Sometimes I wonder what it is all about.

Bird Droppings January 21, 2011
Sometimes I wonder what it is we are about.

I started working with a small group of gifted students yesterday getting ready for the AP psychology exam in May. As I talked with them a question I posed as we talked was what motivates them to want to learn, to attempt a college level extracurricular class in psychology. Perhaps it was that in the midst of reading a text on motivation as I tend to do, several other ideas popped up in regards to learning and students I work with. I was thinking of the behavior sequence of antecedent, behavior and consequence. I was trying to determine where and when motivation plays into the sequence. Motivation can be that reward at the end the consequence but what about intrinsic motivations and this was sort of where I Left it.

“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 some day I will be famous too for studying my own kids or grandkids, although now that they are in college it would be all memories albeit some good ones. Piaget while limited in his scope of research came up with 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 wonder did he interact.

“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

It is so interesting how John Dewey who died in 1952 was making statements like this in 1914. John Garner former Vice President under F.D.R. was making this statement in 1960.

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

Many times as I have written I have borrowed from the late great syndicated columnist Sidney J. Harris, who compares education to stuffing a sausage or finding a fine pearl. I wonder which we would prefer. Many so called teachers liken education to bucket filler, we only have this amount to put in, and then it’s full, in this confined space. It is a 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. In agriculture and timbering it is called a controlled burn. Years ago lightening would do it now with society so restrictive it is controlled, how 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, or 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 have had upon my wall a banner with this saying upon it, 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 and 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?” offers more about a concept of afterlife, but as I look back life here now is what we make of it.

“Our dreams – 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 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 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

Slowly I am getting back into the swing of things and maybe by next Monday to really be back on track. To end this first week back to school after our extended holiday and to finish off one last quote from nearly 3000 years ago and with that have a great week and keep all in harms way on your mind and in your heart.

“Only the educated are free.” – Epictetus