Why do we even have public education?

Bird Droppings December 12, 2011

Why do we even have public education?

 

“Instead of seeing these children for the blessings that they are, we are measuring them only by the standard of whether they will be future deficits or assets for our nation’s competitive needs.”  Jonathan Kozol

 

            On the front page of our main local paper several articles all related to education and all discussing the impact of cuts to funding and how we are now adding to costs but not providing finds. One is based on a popular scholarship program funded through State Lottery funds which the scholarship committee is chaired by a represenitive who opposed the lottery to begin with back in the beginning how ironic is that. More ironic is that this representative just resigned amid investigations into his former employer. Our newly elected governor hit the ground with education in his sights for funding cuts and in same article proposed cutting corporate taxes. Somewhere in this ridiculous thinking logic seems lost.

As I read the article it is interesting how the arguments of college tuition rising and costs of education increasing for college students seemed to be in a way misrepresented. The state cut funding to state colleges over the past eight years which forced state colleges to raise tuition which lead to increases in Hope scholarship funding which was set up to cover cost of tuition for state colleges. Funny I recall a similar pattern in Florida where the lottery was billed as a saving grace to education in the beginning and as the years went on state funding to education was cut and eventually lottery funding was cut and many fantastic educational programs once lauded nationwide were gone.

            While a staunch supporter of public education there are times when I raise the question should we even have it? Why not be a nation of an educated elite and a subservient uneducated mass who can then run the industrial complex which we no longer have and or work at minimum wage in what service industry jobs are available. So quickly we forget there is little industry left in US, interestingly Wal-Mart is one of the leading employers in the nation so everyone can now work in service and retail taking care of the educated elite. I am being caustic about our educational situation and so many attitudes towards it. I personally believe in the public education system in the US it might need some tweaking but it has produced many great individuals and it is still one of the greatest in the world contrary to popular thinking and test results.

 

“Many of the productivity and numbers specialists who have rigidified and codified school policy in recent years do not seem to recognize much preexisting value in the young mentalities of children and, in particular in children of the poor. Few of these people seem to be acquainted closely with the lives of children and, to be blunt as possible about this, many would be dreadful teachers because, in my own experience at least, they tend to be rather grim-natured people who do not have lovable or interesting personalities and, frankly would not be much fun for kids to be with.” Jonathan Kozol, Letters to a young Teacher

 

I think where I am having difficulty is we so often grasp at very thin straws and the loudest brightest new idea that comes down the pike at least this is how it seems in education. Talk to any teacher with experience and they will joke about the cycles in education. We have a new math curriculum in Georgia that is wreaking havoc on students. One of the previous texts we were using had no explanations in it only problems. So when a student goes home to do for homework say fifty problems and if the student does not know how to do problems and asks a parent unless the parent knows how there is no way to help the student.

 

“I am more and more convinced that we in the schooling game have no idea what real learning is about. It is no wonder that we embrace every so-called new idea that comes down the pike, and yet nothing really changes. We are the proverbial dog chasing its tail.” Dr. Grant Bennett

 

            I thank Dr. Bennett again for a morning quote that I could use. I started on an idea the other day as I finished up my Bird Dropping about perhaps looking at the bottom end of the spectrum rather than always looking at the top in education. How do we help those who always seem to fail or not succeed in school? Within our own school we have added graduation coaches and other supplemental staff to work with high risk students. But still we are working to attain a goal based on best students and not on potential or rationale that has mired this or that student in the bottom end of the educational barrel.

 

“I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.” John F. Kennedy

 

I think there are issues with semantics and understanding as to what we deem success in education or in politics, battle, or the gaining and or lack of wealth. At our state level we continue to talk about raising the bar even though many are still failing. Raising the bar does nothing to improve those who cannot attain the bar to begin with let alone those who will self-defeat as standards and challenges get more strenuous. So often the test scores of various countries are compared and we are somewhere not near the top and politicians want to be at the top. In many countries of the industrialized world education is number one and somewhere around twelve years of age those going into trades and those going into secondary education part ways. Effectively we are testing all children in the US while many other countries are only testing those who are going into college. I had a friend who taught in Korea for a year in an exchange program. She made the comment that Koreans children planned on three hours of homework each night. There was not time for TV or video games or phone calls and texting it was serious and all about education.

 

“We are the children of this beautiful planet that we have seen photographed from the moon. We were not delivered into it by some god, but have come forth from it. And the earth, together with the sun, this light around which it flies like a moth, came forth from a nebula….and that nebula, in turn, from space. So we are the mind, ultimately, of space, each in his own way at one with all…..and with no horizons…” Joseph Campbell

 

As I spent the past few morning in another state attending and participating in my son’s wedding I am still a bit tired from the driving and nonstop pace of three days getting ready and then having the wedding. I went looking for quotes to use today and found this statement by Campbell. As I thought of Dr. Bennett’s words and those of Jonathan Kozol it seemed to filter through Campbell’s thought. Education is not a static closed ended entity but vast and limitless and individually unique to each person and student.

 

“Life’s a journey not a destination” Steven Tyler, Amazing

 

For a number of years I have used this simple quote by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame. The song it comes from is one of addiction and pain and in many ways this is Steven Tyler’s journey back from addiction. I keep thinking to education and our continued effort trying to get to the destination without the journey. It is always simply a quick fix. 

 

“You have to learn to crawl before you learn to walk” Steven Tyler

 

Who would have thought Steven Tyler took Human Development. Sort of reminds me of Piaget and I have always been a big fan of human development with each aspect of our lives passing through stages one stage after the other. I keep thinking back to my original thought of education and should we even have public education. Many people want education to be clean and neat all children learn the same and no child will be left behind yet each child is totally unique and then problems arise. Publishers cannot cost effectively produce books for each student needs and curriculum people cannot provide the multiple disseminations of a subject in a way that teachers can efficiently teach.

We coined a great word in education diversification. In classes we are to diversify and teach to every level of student. Technically that is nearly thirty different levels if we have thirty kids in class. I was pondering a program we have for mentally impaired students entitled The Georgia Alternative Assessment. Basically the State standards are taken and tasks that sort of meet that standard are employed to evaluate a student’s capabilities meeting that standard. So in effect a student on GAA might have two standards to have tasks applied to in biology and is checked at various points during the year to see if there is progression and a portfolio is compiled and then graded. Several millions of dollars are spent evaluating these portfolios and then if standards are accepted by evaluator student can receive a high school diploma. Sadly a student who does not meet MI qualifications has to meet the same standards as a college track student. Quite a bit of differentiation I would say and having been involved in GAA formatting rather ridiculous.

 

 “We are not permitted to choose the frame of our destiny. But what we put into it is ours.” Dag Hammarskjold

 

Sent as a delegate to The United Nations in 1949 he was elected Secretary of the UN in 1951 by a near unanimous vote he presided over the UN in its early years and many world tribulations. During his time in office we had the founding of Israel, the Korean War, and the independence of countries worldwide along with the spread of communism in Europe. As I read Hammarskjöld’s words this morning I found this as well.

 

“Tomorrow we shall meet, Death and I and he shall thrust his sword into one who is wide awake.” Dag Hammarskjöld

 

He lived each step on his journey to the fullest and it was these words that he wrote as a young man that embellish his tombstone.

 

“No man is great enough or wise enough for any of us to surrender our destiny to. The only way in which anyone can lead us is to restore to us the belief in our own guidance.” Henry Miller

 

So often in life we come to a place where do we walk across the field or do we follow the edge of the field safely. Some will choose to go the shortest distance between two lines and walk abruptly across never looking at the newly planted field and seedlings sprouting leaving trampled crops beneath their feet. Others fearful of being in the open choose immediately to walk the edge staying close to the woods for safety. It is a choice and we make them daily. The direction of your own journey is based on your choices each day.

 

“It’s not what’s happening to you now or what has happened in your past that determines who you become. Rather, it’s your decisions about what to focus on, what things mean to you, and what you’re going to do about them that will determine your ultimate destiny.” Anthony Robbins

 

“Nature is at work… Character and destiny are her handiwork. She gives us love and hate, jealousy and reverence. All that is ours is the power to choose which impulse we shall follow.” David Seabury

 

As a teacher and learner I travel the pathway always looking trying to see all I can in my travels. I am constantly reading on how to improve my own teaching and that of others. I am always trying to understand who and what I see and why. I try to instill that curiosity in my students as they travel their own journeys and for me it is always about the journey.

 

 “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

I will have to continue another day looking further at should we have public education. Please my friends keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

A tapestry woven and each thread interconnects

Bird Droppings November 26, 2011
A tapestry woven as each thread interconnects

“For certain fortunate people there is something that transcends all classifications of behavior, and that is awareness, something which rises from the programming of the past, and that is spontaneity; and something that is more rewarding than games and that is intimacy. But all of these may be frightening and even perilous to the unprepared. Perhaps they are better off as they are, seeking their solutions in popular techniques of social action, such as ‘togetherness.’ This may mean that there is no hope for the human race, but there is hope for individual members of it.” Dr. Eric Berne, Games People Play, 1964

The title intrigued me as I was sitting here 6:00 AM wondering which direction to go in this morning’s writing I was thinking about students, parents and teachers and how so often the intertwining of personalities produce the fabric of the day. I recall in a graduate class a professor friend used the term or representation of weaving. Our lives are a tapestry being woven each day as we go.

“Each person designs his own life, freedom gives him the power to carry out his own designs, and power gives the freedom to interfere with the designs of others.“ Dr. Eric Berne

For many years I was directly involved in the sheep industry with raising, breeding, and of course shearing the sheep and selling the wool. I traveled nationwide photographing and talking to producers and writing about the sheep and wool industry. I met many hand spinners and weavers as I traveled. Some were artisans spinning yarn as fine as silk and weaving literally pieces of art work. Back in the day we had a ewe a Hampshire cross ewe that was “black” and when she was shorn, her fleece was chinchilla gray. For a number of years a dear friend would get that fleece each year for her spinning and weaving. Somewhere in a box is a small ball of yarn my oldest son spun one afternoon when he was six with that fleece with my friend showing and helping him.
Life as Dr. Andrews, professor and chairperson of Special education department at Piedmont College commented in class is a weaving it is an intertwining of events and people.

“A man is the sum of his actions, of what he has done, of what he can do, nothing else. “ Mahatma Gandhi

One of Gandhi’s methodologies of protest was to spin and weave his own cloth rather than rely on industrial produced material. Many other intricate thoughts were woven in as well; spinning is for many a form of meditation. The process of weaving, creating and designing a piece is literally a painting of a picture with thread and yarn.

“A man’s action is only a picture book of his creed.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

So as we weave our cloth in life we are seen by the fabric, the pattern, and the methods we use to make that piece of cloth.

“When power leads man towards arrogance, poetry reminds him of his limitations. When power narrows the area of man’s concern, poetry reminds him of the richness and diversity of existence. When power corrupts, poetry cleanses. “ John F. Kennedy

With each progress report we call students parents or guardians to discuss issues and grades. I spoke with several over the phone back a week or so ago. I walked through my room after school that day reading a poster that has been hanging around now on my wall where ever I take up for 30 years, Children Learn what they live. While one weaves silk while another weaves burlap. Silk has many great attributes as does burlap and the applications and uses vary. To spin hemp into twine and weave the burlap is as much a skill as the artisans who weave the silk threads into cloth. The weaving and material made is not the issue but it is that weaving that is occurring. For it is that effort that is being made to produce a life that is so important.

“Understand clearly that when a great need appears a great use appears also; when there is small need there is small use; it is obvious, then, that full use is made of all things at all times according to the necessity thereof.” Dogen Kenji, Zen master

Recently I used the word direction and drew criticism from a teacher trying to explain that choosing a direction in a journey and not truly having a destination is sometimes a meaningless effort. For some just going is the norm. I always speak of the journey being more important versus the destination but there is a point to head towards. When building a house first you build walls you determine where doors and windows are needed and add them as you go. A really good builder knows ahead and plans for doors and windows and designed properly a house can have huge windows and great doors and movement in and out occurs continually.

“Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” Chief Seattle, 1854

Many years ago I was sitting alongside a fence in a field far away from houses and people and I watched a spider spin a web. We see webs all around I was told there are thousands of spiders per acre in any field. Many of the spiders are minute and nearly microscopic. Anyhow the spider climbed to a point and dropped leaving a strand of silk climbed and dropped and so forth building a base for her web. Next came the cross lines and soon a web was built over an hour or so in the process. We see webs and easily sweep them away but the design and care in making is engrained in the spider. Life is a weaving a spinning a web of sorts and yes so often is simply swept away. Occasionally someone will stand back in awe of the artistry if only we would take note every time. Please as we have already partaken of a day of thanksgiving continue giving thanks and keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Teaching is far more than wanting to

Bird Droppings November 21, 2011
Teaching is far more than just wanting to

“I want to say one other challenge that we face is simply that we must find an alternative to war and bloodshed. Anyone who feels, and there are still a lot of people who feel that way, that war can solve the social problems facing mankind is sleeping through a great revolution. President Kennedy said on one occasion, “Mankind must put an end to war or war will put an end to mankind.” The world must hear this. I pray to God that America will hear this before it is too late, because today we’re fighting a war.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

When I saw this quote earlier today it reminded me that wanting to in any endeavor is a powerful force. Yesterday a friend asked about the idea of wanting to teach and maybe I should write about that. As I am working on a paper while not on that subject it is about the art of learning and how we take away from kids that drive, that wanting to. Having taught in public school eleven years now and as a parent being involved for nearly twenty years or more in public schools I have seen many teachers who do not want to be teaching. For whatever reason they are there and how they impact kids is directly related to their lack of motivation for being a teacher far too many times. I just had to bold the following quote.

“The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.” William Arthur Ward

I was subbing during my planning period a few days back and ran into a paradox. On the wall a sign stating you earn respect and yet the teacher I was subbing for demanded respect from students. Several students had mentioned to me that fact about this teacher. Granted third party conversation, especially from students is not always the best. However I know many teachers who walk in a room and demand respect that think in being a teacher students should bow down and worship the ground they stand on. Granted in some cultures teachers are revered. However a teacher in that particular culture also has a different view of their teaching. When respect is demanded many students take offense and immediately back away. Some students as in the situation with one of my students become antagonistic and fight back and argue against demand. So how do we then inspire daily and weekly and monthly and for a lifetime as Ward states.

“Teacher’s Prayer: I want to teach my students how to live this life on Earth, to face its struggles and its strife and to improve their worth. Not just the lesson in a book or how the rivers flow, But how to choose the proper path wherever they may go. To understand eternal truth and know the right from wrong, and gather all the beauty of a flower and a song. For if I help the world to grow in wisdom and in grace, and then I shall feel that I have won and I have filled my place. . That I may do my part. For character and confidence and happiness of heart.” James J. Metcalf

I want to teach, a simple statement but a basis for all that then transpires in a classroom. Over the years I have read many books on education, learning and on teaching. One that has always been a good read and reread is The Passionate teacher by Robert Fried. There is a need for passion in teaching.

“One looks back with appreciation to the brilliant teachers, but with gratitude to those who touched our human feelings. The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is the vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” Carl Jung

“Compassionate teachers fill a void left by working parents who aren’t able to devote enough attention to their children. Teachers don’t just teach; they can be vital personalities who help young people to mature, to understand the world and to understand themselves. A good education consists of much more than useful facts and marketable skills.” Charles Platt

Many disagree with my philosophy of teaching and walk by on the other side of the hallway so as to not be infected. I recall many years ago one teacher who would go an extra hall over to avoid coming by my room. Granted there are snakes and spiders and loud kids, maybe they are afraid of snakes. I often wonder what some people become teachers. Obviously it is a paying job, with relatively good benefits. Some teachers will say they were called it is almost a sacred mission for them. But those few who simple could not find anything else or thought they wanted to teach maybe should wander away to another field. I know of several teachers simply waiting to retire and collect their teacher retirement. I wonder is it a sacred mission?

“The future of the world is in my classroom today, a future with the potential for good or bad… Several future presidents are learning from me today; so are the great writers of the next decades, and so are all the so-called ordinary people who will make the decisions in a democracy. I must never forget these same young people could be the thieves and murderers of the future. Only a teacher? Thank God I have a calling to the greatest profession of all! I must be vigilant every day, lest I lose one fragile opportunity to improve tomorrow.” Ivan Welton Fitzwater

“There’s no word in the language I revere more than ‘teacher.’ My heart sings when a kid refers to me as his teacher, and it always has. I’ve honored myself and the entire family of man by becoming a teacher.” Pat Conroy, Prince of Tides

“If you plan for a year, plant a seed. If for ten years, plant a tree. If for a hundred years, teach the people. When you sow a seed once, you will reap a single harvest. When you teach the people, you will reap a hundred harvests.” Kuan Chung

Such a powerful tool is teaching for the betterment and or the fall of mankind. As I look at how we decide who teaches and who does not, and how we train teachers I wonder. Are we training for a hundred years or next year? Looking at government’s involvement it is short term. I find it interesting how in eastern thought so often it is beyond the now. Nearby in a community is the Church of the Now sort of paradoxical. We focus so much on short term goals and efforts. Reach this score now and or suffer the consequences. When independent data is finally compiled I think we will find NCLB, No Child Left Behind has left significant numbers behind. A great teacher here and there might change some of this. We need to change legislation, views about education, and views about learning.

“There is an old saying that the course of civilization is a race between catastrophe and education. In a democracy such as ours, we must make sure that education wins the race.” John F. Kennedy

Right now education is falling behind as we spend billions fighting several wars. I often find it interesting that John Kennedy wanted to pull out of Viet Nam, and Lyndon Johnson wanted to stay and continue. After Kennedy’s assassination Johnson did continue the war for a number of years and many deaths of Americans. Several of whom would have made great teachers I knew them personally.
In wanting to be a teacher, wanting to end a war, wanting to be a good parent, or wanting to be a friend, each requires of us to put in an effort. It takes an effort to be a great teacher, end a war, be a good parent, and be a good friend. It is how much beyond is where the wanting to fits in. You will know when you get there. It is a new day and I have many more pages to write and a much to do before heading to Macon Georgia tomorrow. I hope each of you as you prepare for the holiday coming has a joyous and glorious day. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Sometimes we can offer a sigh of relief

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Only the educated are free.” Epictetus

Trying to clear my head

Bird Droppings September 20, 2011
Trying to clear my head

“The hands will solve a mystery that the intellect has struggled with in vain.” Carl G. Jung

I have been a fan of Carl Jung for some time. Many teachers know some children will learn so much faster when the hands are engaged as well tactile sensation adding to intellectual pursuit. I was working with my eldest on some graduate studies last night and the text was based on research in high schools in the early seventies and the questions than pointed towards high schools today. My first point was many of the premises made in the late sixties and early seventies no longer applied considering technology and economics alone. I was thinking back to my own high school graduation.

“Never be afraid to sit awhile and think.” Lorraine Hansberry

One of the draws for me to John Dewey is his constant discussion and introjections of reflection into education process. For it is in reflection that we analyses and truly give credence to ideas and thoughts. I picked up a Smithsonian magazine this morning and was looking through various articles when I stumbled on an ad for The Rosette Stone language system. One of the principles of the system is to immerse you in the language you are learning. John Dewey would have liked Rosette Stone. As I pondered and reflected reading the ad I recalled various Human development courses and how we are told language acquisition is an early childhood development and Rosette Stone is saying immersion unlocks that aspect of our brains.

“Adults possess this same powerful language learning ability that orchestrated our language success as children. Sadly our clashes with vocabulary drills and grammar explanations force us to conclude it’s hopeless.” Rosette Stone Ltd.

“No matter where you go or what you do, you live your entire life within the confines of your head.” Terry Josephson

Perhaps some of us do far too much internalizing of where we are and why sadly so much of our existence is in our heads in perceptions and beliefs.

“People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.” Soren Kierkegaard

I have often wondered about freedom of speech when so few even consider that unless it is generally in a manner contrary to popular thought. But then is it freedom of speech when we make laws to prohibit that which is free by limiting and delineating specific terms and conditions of what is said or not said.
“Too often we… enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” John F. Kennedy

“Some people get lost in thought because it’s such unfamiliar territory.” G. Behn

Some people get lost because what is seen as reality is too painful for them. Working with numerous people over the years who due to whatever circumstances deem that the “real” world is harsh and bitter and withdrawal into a private realm is deemed far more enjoyable and safe.

“We spend our days in deliberating, and we end them without coming to any resolve.” L’Estrange

Each second of each day so many people squander their own reality spinning about never seemingly going anywhere. I have many times found myself in this trap looking for something to grasp, to get hold of and pull out.

“Few people think no more than two or three times a year; I have made an international reputation for myself by thinking once a week.” George Bernard Shaw

When I read this, I thought of blue collar comedy and my local favorites rednecks. Where in the definition of redneck is it that we so often need to use the word ignorant. But as Jeff Foxworthy has built his fame and industry on redneckism it is interesting his kids go to one of Atlanta’s most exclusive private schools which is ironic and sort of paradoxical redneckism.

“Belief is when someone else does the thinking.” Buckminster Fuller

Reading Buckminster Fuller often is sort of a head clearing kind of thing and when I read this, I thought back to the dark ages when society was imprisoned by those who could read and write and think freely. Sadly it was predominantly “the church” and all thought was restricted to thought allowed by the church. How many great thinkers actually perished in wrong thinking?

“Irons rusts from disuse, stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.” Leonardo da Vinci

I have found the more I study the more I think the more I want to study and learn more which is an interesting thought so few aspects of life are self perpetuating such as thinking although going back to the immersion idea of rosette Stone perhaps language is as well.

“A sect or party is an elegant incognito devised to save a man from the vexation of thinking.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

I could not have expressed myself better than my hero Ralph Waldo Emerson. Politics takes away any sort of thinking or seriously tries to. Someone stuck an extremely conservative article folded up in my teacher’s mailbox yesterday. There are so many political aides who simply spin reality in favor of that person or ideology they have chosen to support right or wrong there’s will be most likely to be picked and do not let the populous think too much or give them time to think.

“Thoughts, like fleas, jump from man to man. But they don’t bite everybody.” Stanislaw Lec

“The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.” Albert Einstein

Albert Einstein hit the nail on the head we have to change our thinking or else it will become as Emerson and Fuller stated become belief and or a sect or party. It is a circular effort we begin to think which becomes common place and soon everyone follows suit and that idea becomes law and belief and then we have to rethink everything all over again. What if human nature was not so lazy and would stay in motion if thought would continue instead of constantly wanting a break.

“No amount of energy will take the place of thought. A strenuous life with its eyes shut is a kind of wild insanity.” Henry Van Dyke

So true and so much a part of so many so for today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Teaching the unteachable child

Bird Droppings September 14, 2011
Teaching the un-teachable child

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

I was working with some young people yesterday when one who continually has been a problem for various teachers was acting out. It was easy, far too easy to see the behaviors he was demonstrating than to look past to any possible ability at the time. Working in a co-teaching setting this year I can see more distinctly the differing perceptions of another teacher’s versus mine. As I pondered during class as to what to do it kept coming back to find the positive aspects of this young man rather than the very obvious negative, reinforce the positive. It must be coincidence that I attended a conference training session on positive behavior support or PBS and just pulled that folder out of my files.

“The roots of education are bitter, but the fruit is sweet.” Aristotle

“Education in our times must try to find whatever there is in students that might yearn for completion, and to reconstruct the learning that would enable them autonomously to seek that completion.” Allan Bloom

We met for a faculty meeting a few weeks back and one of the topics was the Governors Honors program which is six weeks during the summer for top students from high schools around Georgia. My son was privileged to go nearly ten years ago. When he came back he had a great difficulty dealing with students who did not want to learn. After spending a summer with peers who literally learned on their own and sought additional learning to come back to school where many students simply ride the waves and basically are just there, even in honors classes’ was hard.

“Getting things done is not always what is most important. There is value in allowing others to learn, even if the task is not accomplished as quickly, efficiently or effectively.” R. D. Clyde

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

It is difficult to try and inspire those who prefer ignorance to education those people who are content in life being unaware. I often joke that you could go all day in a high school with seven or eight words. If you actually listen many teenagers can communicate with a few statements and words and literally you could walk through any high school in America and use those few phrases and words and communicate all day long. Unfortunately most perpetuate ambiguousness, my favorite is whatever, used perhaps more in a day than any other word in the English language at least in high school. I was asked by a teenager yesterday about something in front of me and if she needed to learn it will there be a grade when I said no she fine I am not interested.

“Nine tenths of education is encouragement.” Anatole France

“What usually happens in the educational process is that the faculties are dulled, overloaded, stuffed and paralyzed so that by the time most people are mature they have lost their innate capabilities.” R. Buckmaster Fuller

So often we discourage rather than encourage often due to behavior as I think back to my incident yesterday and a student who was acting out. My first reaction was to get rid of him, get him out of the class and I am the behavior teacher. I could march him down to the administrator and be done with it. The student did not want to learn and did not want to be in school. His attitude was “I am only here for insurance of I am not in school I do not get covered”. It is an interesting enough thought process to understand the reality of the world. So this student is in effect stuck somewhere where he doesn’t want to be yet currently not willing to learn.

“We learn simply by the exposure of living. Much that passes for education is not education at all but ritual. The fact is that we are being educated when we know it least.” David P. Garner

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

“If you have some respect for people as they are, you can be more effective in helping them to become better than they are.” John W. Gardner

One of the great thinkers and reformers of education and society of the last one hundred years John Garner saw aspiration in students and in society.

“Josh Billings said, ‘It is not only the most difficult thing to know oneself, but the most inconvenient one, too.’ Human beings have always employed an enormous variety of clever devices for running away from themselves, and the modern world is particularly rich in such stratagems.” John W. Gardner

As I think back to my problem student, was his behavior an act of escaping from who he is and from where he is or was in life?

“Much education today is monumentally ineffective. All too often we are giving young people cut flowers when we should be teaching them to grow their own plants.” John W. Gardner

I got into a discussion after our faculty meeting with another teacher are we truly educating students, are we preparing them for what they may encounter in the real world. We bantered ideas back and forth and constructivism kept popping up in my mind.

“Constructivism is a philosophy of learning founded on the premise that, by reflecting on our experiences, we construct our own understanding of the world we live in. Each of us generates our own “rules” and “mental models,” which we use to make sense of our experiences. Learning, therefore, is simply the process of adjusting our mental models to accommodate new experiences.” Engaging Kids, Funderstanding http://www.funderstanding.com/constructivism.cfm

Recalling John Dewey’s lab school and the idea you cannot learn about something truly learn without doing it as Dewey would say. In discussing with this teacher we drew a similar conclusion it takes hands on for students to learn beyond simply pouring facts into the mold. Going back to my problem student of yesterday perhaps looking at where was he coming from and where did he want to go and why and accentuating those issues would provide a pathway for him. Each day is a new day and each thought adds to the thought pool and process, it is about lifting up rather than tearing down. Today please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird

Looking deeper than the surface

Bird Droppings April 29, 2011
Looking deeper than the surface

It has been a long week. I am working hard on pulling nearly eight years of graduate school notes together, writing and reading at home as I develop my ideas for my dissertation. I will be driving down to Statesboro more than likely several times this summer usually it is a two or three day trip now. It always amazes me how in days gone by I could drive to Philadelphia and back on a weekend and go to work on Monday morning. Today I need to spend the night when I drive the 230 miles to Statesboro. I guess that means I am getting old. I need to work on our blueberry patch soon after we moved in to this house almost six years ago we planted a few bushes out in our back yard. I am somewhat pondering changing the format as I write, perhaps too much time working in APA style for graduate school hopefully I will not include references and a bibliography.

“Give me a fruitful error anytime, full of seeds, bursting with its own corrections.” Vilfredo Pareto

I found it interesting that over the past few days several thoughts of error and or problems brought forth answers in and of themselves. It seemed as if the problem was bearing fruit from within the problem. Vilfredo Pareto was a unique thinker and philosopher from the tail end of the 19th century and beginning of the 20th century. In the detailing of his economic theory with mathematics and linking his great writings to sociology as well, he spawned numerous socio-economic political entities in that time. Fascism and Communism both use Pareto as a resource. What is amazing is that he wrote against communism and the other socialisms of Europe.

“The principles that a writer chooses to follow may be put forward in two different ways. He may, in the first place, ask that his principles be accepted as demonstrated truths. If they are so accepted, all their logical implications must also be regarded as proved. On the other hand, he may state his principles as mere indications of one course that may be followed among the many possible. In that case any logical implication which they may contain is in no sense demonstrated in the concrete, but is merely hypothetical – hypothetical in the same manner and to the same degree as the premises from which it has been derived. It will therefore often be necessary to abstain from drawing such inferences: the deductive aspects of the subject will be ignored, and relationships be inferred from the facts directly.” Vilfredo Pareto

So often we accept a writer’s premise and all that follows, as if each word is true, based on the value of the last word. We never seem to question beyond that first point. So often politics is this way we follow blindly the thoughts based solely on that first good effort. Watching our Congress and Senate work we read of a bill that appears to be so noble, and then we find tacked on numerous other bills that literally that seem to take apart rational thought. On one bill a few years back there was “15.6 billion for buying out tobacco farmer’s quotas” tacked on legislation to give tax breaks to corporations. Even the initial bill in this case is wary, but we seldom look past face value. Republicans and Democrats argue over who voted when and for what, based on face value and not details of the bills.

“Faith by its very nature is exclusive. If one believes oneself possessed of the absolute truth, one cannot admit that there are any other truths in the world. So the enthusiastic Christian and the pugnacious free-thinker are, and have to be, equally intolerant. For the believer there is but one good course; all others are bad.” Vilfredo Pareto

Other than the election of John Kennedy I do not recall faith and or religion being a factor in any other another election until George W. Bush and Barrack Hussein Obama. As we went into our presidential election and even now politics is being preached from pulpits around the country. All of a sudden ethical values and morality is a reason for electing someone and or not electing someone else. Often those standards are mixed and contorted and many times lies and or distortions much like the birth certificate arguments that even still have not subsided.

“….for the image of social activity is stamped on the majority of such propositions and theories, and often it is through them alone that we manage to gain some knowledge of the forces which are at work in society – that is, of the tendencies and inclinations of human beings.” Vilfredo Pareto

A bit deep this morning perhaps, as I slip into sociological theory of the early 20th century. We do and are compelled by human nature to move and act in particular ways. It is societal perhaps cultural as we follow patterns that are predictable. Advertisers prey on this as do politicians.

“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the universe.” Albert Einstein

“Nature is trying very hard to make us succeed, but nature does not depend on us. We are not the only experiment.” R. Buckminster Fuller

We are our worst enemy as we go through life. Focusing so often only on only the now. We become so self centered and egotistical, seeking only that which provides sustenance for the moment and little if any effort for tomorrow. We do this in politics and society. We do this in how we treat others daily. We do this in education and teaching. It is in that rare moment and rare individual; others are seen and dealt with. These special people are few and far between and have been all through history.

“I am certain that after the dust of centuries has passed over our cities, we, too, will be remembered not for victories or defeats in battle or in politics, but for our contribution to the human spirit.” John F. Kennedy

It has been some time since I was standing for a moment in the dark of the morning with the eerie orange of clouds masking out societies’ lights. At that moment the crickets were droning, the only sound available to me. It is interesting to perceive we have been here many years, many days situated perhaps in different towns and cities, in different cultures, yet we continually seem to forget there is someone else across the road. There are other people across the country and across the world.

“…for the image of social activity is stamped on the majority” Vilfredo Pareto

We do not see the starving child infected with river fever in Sudan. Even closer to home, the children in poverty in Louisiana or on reservations of the south west or even closer, in the city next door to you, Atlanta or Philadelphia. I remember taking my wife to Philly for the first time, as we came to the steps up from the subway, a homeless man lay in a puddle of urine at the foot of the stairs by a heat grate. We stepped over him and went on; maybe for us it was human nature. I have used this statement many, many times as I write, recalling my own days of seeing and believing.

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

We all too often get caught in the now in the advertising and forget that there is so much more. What is seen as majority may truly not be. What is seen as justified in that moment may not stand up to history. Hopefully we will be remembered as John Kennedy stated “for our contribution to the human spirit”. So I look into this morning, a new day, a day filled with anticipation and hope and one in which perhaps rays of sunlight will permeate the darkness and there will be light ahead. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird