphasis on a paper and pencil operation. Teachers are facing many of the same situations Native Americans faced hundreds of years ago be it treaties, or laws and many are literally meaningless. We won’t use test results and yet teachers are being called to account and only test is taken into account the demographics of group of students is only looked at after publicly posted test results are out.


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


It did not take long for the great chief of the Nez Perce to understand and realize talk from Washington was often meaningless and only fulfilling for those that initiated the talk generally those in Washington and or their friends. In 1974 we passed laws to allow for mandatory education for all children and now we are saying all children should be educated exactly the same and all children should pass the same tests and all children will be the same by 2014.  Georgia now has received a waiver based on proposed educational evaluations that will still be done but of a differing nature.


“You might as well expect rivers to run backwards as for any man who is born free to be penned up” Chief Joseph


For most today may be meaningless gibberish as I wander about today. I recall my first visit to a residential treatment facility in 1969 or so. Of that I recall the smell first, then the hollow gaze of residents who had lived their lives in isolation and away from normal society. It was several years later I did another internship this time from a spiritual aspect as part of my seminary experience in 1974 and 1975 again at a residential facility and while in another state the smell and gaze were the same. It has been many years since big cats were at the Atlanta Zoo and back in the day, The Cat House, held numerous species of large cats from around the world and all had a gaze about them as they paced steel cages staring off into the distance. I wonder as we commit educational genocide are we pushing back to days gone by in the name of progress taking us back to 1974 and before when we only took children who would be able to pass tests and allow them into schools and programs. I truly wonder sometimes. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and to always give thanks.



Wondering why on a Saturday morning

Bird Droppings October 1, 2010
Wondering why on a Saturday morning

“I think the most important issue we have as a people is what we started, and that is to begin to trust our own thinking again and believe in ourselves enough to think that we can articulate our own vision of the future and then work to make sure that that vision becomes a reality.” Chief Wilma Mankiller

Wilma Mankiller was the first woman elected chief of the Oklahoma Cherokee Tribe and she became a national speaker on the rights of Indians. I found a small book several years back written by Wilma Mankiller, Gloria Steinem, and Vine Deloria. The book’s title Every day is Good Day, is a effort to portray in perspective the thoughts of the indigenous women who provided the thoughts and articles for the book. The book encompasses women from across the America’s.
The quote I started with today was directed at Indians as a whole and the Cherokee tribe who were uprooted from their ancestral homes in the southeastern US by Andrew Jackson in the infamous Trail of Tears and moved to the Indian Territories of Oklahoma. As I read this quote again it hit me this could apply to almost anyone as so many have fallen in the trap of societal follow the leader. That charismatic voice screaming loud garners listening even when often fictitious in nature. Surprisingly many follow often even knowing the words are wrong or misleading. As a country we often are told what to do not in the manner of a dictatorship but more subtlety as legislators convene and pass laws providing us with guidance and parameters. Along this line I was thinking back to Indian reservations where humans were forced to submit to cultural extermination and the Indian schools like Carlisle in Pennsylvania where Indian children were taken and stripped of their heritage

“I’d like to talk about free markets. Information in the computer age is the last genuine free market left on earth except those free markets where indigenous people are still surviving. And that’s basically becoming limited.” Russell Means

“In the government schools, which are referred to as public schools, Indian policy has been instituted there, and it’s a policy where they do not encourage, in fact, discourage, critical thinking and the creation of ideas and public education.” Russell Means

One of the American Indian Movement founders and its first leader Russell Means name might be more familiar to fans of Daniel Day Lewis and The Last of the Mohicans in which Means stars as Chief Kingachcook, the last of the Mohicans. Means was born on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota. Russell Means has been actively working for Indian efforts for nearly fifty years and often is a very outspoken figure as various legislation and agendas are thrown at reservations and tribes.

“I don’t want to talk about the environment and the American Indian viewpoint; I hate the word Native American. It’s a government term, which was created in the year 1970 in the Department of the Interior, a generic term that describes all the prisoners of the United States of America.” Russell Means

“The one thing I’ve always maintained is that I’m an American Indian. I’m not politically correct. Everyone who’s born in the Western Hemisphere is a Native American. We are all Native Americans” Russell Means

I find interesting his viewpoint that anyone born in the Western Hemisphere is a Native American.

“So I’d much rather get across the concept of freedom. It’s what’s important to Indian children. The only way you can be free is to know is that you are worthwhile as a distinct human being. Otherwise you become what the colonizers have designed, and that is a lemming. Get in line, punch all the right keys, and die.” Russell Means

Watching Fox news and listening to some of the conservative commentators I can envision the masses of lemmings running off the cliff following right along. It seems so few think for themselves any more. Even in education we have gone with standards for what is to be taught and then test kids based on standards. Effectively we have been eliminating the development of critical thinking and imagination. That is to be squeezed in along the it is not about the actual issues but about party lines, personalities and sadly race. One writer commented in a blog that while they thought a certain politician was not knowledgeable about being president they liked her and so would vote for her for that reason. She stands for what I stand for. Many of these same politicians stand for what makes the most money for them at that time. John McCain has changed his mind significantly on immigration and others have gone from pro-health care reform to repeal health care reform.

“It does not require many words to speak the truth.” Chief Joseph, Nez Perce

Sadly most will never use a few words but embellish and go far beyond the truth. A week is near end and again I ask please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

A wind in the trees

Bird Droppings April 21, 2011
A wind in the trees

Over the past weeks we have had several severe storms come through the area. Just before I went to bed last night according to the weather we were to get another. Several times during the night I awakened and no storm was blowing and our dog finally slept through the night. Of course no one else ever hears her but me and I get up and let her run about checking the back or front yard whichever way she feels like going. When it is just wind she will search diligently the yard when storms come through she just keeps me awake all night barking and going out to bark at the storm. Two nights back was one of those nights I was looking for duct tape to silence the dog and finally no storm just a steady wind blowing through the trees several times I went out and listened. While a bit chilly still an eerie sound is the wind in the tops of the pine trees.
As I am sitting in my class room during the day at school I often watch clouds pass by, lately the sky has been clear and blue and huge white clouds pass by in a never ending procession. The pines just past the school often are moving with a steady wind and almost hypnotic in their movement. I was looking over reports I have to do for our year end and next week and found a book mark on my desk my wife gave me several years ago. Several quotes from Chief Joseph and an artist rendition of the great Nez Perce leader on the book mark.

“I am tired of talk that comes to nothing it makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and broken promises. There has been too much talking by men who had no right to talk.” Chief Joseph

I thought about our current leaders and past leaders who these words were addressing. Yesterday a Senator accused several major companies of making over a hundred billion in excess profit off of the American public over the past few years that is over a hundred dollars per person per year. Of course company’s attitude has been well they are willing to pay why not a profit for our stock holders. They other point has been that several of these major companies paid little or no taxes. It seems the double talk is about to end at least hopefully.
For many years not only the Native Americans as I look back at Chief Josephs words, but we average Americans from Europe, Africa and Asia as well have been duped by our leaders and by businesses because we have been willing to settle for what is offered. I watch in education as federal laws designed supposedly to improve education are in effect stifling education but profiting corporations. A small example is in Georgia our new math curriculum that latest about three years and caused some major hassles in schools and with students. Book companies reaped a small fortune however.

“If you tie a horse to a stake do you expect him to grow fat…?” Chief Joseph

As federal and states mandate on schools that are failing to meet standards are imposed for various reasons. Some states are suing in federal court the law No Child Left Behind which is doing a paradoxical sort of thing actually leaving children behind has been making demands on schools without the resources to back up the programs and laws. We have issues with how children are being taught yet evaluate not actually what they have learned but what they know at the point they take a test. Sadly the scores being used are not a valid indicator of learning.
As Chief Joseph surrendered to a superior force outnumbered and outmanned he made his mark on history through his words.

“It is cold, and we have no blankets; the little children are starving to death. My people some of them have run away to the hills and have no blankets no food No one where they are perhaps freezing to death I want to have time to look for my children, and see how many of them I can find. Maybe I shall find some of them among the dead. Hear me oh chiefs! I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more.” Chief Joseph

After his pleas for asylum in Canada went unattended he stopped fleeing the approaching army and the Nez – Perce had been defeated, they had out maneuvered and out run a superior force for months but their supplies were low, morale was low and winter was coming. A proud man laid down his rifle. I wonder as I think back and even look at today how we deal with people so seldom can we accept anyone as equal. So seldom can we try and live in peace without making demands. Why is it that those in power have to flex muscle and have what is not theirs to have. So often we interfere in other countries. We interfere in our own citizen’s rights and privacy. Power is such an addictive thing. Power a simple word and a simple thought I wonder why we so often abuse it. Please keep all in harm’s way in your hearts and on your minds.

What if truth prevailed?

Bird Droppings October 6, 2010
What if Truth prevailed

I started my morning as I do so many mornings walking out into the stillness of the hour but today with a chill in the air all was silent. Air conditioners busy through one of the hottest summers I have lived in Georgia now nearly forty years were totally silent. Crickets and tree frogs rely on ambient temperature and it was a bit too chilly for them. So I was standing and listening to truth spill from the darkness I Have found nature does not lie. Perhaps this is why in Native American culture nature was revered as it was and is. Silence has a peace about until a horned owl called and then another answered a good ways off. As I pulled out today blocked in I pulled across the grass on my super secret escape route. As I turned my headlights to the back of the house several deer were picking through the persimmons and passion flower fruit.
Truth was a significant factor in the lives of aboriginal peoples throughout the world and perhaps why they have been so vulnerable to deceit. Survival depended on truth on came and it was not until the lies of modern man crept in that corruption and deceit became words of warning. As I sit thinking in my class room at the high school here in the dark of morning I wonder was it the intrusion of the Europeans that brought distrust to this new land. Watching politicians debate and argue points it is very easy to say yes. We proceeded back in the day writing laws to hold dear those truths we had to create stripping away the reality that was there. The truths that had governed a land for thousands of years and maintained equilibrium were no longer needed since exceptions had to be made.
That all was sacred soon became only a history lesson and each rock, tree, person and each breath of air we breathed that had been sacred somewhere in translation and understanding we lost that. We seemed to in our hurried efforts to want more land, gold, things and more of everything to have lost the truth. I wonder as I sit and think could we ever again attain that place where all is sacred?
I spent much of the morning yesterday listening to a student lie and wondering why the lies were being told even offering that I knew the stories were not true and still they continued. I knew they were lies. I wonder how we as a society became this way reading today’s headlines of a Congressmen who leaves office because of corruption and then runs for Governor of Georgia. Others knew and were quiet as long as he resigned his congressional seat.
We so often get caught up in our own insecurities and own lies. A good friend and professor recently used an illustration of how often someone will spout their goodness and yet be not be really who they say they are. Daily this has happened with politicians and other authority figures we seem to have no truth left in us. I recommended a book to a friend about Chief Joseph, it happened to be one of Kent Nerburn’s books an author I admire and enjoy reading. It is a history so to say of the Nez Perce and Chief Joseph and is rather intriguing.

“I believe much trouble and blood would be saved if we opened our hearts more. I will tell you in my way how the Indian sees things. The white man has more words to tell you how they look to him, but it does not require many words to speak the truth.” Chief Joseph, Nez Perce, 1877

Considered one of the great leaders of the 1800’s Chief Joseph’s surrender speech has been quoted by many. But I sit here thinking over a hundred years ago this great man had insight into something that each of us are born with and then bastardize that concept of truth. We bend shape mold our reality to what suits us. I was talking with a student yesterday about reality. Question one what is reality? Is it like the old adage of from high school physics? Is there sound if a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it? My student asked what about sound you here that aren’t vibrations ringing in the ears and voices and such. Coming from someone who listens to crickets all day long this was a deep discussion. Immediately most respond well they are not real.
Perception becomes an issue and can we truly define what reality is and what is not sort of a vote and democracy in an ongoing sort of way. One of my favorite scenes from the movie, A brilliant mind, is where Dr. James Nash asks a student if the bearer of the news of his Nobel Prize can be seen by her. When she says yes he extends his hand. Reality is a fragile thing and yet our reality is shaped daily by misleading and misinformation provided to confound and bewilder. The media and advertising constantly barrage us with what they want us to see and hear. Inflated gas prices and inflated profits for oil companies never seem to be in the same paragraph. Rising medical costs and greatly increased profits not for doctors but for medical insurance companies never seem to be mentioned at the same time.
Recently an article showed insurance company CEO’s compensations literally nothing to do with health care yet significantly increasing the cost of health insurance. There are billions of dollars in compensation to CEO’s not to sick babies or the elderly. But we need to reduce Medicaid and Medicare payments never CEO’s compensation or oil companies profits, truth is an elusive beast.

“But it does not require many words to speak the truth.” Chief Joseph

We elect politicians based on words however what if we voted really on deeds and performance? What if we stopped electing front men for big business and elected truthful people? There would be far fewer words and who knows maybe even peace. So for today please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.

Why do we not consider people first?

Bird Droppings September 4, 2010
Why do we not consider people first?

You would think that with a three day weekend I could get caught up do some writing and perhaps even get a bit of work done for school but unforeseen events always seem to crop up. Saturday was predominantly family time and a reception for one of my sister’s sons was included along with the first time in a while all of my kids were home so we all ate dinner together. Mesquite grilled chicken, herb stuffed pork loin and a couple pieces of good beef along with some fresh corn which was the best of the year so far made a meal fit for a king.
Thinking I could get sort of caught up Sunday went by the way side as I drove my son back to Florence South Carolina five hundred sixty miles round trip and was sort of tired when I got home. A piece of my youngest son’s birthday cake I forgot that was this weekend as well and I crashed. Hard to believe I did not log on a computer yesterday. As I thought about directions for my morning sojourn several conversations from the past week popped in my head and several continuing discussion with some friends from New York State. Prior to any other events in our lives politics, religion, education, and most any other human contrivance you can come up with we are first and foremost human beings. In Native American culture often times when describing themselves they would simple say the people or human beings. Perhaps I am impressed with the simplicity of Native American philosophy and thought. I fond myself drawn back looking for answers within the circle of life.

“Good words cannot give me back my children. Good words will not give my people good health and stop them from dying. Good words will not get my people a home where they can live in peace and take care of themselves.” Chief Joseph

It has been many years since I first learned of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce tribe of Idaho and Washington States. The story of there escape and eventual surrender is one books and movies are made of. As I read through several now famous speeches Chief Joseph made after surrendering one comment caught my heart. He stated as he spoke that if he could exchange his life for all of those who died he would in a heart beat. Chief Joseph was a man of character. His last request of Washington DC was to return to the Walawalla Valley in Washington State to die. President Teddy Roosevelt refused his request.
Teaching in special education over the years has given me insights into the nature of man that perhaps others never have a chance of understanding. A small fellow about four years old many years ago showed me a different way to see students. Artie Cohen was an autistic student of mine in 1970. According to the Philadelphia Institute of Autism he was the most classic autistic child they have ever worked with. When he was born he was considered normal and progressed until his little sister was born and then he withdrew in his autism. He went from being very vocal to nonverbal and from potty trained to diapers. His behaviors were classic autism. As I would sit and talk and interact with Artie it hit me I was seeing the world in my eyes and perception. What was his? I started approaching students with how were they seeing the world instead of making them see the world my way.
As this idea grew with me it developed and became an integral aspect of my philosophy of education and of life in general. Being a fan of John Dewey and the concept of a democratic class room I try and provide ample opportunity for students input into the day and class. Along with this I became more involved in Native American philosophy and thought. Over the years I have acquired several books by Vine Deloria. DeLoria was considered to be an activist, theologian, author, philosopher and leader in removing the myth from the white mans view of Native American’s. In 1969, Deloria published his first of more than twenty books, entitled Custer Died for Your Sins: An Indian Manifesto, I recall getting my first copy in 1972 while at Mercer University in Macon Georgia.

“We Indians have a more human philosophy of life. We Indians will show this country how to act human. Someday this country will revise its constitution, its laws, in terms of human beings instead of property. If Red Power is to be a power in this country it has to be ideological….. What is the ultimate use of a mans life? That is the question.” Vine DeLoria

As I drove back from Florence South Carolina alone I found the solitude comforting and enjoyed the ride. I was nearly home before I cranked up a few tunes from Neil Young. In my thinking as I drove I noticed I was not lonely I was simply alone. I was observing as I drove noting mile markers and places and things I would see. Watching the people who passed me or I passed as I drove along Interstate 20 west towards Atlanta.

“Solitude is a condition of peace that stands in direct opposition to loneliness. Loneliness is like sitting in an empty room and being aware of the space around you. It is a condition of separateness. Solitude is becoming one with the space around you. It is a condition of union. Loneliness is small, solitude is large. Loneliness closes in around you; solitude expands toward the infinite. Loneliness has its roots in words, in an internal conversation that nobody answers; solitude has its roots in the great silence of eternity.” Kent Nerburn

I started reading Kent Nerburn many years ago and seriously recommend his writing and books. Periodically I will reference in my daily journaling and in research papers his philosophy and views on life and Native Americans.

“In a perfect world perhaps we would all see more clearly. But this is not a perfect world, and it is enough to hope that each of us will share our talents, and find the balance between greed and benevolence that will allow us to live and thrive and help the world around us grow.” Kent Nerburn

One of the discussions my son and I got into along our trip yesterday as I took him back to Florence South Carolina was ethical capitalism. He was addressing the fact a battery company unionized in the next town over. They employed nearly a thousand workers and with two weeks of unionizing moved the plant and lay off all the workers. The plant went to a nonunion part of Alabama. Granted the sum total of profit that would have been impacted by the unionization was minimal it was a family owned business and they did not want to be told how to run their plant. My sons plant a large polyester mill raised hourly waged forty cents an hour across the board and remained without a union. I approached my son about ethical capitalism and his feelings were everyone is essentially out for themselves be it workers or companies in the US.
I thought back to my own home town in Coatesville where unions were all powerful. The United Steel Workers were always back then one of the most powerful unions in the nation. I can recall plant workers who had summer homes on the Chesapeake Bay and whose families live on the Chesapeake all summer or at one of New Jerseys beaches. Pay was excellent back in the day. I graduated from high school in 1967 and anyone whose father was a steel worker literally knew they had a job as soon as they were out of high school. IN 1978 or so I returned to Coatesville on a Safety Inspection for a consulting firm. The company was still in business and producing more at a significantly higher profit that 1967 however with one fifth the employees. Modernization had taken place and electric furnaces took over for coal fired open hearth furnaces. Production was up and faster than ever.
I received an email perhaps eight or so years ago Lukens Steel Mill had been sold to another and they in turn were sold to US Steel and US went under. All the retired steel workers lost everything in their retirements as most were linked to the companies stocks. When I was in my home town in 2007 for a reunion it is a totally different place. Huge Steel mill buildings sit vacant and much of Main Street is boarded up. A few stores are open and some parts of town are familiar but no industry is left. Sadly if you check most steel is now coming from China and Japan very little is still made in the United States. Check history a bit further and you will find that for the first time that we ever were at war jobs were being lost not gained. Previously we needed workers in the mills and industry of our country to replace soldiers going to fight. Now most of those jobs millions of jobs have gone over seas. The actual count is considerably higher than jobs we have lost. Our economy simply moved and we were left holding almost nothing. So on this Labor Day keep those who are in harms way seeking work and seeking peace on your mind and in your hearts.