What is a students desire for freedom?

Bird Droppings February 24, 2018
What is a students desire for freedom?

 

“Brute force, no matter how strongly applied, can never subdue the basic human desire for freedom and dignity. It is not enough, as communist systems have assumed, merely to provide people with food, shelter and clothing. Human nature needs to breathe the precious air of liberty.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama

 

In life as I look back humans also while seeking freedom also seem to have an urge to subjugate others as well. When I was riding down to Emory University’s Oxford campus a quite a few years back to drop my youngest son off for a summer workshop we were talking about people who need to feel in control, in power, to be in charge. So often people take teaching jobs subconsciously for that reason I have found over the years as I observe teachers. In talking with my wife about the same topic she was looking from a medical stand point and as I so often do, looking from a psychological view.
We each in our own way see the idea of freedom perhaps in differing lights and lenses. While attending a wedding shower recently in a subdivision in another part of the local community I was definitely not a free person. In my existence I tend to be somewhat monastic picking and choosing times to be social and spending much of my day by myself reading, writing, and pondering uninterrupted by the where and whys of social interaction.

 

However last night watching a rerun of House and a blogger who laid her life out in minute detail in her blog while living in somewhat isolation communicated and interacted on a level that was in many psychological terms very social. At this shower I was lost in a crowd of people that I did not know or really care to be among and eventually walked outside after sitting for nearly an hour and a half talking to my cousin who was the father of the groom to be. But as I look at my first paragraph I had no control of the situation.
Does this apply to learning and education most assuredly as we place children so often in places where they have no control and they have few if any liberties? Often the response is one of flight or of negative behavior as we define the norm and allow only what we as teachers deem appropriate. Freedom is just another word was the song from the early 1970’s and mid 1960’s written by Kris Kristofferson. Working with children who have Emotional problems and whose affect is impacted for whatever reason has me looking at the kids I work with differently than most teachers may even attempt.
But in my own research the past few months I found that in the early 1950’s a group of educational psychologists came up with several learning domains. One of these aspects or domains is the affective domain.

 

“Receiving, willing to listen, Responding, willing to participate, Valuing, willing to be involved, Organizing, willing to be an advocate and Characterization, willing to change ones behavior, life style or way of life” Cindy Vinson Ed.D.

 

These are the five areas of that domain outlined above, so what does an affective domain have to do with freedom? What do bossy people have to do with either? Literally we set ourselves up for failure so often in life. Internally a desire for liberty confounded by structure in societal entities, school, work, social organizations and such where we are told what to do by a teacher, boss or president. So many years ago I recall listening to someone discussing business and management back in the day my son would say. I had dinner with my father and the great management guru Peter Drucker at a management meeting in Chicago.

 

“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.” Peter Drucker

 

As I read the great business author Peter Drucker’s thought and pondered how often is teaching much the same. I reworded the statement a bit with, could it be then that so much of what we call teaching consists in making it difficult for students to learn. But it was later when discussing that this thought I remembered another quote from a book my father wrote a number of years ago.

 

“It is not about telling workers (students) what to do, it is about asking them to do it and further if they believe it is their idea and they take ownership of that idea far more will be accomplished” Frank E. Bird Jr., Practical Loss Control Management

 

In educational research students having empowerment and ownership increases significantly the level to which they will achieve. I have seen this premise work in industry many times as workers take ownership of an idea and turn a company around in safety programs. I have seen students who have input in a classroom light up and move forward so much more so than when manacled by a dictator like teacher. In my own research and studies as I work on my dissertation in The Foxfire Approach to teaching the number one Core Practice states the following.

 

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

 

As I have been involved directly or indirectly now for nearly forty five years in training and teaching when a learner be it adult or child has ownership of the idea so much more is accomplished. Work goes from tedious to enjoyable. Success becomes the norm rather than failure. As teachers how do we give ownership to students of material such as Algebra or US History? How can we take student ideas and intertwine with mandated curriculum? These are not simple questions and there are not simple answers. It does take effort and work and often not being totally in control to allow this to happen and to flow.
As I thought a bit more I wonder if by accepting an inherent desire to be free as stated by the Dalai Lama and Dr. Vinson’s idea of an affective domain and building upon that we might just end up have successful students and workers. Imagine if we could build upon this in schools and improve schools because kids want to and not because of federal standards and demands. This concept is essentially the premise behind democracy in the classroom and much of John Dewey’s work on education and democracy in our own country. Every major politician is now for or against specific policies and each has a differing reason but I find it still necessary to end as I have now for nearly fifteen years. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts. For so many years as I look back and each day find in harm’s way goes so far beyond the wars and tribulations of man. Several friends have battled cancer and won and as I look even at within my own family over the past few years the emotions and heart wrenching in harm’s way is a rather broad term. We need to be looking behind each corner and searching our hearts and keep as humans uplifting rather than tearing each other down. The potential for man is so great but we continually allow ourselves to be sucked into the vacuums of greed and denial. How do we rise up and offer a hand? How do we become a nation of people rather than of profit? It takes understanding and it takes as Dr. Vinson offers we need to be in the affective domain.

 

“Receiving, willing to listen, Responding, willing to participate, Valuing, willing to be involved, Organizing, willing to be an advocate and Characterization, willing to change ones behavior, life style or way of life” Cindy Vinson Ed.D.

 

So another week ahead and I sit pondering what might I bring to the table today as a teacher. Hopefully something that will impact students in a positive way and I close as I have for nearly fifteen years please keep all in harm’s way on your minds 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

 

A series of paradoxes and bewilderment

Bird Droppings February 21, 2018
A series of paradoxes and bewilderment

 

I received the following in an email several months ago. A friend of mine sent it out and as I read the first time it was humorous. However as I pondered then as a teacher I read deeper into what was being said. I listened by coincidence to a few words from a former Georgia Congressman and former Speaker of the House of Representatives in Washington, DC. I recalled about eleven years ago early in the morning as I by chance I hit the AM button in my car. It was obviously a very conservative talk show and on the extreme conservative side. But the comment was “If a Democratic Congress gets in they will spend the first two years investigating the last two years of the current administration and then raise taxes and…”, and he went on. It interested me that is he saying something has been done wrong that needs investigating and then we go right back investigating now in a reverse situation. The news stories daily seem to imply that or are they just trying to stir up conservatives to get out and protect their money. Anyhow my email forward from a friend:

 

“Why do I tell you this? Because of the evolution in teaching math since the 1950s: Teaching Math in 1950’s – a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price. What is his profit? Teaching Math in 1960’s a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is 4/5 of the price, or $80. What is his profit? Teaching Math in 1970’s a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80. Did he make a profit? Teaching Math in 1980’s a logger sells a truckload of lumber for $100. His cost of production is $80 and his profit is $20. Your assignment: Underline the number 20. Teaching Math In 1990’s a logger cuts down a beautiful forest because he is selfish and inconsiderate and cares nothing for the habitat of animals or the preservation of our woodlands. He does this so he can make a profit of $20. What do you think of this way of making a living? Topic for class participation after answering the question: How did the birds and squirrels feel as the logger cut down their homes? (There are no wrong answers.) Teaching Math in 2005-6 un hachero vende una carretada de madera para $100. El costo de la producción es $80”

 

As I read this I wondered if this is really what the general public thinks. Of course most of my conservative friends are against illegal immigrants yet still eat vegetables and buy cheap chicken. There are numerous books out on the dummying down of America. No one ever mentions we are one of the few countries with free public education to all children regardless of race, sex, disability and or income and in turn the only one trying to hold accountable educational systems for getting everyone to the same level. Each of the eras above has issues in its systems. However let me add I took a general biology course in my second year of college and the current general biology text for ninth graders at our high school is significantly more in depth and has numerous subjects and information not even conceived of in 1968.

 

So I look at the above email and see 1950 all was well, 1960 we are concerned about fractions, 1970 we are concerned about semantics, 1980 we are now worried about correct underlining too much Christmas treeing of answers on standardized tests and in the 1990’s we are concerned about environment and each other and asking why and how come questioning and wanting to perceive how this as wrong. I was amused at math in 2000’s and how it was touchy feely sort of kind of thing. They left out math in 2010 where a forester pays poachers in the rain forest of South America to strip a piece of land unregulated by an laws and sell to him at a dirt cheap price and then wander off so literally we have a near 100% profit.
In 1919 John Dewey was using reflection as a teaching tool very successfully he was considerably ahead of his time. Sadly reflection and discussion take time away from memorizing and with teaching to the test as we are now. Our students have to memorize volumes of material in every subject and many teachers do not have the time or they at least think they do not to offer context. Then looking back at 2005-2006 math comments and inferences to diversification it was not too many years ago women could not go to school and or hold positions in many companies and such. Even today woman are stereotyped into certain positions.
A friend who recently passed away was writing her dissertation on gender biases in administration in public schools. Sadly all the public hoopla in one arena is about immigration. I still recall a parent conference ten years ago when a good old boy wearing scruffy shorts no socks, boots untied, and a dirty white T-Shirt explained it so eloquently to me. It seems he was out of work as he was a construction worker and at that essentially a gofer. He would be the one toting boards and bricks whatever. I was filling in forms since he did not read or write and his son was about to end up in the alternative school. I asked what he did for a living and he informed me he couldn’t get work. Obviously I was aware of the construction situation in our area of very few houses being built. However his answer took me by surprise. He commented with a few expletives “The @#$% Mexicans work too #$@% hard.” For him it could have been Afro Americans, Native Americans, Eastern Europeans, and or Hispanics, it was anyone who was actually willing to work and different than or not like him. Did I mention he did not smell very good sort of like a few old beers and cigarette stale smoke a paradox of sorts?
And so why am I bewildered we so often complain and whine and criticize and often only because we do not understand or lack of information. Simply put it is ignorance among the so many wonderful reasons. Parents expect wonders from teachers and many times we do deliver but years ago I wrote about the sixteen hour syndrome. Teachers have kids for eight hours and are expected to work miracles only to go home to parents, TV, video, friends, drugs, and many other misc. other distraction and they have sixteen hours to undo all they learned in those eight. It is sort of a losing battle in many situations.

 

“Grown men can learn from very little children for the hearts of the little children are pure. Therefore, the Great Spirit may show to them many things which older people miss.” Black Elk

 

As I read this thought from Black Elk a Lakota Sioux holy man written some years ago I was intrigued how we adults take these innocents and make them adults today losing all of their innocence. I watch the four year olds around school from our demo school they are inquisitive and wondering and yet in a few years they will be blank eyed and listless stripped of all of their joy and purity by our cultural efforts to make automatons and provide vehicles for the productivity of our manufacturing and corporate greed. This could be why I am bewildered that we have come to this in a free society and in reality are more imprisoned than many so called third world countries. We are imprisoned by our self-serving, self-centeredness and greed and watching calmly as monopolies are forming again and the big three oil companies are the only oil companies and ma bell is soon to be in charge again. I am paraphrasing and borrowing from an old folk song, where have all the steel mills gone or where have all the textile jobs gone. It is very simple they have gone to countries ever where. Then the chorus, oh when will we ever learn, oh when will we ever learn.
Paradoxes and complexities bewilderment and wonderment, I look at Black Elks words and wonder why can we not learn from children and maybe get back some of our lost innocence. 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

Wandering about while I am waiting

Bird Droppings February 19, 2018
Wandering about while I am waiting

 

Sitting listening to Crosby, Stills, and Nash and Young album Four Way Street from live recording of their tour in 1970. I have been saving my pennies to get a new camera body to be ready for spring. There are so many possibilities with various flowers blooming all about and baby ducks and geese soon at local lakes and ponds. I have been making do with my old camera with off and on focusing issues for about a year now and actually do get some good shots now and again.

 

Back to my writing I recall a paper I had been working on that frustrated me and yet was very interesting; how did the denominalization in the antebellum period in the history of the United States effect higher education? After writing about faith and religion a few weeks back this thought came back to me. I had been pouring through books for nearly a week and knew what I wanted to say but it was a research paper and I had to site sources and use others views not my own. With the new cabinet members pushing religion and a new word, deconstruction being s thrown out about in terms of our national education department  Jefferson’s quote might fit.

 

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances” First amendment to the Constitution, Thomas Jefferson

 

It has been some time since a student was using this amendment to justify mandatory school lead prayer in public school. As is for me a violation, as are so many of the efforts to teach Christianity or any religion in public school. Last week in a blog the discussion was various views on afterlife and or no afterlife which of course went in numerous directions and even a challenge as to George Washington’s faith that I had mentioned in a previous writing. As I read and thought back in the day actually the first six presidents were college graduates then a trend towards doers and not education starting with Andrew Jackson. As higher education progressed in the United States there was a period just prior to the Civil war where churches were splitting and forming new denominations literally daily and in doing so to justify existence formed colleges for educating their clergy and members.
This is not a history lesson but as I read and looked through the hell blog it really became apparent how many different believers and in how many different things they believe. All going back to our First amendment we can believe what we want. What is so interesting is when belief is based on traditions and innuendos and less on fact not to push science versus faith but not that long ago people were burned at the stake for saying the world is round and not flat as advocated by the church. I wonder sometimes and well it has been said that ignorance is bliss and maybe that is why people are so gosh darn happy. A very scary thought in the news a few months back. A powerful political figure stepped down for possible improprieties and is publicly saying he will be more powerful out of the White House than in that is a scary thought in other words he will be doing what he is being punished for. Lobbying votes for various entities. Interesting one of his friends has just been found guilty of various illegal issues dealing with lobbying and we still elect and or support the people who put these guys in power.
It is so amazing how we do find these people electable. It started back in 1820’s or so when intelligent people were not as important as what you could do for me became the trend. A major effort of Andrew Jackson was displacing eastern Native Americans to Oklahoma and giving their lands to his friends. Isn’t it wonderful how this system works? But quickly back to faith and belief, it should be a personal thing something in your heart and soul if you consider soul an entity.

 

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

 

I highly recommend going t Kent Nerburn’s blog and reading his thoughts on recent events. I have been under the influence of medication having surgery recently and avoided being too political, my wife warned me. But the past weekend and reading and watching has concerned me deeply. I came back to teaching on September 11, 2001. My job was primarily working with Emotionally Disturbed, EBD, students. I had a group of twenty eight students that first year not all were EBD. The majority however were. In my group twenty six had been arrested, were either on or had been on probation for many differing crimes. The only two who had not actually lived with biological parents. The other students all had multiple family relationships, step fathers, mothers, boyfriends, and girlfriends etc. as guardians. One kid lived with his dad’s third wife.

 

I enjoyed that year and actually that was not my worst group of kids. In 1974 for six months I worked in a unit at Central State Hospital before it closed. I was counseling on a unit of adolescent psychotic females. Two of the girls had killed one had killed two people. I will never forget coming in and one of the girls in my counseling group was in solitary confinement in a straight jacket. I asked about incident and was told she had a episode and it took six orderlies and ten cc’s of thorazine, a maximum adult dose to get the straight jacket on. The jacket would stay on till she would start talking to doctor. I learned about crazy first hand. I finished undergraduate at Mercer with a degree in psychology, followed up with a masters in Emotional Behavior Disorders and continued my graduate work in curriculum.

 

So I have worked with some crazy kids. I have had kids removed in restraints from my class room. I have said to myself this kid or that is on my list for trouble in the future. I have been fortunate to say few have gone bad and most are now great parents. One sticks out a kid I had in 1976. He is currently serving three life sentences for murder and attempted murder. I suggested psychological counseling for two years while I taught him. He worked for me the summer I moved to Walton County on the family farm. However similar to recent events his mother died. He went off the deep end his father  put him out, and his sister tried her best even though she herself had a serious issue happen around this same time with a boyfriend who killed her baby. My former student finally got help at Central State, being institutionalized for six months. He begged and his sister begged for him to stay and even in late 1970’s mental health was money oriented. He was transferred to a half-way house. After a few weeks he had befriended a young mother with two kids nearby. One day he killed the mother and almost killed the two kids. The police followed the blood trail to his room where the knife was sitting in the sink and he raised his hands for cuffs. Sadly it took destroying three lives for the state to lock him up. So easy to rationalize mental health and solutions.

“I still don’t understand why I am expected to teach my children how to survive in a violent world, but my country isn’t expected to make the world less violent.“ Teacher in Florida

I tried to avoid discussions of weapons, guns, ammo and such all weekend. But one caught my attention dealing with taking away our liberties and protecting our security. I checked a few definitions quickly on my phone.

Liberty – the state of being free within society from oppressive restrictions imposed by authority on one’s way of life, behavior, or political views.

Security – the quality or state of being: such protecting our security, freedom from danger, freedom from fear or anxiety

(Webster’s online dictionary)

So does being secure supersede a liberty or does liberty supersede security? My next few thoughts I dictated on my phone as I was driving Saturday. “I’m not looking to keep anybody from having freedom’s reduced but what I’m trying to say is that instead of trying to curb violence in our country we are actually trying to support violence. We’re looking at doing things like adding guns to schools, be at through teachers armed, more resource officers and metal detectors. We are assuming there’s going to be more violence. Why are we not trying to curb violence that’s the part I don’t understand? So many posts are in support of more violence. Get your child a Kevlar backpack, clear backpack, of course metal detectors, and boost security systems and whatever. It is kids who just went through this horrible event in Florida who are offering thoughts and of course ridiculed for them. We should be trying to curb violence not increase violence.

 

I think back sadly five years ago I was sitting at a three year olds birthday party in rural Georgia. The conversation was around me and I listened to three young men, all fathers, all in early to mid-20s discussing the priority at hand. There was a big sale at a local gun store on AR-15’s and or similar knock offs. What was so funny about the conversation was that all three of these guys were hourly employees at a factory nearby making about $10 an hour and yet they were willing to go out and spend their savings and buy 3-5 AR15‘s because the price was so good. For them it was an investment. For me just sitting here as a parent and a grandparent it was absurd that anyone in this country needs 3, 4, and or 5 AR15’s.

 

Years ago I had a .223 back in my sheep and cattle days. I kept the rifle locked in my barn office.  Several blogs and facebook posts have mentioned that’s the same thing as an AR15 and yes in many ways it was. I had a banana clip 30 shot and it had a scope and was extremely accurate. We used it for dogs killing lambs and calves. Nowadays it would be coyotes. When I left farming I got rid of my rifle I no longer had a use for it. Even the bible states there’s a time and a place for everything but like I said there’s no reason, no reason on god’s green earth that anyone needs to have multiple assault type weapons.

 

I know you can say they are the same weapon AR15 and .223 to a point. However there are features about the AR15 that in talking with some military people make it a big difference.  One of the big differences in there’s very little recoil and you can fire and you can fire the AR15 faster than you can fire a .223. That is a significant factor in why they are dangerous. The same gentleman that was discussing the .223 versus the A.R. 15 also pointed out that after his eight years in the military he shot a M-4 the military AR15. He pointed out his targets were always human targets never circles. One of the things he commented on was he went for not just kill shots he went for the shot that would do the most collateral damage in other words gut shots that would take wounded to the hospital that would require people to take care of them. This would require more time from other people rather than simply kill the person out right. There are many aftermarket features available for the A.R. 15 that are not available for the .223. Folding stocks, additional sites, even the bump stock used in Las Vegas shootings. By no means am I against the second amendment and ownership of guns. BUT and that a big but. Even in home defense the weapon you choose was bought to kill another human.

 

As I close I thought of something this morning reading a note from a single mother. Children who are from broken homes, we always tend to think divorce equals a broken home but in reality a broken home is one “needin fixin” that could be many reasons other than divorce and can often be kids with both parents. Sometimes I wish Elmer’s glue made an adhesive for broken homes a simple fix for a complex problem so as always 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

An owl calling

Bird Droppings February 16, 2018

An owl calling

 

Last night I woke for a few minutes as it turns out I forgot to turn on the ceiling fan. While up I stuck my nose out the door perhaps intuition who knows when wandering about the house half asleep. Deep in the pines an owl called and of all memories to unlock an instance three years ago flashed before my mind’s eye. It was about three o’clock in the afternoon a little over seven years ago I was made aware of a situation that at first caught me by surprise. A former student from years gone by had been arrested in another county and was being held for immigration to be deported. She had been in the US since she was three years old and was raising her three kids here. As it turns out she had never received a green card and her boyfriend of seven years as well was illegal. Both had worked and she had graduated from high school where I knew her as a student. I was asked to go see her as along with all of this she has a specific learning disability in reading. Maybe all the news about deportations was on my mind.

 

I seldom bring up being ordained but being ordained has certain privileges and after all scheduled visitors are permitted into the jail pastors can go in. So I went in and I visited for nearly forty five minutes with one of my favorite students of all time at the county detention center. We talked about how seven years ago she had come to me with a big what if. She proceeded to tell me a friend of hers is pregnant and what could she do and who should she go to. It only took a few minutes till I realized the friend was actually herself. I recalled how she sat on the sofas in my room propping her feet up as she completed school while pregnant and would come in my room to rest.

 

She nearly came to tears as started talking about her babies who I have pictures of hanging on my door at school and have held and laughed with several times. I said no crying since I did not want to cry in front of a former student. We talked about jail food and how as soon as she was out she wanted a homemade tortilla and eggs and all the trimmings. It was nearly nine when I walked the almost half mile from the visiting room to my car which in my haste had locked my car keys in and had to have a police officer help me get into. As I drove home I recalled all of the publicity of illegal aliens and immigration laws and how business men provide jobs at a cheaper rate. A recent article on banks in bailout of applying for nearly twenty one thousand visas for white collar positions since they can get foreigners for less money in attorney and accounting positions over US citizens.

 

I thought of a young girl who had worked and had finished school and raised three kids and was being held because of where she had been born not where she was raised and grew up and gone to school and yet we have people receiving huge bonuses who created and caused one of the worst financial crisis’s in history walking around free and going on vacation. I was mad when I got home thinking of how greed had driven our society to where it was.

 

I wrote some of this a little over six years ago however last night early in the morning a great horned owl called several times waking me up and brought back many memories and thoughts beyond the memories of a wonderful person who had been sitting in a jail cell away from her kids.

 

I sat listening even though half asleep as I do every morning and today the pine needles have made a lace pattern in the spaces between the twigs against the clarity of the sky. The sky is cold and clear and stars are everywhere as I wandered out. When I first went out a faint chorus of crickets greeted me or so I thought but it was the cold ringing in my ears, but off in the distance a great horned owl called. It has been several days since a student at school asked if I knew what an owl meant. It is funny how bits and pieces of memory come back.

 

It was not all that long ago that several times a student reminded me to call her mother about the pow-wow coming up in the spring. Her mother coordinates the local Native American gatherings and dances. Perhaps this is what got me thinking as many southeastern tribes consider the owl to be a harbinger of evil or dread. For some eastern tribes an owl calling was considered a sign of death, as you move across the Mississippi the various tribes attitude about owl’s changes. Owls become symbols of power, of wisdom, of a fine line between here and the spirit world.

 

Owls calling in the dark, it is a haunting sound for one person and darkness yet a few days ride away the same haunting sounds bring light. As the weather warms up I will hear owls nearly every morning often several will be calling to each other. It has been sometime since I was up in the North Georgia Mountains with my middle son on an environmental field trip. We stayed at a spot I consider very special, Camp Mikel, a summer camp owned and operated by the Episcopal Arch Diocese of Atlanta.

 

The camp lies in a valley along two ridges. The cabins are on one ridge and across the fields and marsh another ridge and the camps famous cross on top of the mountain. The camp has an ongoing program with a group that provides for school educational experiences in the mountains on habitat ecology and environmental workshops. It was about nine o’clock and our group went out onto the playing fields with a tape recorder. We started calling owls. In a matter of a few minutes several were calling back. Owls in our area range from a tiny screech owl to the great horned owl.

 

One of our other exercises during the day was dissecting owl pellets. It seems owls eat various creatures and the parts which are not digested are literally barfed up in a ball and dropped usually at their roosting spot. Scientists can study diet and health of the owl population through the pellets. One of the students in our group as they opened up the brown mass of their pellet uncovered a skull. Soon several of us had found skulls of shrews and mice rats and squirrels. Our instructor was interested in this first one it was different and carefully cleaned it off. It was a screech owl skull. The great horned owl had devoured the smaller owl.

 

As I thought of my morning, pondering what the day would bring and listening to the Great horned owls calling all around me the sense of oneness with nature was over whelming. Back at my environmental retreat I did learn each owl has a very distinctive call.  I was also intrigued at how we all surmise differences in the same stimuli, not only the owls and owls calling but it could be in words used in a hallway at school. One person hears humor another slander.

 

“The Lenape Indians believed that if they dreamt of an Owl it would become their guardian. To the Mojave Indians of Arizona, one would become an Owl after death, this being and interim stage before becoming a water beetle, and ultimately pure air. According to Navajo legend, the creator, Nayenezgani, told the Owl after creating it “…in days to come, men will listen to your voice to know what will be their future” California Newuks believed that after death, the brave and virtuous became Great Horned Owls. The wicked, however, were doomed to become Barn Owls. In the Sierras, native peoples believed the Great Horned Owl captured the souls of the dead and carried them to the underworld.” Deane P. Lewis, Owls in mythology

 

I was listening several years ago to several students, for one what appeared to be just a comment became words to fight for and I had to intercede. I listened as one of my students in a group exercise about the classic novel The Time Machine by H.G. Wells said if she could go back in time she would go back to the civil war and tell the south how to win the war. If she had been telling me that I would have expected it knowing her and her family but her group consisted of two Afro-Americans and the comment offended them.

 

My student probably was not even aware of her comment being offensive; she has serious issues with social skills. But the same words in another group of students here in rural Georgia may have been accepted and applauded. It could have been the exact same words and yet a significantly different reaction. I heard the owl and sought to listen deeper.

 

How do I respond to a person who hears only the dark side and believes only darkness? How do we listen and try and rationalize words with so many meanings so many interpretations. A college student from South Georgia was writing about how we change society. I offered by example but that is so difficult only one person at a time. In life we interact each day. If we maintain our example and interact in genuine trust and honesty that connection will be seen and understood and eventually copied.

 

Not everyone will make the connection but some will and those will continue the call. I heard the owl today and I will listen tomorrow and I will tell others and maybe one day who knows. Take each moment and each second live as you whole heartedly believe and live with trust and set the example. Others will see and hear and soon two people and soon three and maybe before the end of times we can all hear an owl in the same way. Maybe peace will be a word spoken and understood in the same manner tribe to tribe family to family person to person. Maybe the puzzle pieces will fall in place and the final picture will be one we all can be proud to have been a part of. So please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

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