We are neither wolf nor dog

Bird Droppings January 16, 2018
We are neither wolf nor dog

 

It has been some time since I first read a book by this name written by one of my favorite authors Kent Nerburn. In much of his writing Kent Nerburn addresses the spiritual significance and depth of life of our Native Peoples. While to some this is never an issue for others it is very much so and perhaps equally we as a nation have reelected a nontraditional president who happens to be of a different color than what many so called Americans would prefer and are afraid to say they are. So easy for some to say “I am not racist but his church affiliation cannot be over looked.” Many who put aside color will go for religion, or birthplace, and or who his friends are as reasons to dislike yet underlying the rhetoric is race. I was listening to several of my students discuss politics and always the other reason our president is not liked somehow gets mentioned. Listening to polls and news similar rationales seem to prevail although cloaked in political dribble be it Republican or Democrat. While shrouded in history and idealistic notions racism towards native and or nonwhites has been a large portion of our culture.

 

“Is it wrong for me to love my own? Is it wicked for me because my skin is red? Because I am Sioux? Because I was born where my father lived? Because I would die for my people and my country?” Sitting Bull, (Tatanka Iyotake), Lakota Medicine man and chief

 

This great warrior and holy man died in 1890 shot by his own people as fore told in a vision he had many years before. At the time the federal government was concerned with his affiliation with the ghost dance cult, which was sweeping the reservations. Armed Sioux officers were sent to bring him in and as legend goes he was reaching for his grandson’s toy and the officers perceived a gun and shot him multiple times. Sadly most of the officers themselves were killed in mysterious ways the next year or so. Some will say karma but to the Sioux killing a holy man is a death sentence in and of itself. Perhaps the officer’s deaths were retaliation for the killing of a great leader from the Sioux nation. Perhaps it is the paradox of the Indian wars.

 

It always seems interesting to me how it was patriotic for soldiers to kill Indians and yet the statement “I would die for my people and country,” is a very patriotic statement we still hear from American patriots continually down through history. Today around the world we are witnessing similar events in many countries. It just depends on which side of the fence you are sitting on as to who is patriotic and who is the enemy.

“To see what is right, and not do it, is want of courage, or of principle.” Confucius

 

“Only in quiet waters things mirror themselves undistorted. Only in a quiet mind is adequate perception of the world.” Hans Margolius

 

Sometimes I wonder if we have run out of wilderness to conquer as I watch world events. Even the underlying rumor mill is word that Haiti now is a possible new territory for the US. Do we need another General Custer and another battle of the little Big Horn? I was thinking back in my own time and war, Viet Nam, and to the Malai massacre but those folks had no weapons and were only standing around not fighting back. I am always amazed that Custer was a hero and yet he disobeyed orders and egotistically rode into battle outnumbered and was slaughtered. Perhaps it was the fact the Native Americans had the newest weaponry, repeating rifles and Custer’s men still had breech loading single shot rifles. Interestingly enough word had it the unit was offered the new weapons but felt the old ones were good enough for what they were doing. There is a petition going around the internet to recall the twenty medals of honors awarded to some of Custer’s men. Wounded Knee was only a few months before, Custer’s men only days before killed women and children and by chance came into confrontation with the large army assembled under Crazy Horse and directed by Sitting Bull at Little Bighorn.

 

“What white man can say I never stole his land or a penny of his money? Yet they say that I am a thief. What white woman, however lonely, was ever captive or insulted by me? Yet they say I am a bad Indian.” Sitting Bull

 

I went to school for a semester in Texas in 1968 and experienced racism I had never seen before to that degree. Hatred for Native Americans nearly one hundred years after the wars were over. Geronimo and Chief Joseph were both refused on their death beds by sitting presidents to return to their sacred lands for fear of up risings. Nearly six years ago on Monday a South Texas town abolished an anti-Hispanic segregation law more than seven decades after it was enacted in Edcouch Texas.

 

In 1973 I met the contingency of Creeks who were working at the Okmulgee Indian Mounds in Macon Georgia, we became friends and I was honored to be invited to partake of medicine at the Green Corn dance. Nearly 150 years earlier under Andrew Jackson’s orders the Creeks were taken from Georgia to Oklahoma, the now infamous Trail of tears. With the Creeks gone all the land became available. I found searching for information on my Leni Lenape, great, great grandmother an article about my great, great grandfather George Niper who lived to be one hundred and fourteen years old and was the last living person to have voted for Andrew Jackson. I found it interesting Jackson was a Democrat. The Trail of Tears was not a liberal act by any means.

 

“Now that we are poor, we are free. No white man controls our footsteps. If we must die, we die defending our rights.” Sitting Bull

 

I wonder what slogans were used in the 1880’s in presidential elections, Grant wanted a third term and Garfield supported Grant interesting how Garfield’s speech for Grant got him the nomination over Grant and elected. Tariffs was the main issue, high tariffs was what Garfield backed and possibly that which he was assassinated for. The plight of the Native American was a small issue during the years recovering from the governmental corruption of Grants time. Government seems to be by nature corrupt. We watch as senators and congressmen argue over health care and yet they have universal health care for life. Maybe if on equal footing legislation would be different and maybe if the threat of you could lose yours was on the table things would be different.
“A very great vision is needed and the man who has it must follow it as the eagle seeks the deepest blue of the sky. I was hostile to the white man…we preferred hunting to a life of idleness on our reservations. At times we did not get enough to eat and we were not allowed to hunt. All we wanted was peace and to be left alone. Soldiers came and destroyed our villages. Then Long Hair (Custer) came…They say we massacred him, but he would have done the same to us. Our first impulse was to escape but we were so hemmed in we had to fight.” Crazy Horse, Tashunwitko

 

Interesting how an invaded people fought back yet we condemned them and how history changes the views. I have been reading a book that I titled today’s wandering about entitled, Neither Wolf nor Dog, by Kent Nerburn, an interesting book about an old man’s effort to explain who his people really are. Nerburn was invited to bring the words of an elderly Native American, a member of the Sioux nation, to the world and to explain why and how. One day maybe someone will offer explanations for the issues of today that go beyond the political views of warring parties and ideologies as we wander today 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

Finding a way to forgive

Bird Droppings January 15, 2018

Finding a way to forgive

 

“The weak can never forgive. Forgiveness is the attribute of the strong.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

It was a little over six years ago I spent the morning on a field tip of sorts for a graduate school class. We visited the MLK Jr. Memorial Center on Auburn Street in Atlanta. 1968 seems so far away as I think back. I was in school at West Chester State college now University. A black man was shot by a white man in Memphis Tn. In the days ahead throughout the nation there was mourning, sadness, riots, laughter from some, pain, heart ache, jokes, and a range of emotions. Today that entire pallet of emotions continues. As we walked from the parking lot to the King Center a statue is in directly in front of you. As I stood taking a few pictures of a statue of a man who was shot in 1949 and was modeled in later years by the man shot in 1968, a fellow started talking to his wife. “I think this was the guy who invented those sandals that are so comfortable.” I wondered how we as a society have survived to this point. I could see students I have asking the same question. The statue was of Mahatma Gandhi.

 

“He who is devoid of the power to forgive, is devoid of the power to love.” Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

 

As I thought about the inscription on Gandhi’s statue I wondered why we do not teach more about this man in schools. “Nonviolence to be a potent force (I found myself as I went from photo to paper writing weapon) must begin with the mind.” Even I, and I have studied Gandhi evidently not enough used the term weapon thinking about a man who abhorred violence. A single man who died violently because he believed in peace to the marrow of his bones, and through his actions changed a nation. Watching our society today this line hit me hard.

 

“Many people are afraid to forgive because they feel they must remember the wrong or they will not learn from it. The opposite is true. Through forgiveness, the wrong is released from its emotional stranglehold on us so that we can learn from it. Through the power and intelligence of the heart, the release of forgiveness brings expanded intelligence to work with the situation more effectively.” David McArthur & Bruce McArthur

 

When I started early this morning I was going in one direction and as events transpire I end up shifting gears heading another direction. Forgiveness is psychologically sound as a remedy for traumas that befall mankind and yet so often we aggravate and sustain the issue through thoughts of or actual revenge. The McArthur’s hit on a key point as they address the emotional stranglehold we so often fall into when an event comes upon us that we deem wrong or evil in some cases. Starting this topic of forgiveness today came from a number of situations and occurrences that have played out over the past weeks. But the culmination was in the visiting of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center and Museum back six years ago.

 

“I can forgive, but I cannot forget, is only another way of saying, I will not forgive. Forgiveness ought to be like a cancelled note–torn in two, and burned up, so that it never can be shown against one.” Henry Ward Beecher

 

“Never does the human soul appear so strong as when it foregoes revenge, and dares forgive an injury.” E. H. Chapin

 

“We are all on a life long journey and the core of its meaning, the terrible demand of its centrality is forgiving and being forgiven.”  Martha Kilpatrick

 

There are many differing views of forgiveness and this concept of varying aspects has always struck me as being somewhat interesting. From a religious standpoint Christianity uses forgiveness as a base for its religious activities yet over the years has somewhat confused the issue with such famous theological terms as once saved always saved which eludes to an initial salvation sealing forever your ability to do wrong and get away with it. However a famous biblical line from a stoning outside the city gates of Jerusalem back in the day when the leaders had convicted a woman of adultery and were getting ready to stone her. A young man was questioned about the act. He knew it was a political trap. He drew a bit in the sand a few words in ancient Aramaic and turned to the group and asked, “Who among you is without sin should cast the first stone. “ Slowly the group dissipated and the woman came to him asking what she should do and his response was “go and sin no more”. Too many people seem to forget that part of the biblical scriptures.

 

“When we forgive evil we do not excuse it, we do not tolerate it, and we do not smother it. We look the evil full in the face, call it what it is, let its horror shock and stun and enrage us, and only then do we forgive it.” Louis B. Smedes

 

“Forgiving does not erase the bitter past. A healed memory is not a deleted memory. Instead, forgiving what we cannot forget creates a new way to remember. We change the memory of our past into a hope for our future.”  Louis B. Smedes

 

“Not to forgive is to be imprisoned by the past, by old grievances that do not permit life to proceed with new business. Not to forgive is to yield oneself to another’s control… to be locked into a sequence of act and response, of outrage and revenge, tit for tat, escalating always. The present is endlessly overwhelmed and devoured by the past. Forgiveness frees the forgiver. It extracts the forgiver from someone else’s nightmare.” Lance Morrow

 

I have watched all the gangster movies on TV and in every one the evil, murderous, and always scandalous leader on his death bed asks for forgiveness from the priest. I have always wanted to see the priest say sorry not good enough or tough beans and who knows what else. Forgiveness is an aspect of living not death. It is who we are and why we are on a daily basis. I sit today listening to words from a great man who gave his life for what he believed the introduction to Dr. Kings Nobel Peace prize written by Mahatma Gandhi read by Dr. King.

 

“We are all on a life long journey and the core of its meaning, the terrible demand of its centrality is forgiving and being forgiven.” Martha Kilpatrick

 

“Forgiveness is the giving, and so the receiving, of life.” George MacDonald

 

As I read earlier today forgiveness was discussed as an aspect of love. Forgiveness is the highest form of love both to be forgiven and to forgive. That is a hard idea to understand in our world of greed and corruption. It is hard to understand when everyone seems to be diametrically focused on them.

 

“A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” Robert Quillen

 

“Forgiveness is the final form of love.” Reinhold Niebuhr

 

“One forgives to the degree that one loves.” Francois de La Rochefoucauld

 

“The most tender part of love each other is to forgive.” John Sheffield

 

I have always been a fan of Reinhold Niebuhr and his Serenity Prayer. This great theologian of the late 1950’s was on the far edge of theology in his time. He had a firm belief that faith had to visible as well as a matter of inner peace. Your life needed to reflect what you claimed in your heart. This concept has been controversial since the Middle Ages when some would simply do good works occasionally to gain forgiveness. Niebuhr was about setting the example showing that you could live as you said. While walking around the King Center I saw Niebuhr’s name as someone Dr. King studied.

 

“Forgiveness is the answer to the child’s dream of a miracle by which what is broken is made whole again, what is soiled is made clean again.” Dag Hammarskjold

 

“Forgiveness is choosing to love. It is the first skill of self-giving love.” Mahatma Gandhi

 

“We are told that people stay in love because of chemistry, or because they remain intrigued with each other, because of many kindnesses, because of luck . . . But part of it has got to be forgiveness and gratefulness.” Ellen Goodman

 

So a day of pondering and wondering about various views of forgiveness and one last quote for today. I am sure I will ponder more with an interesting book, Way of Wakan: Reflections on Lakota Spirituality and Grief by David J. Mathieu Ed.D. that I have read several times now and will begin again.

 

“To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you.” Louis B. Smedes

 

A long day and a week ahead and to end 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

 

  1. “Don’t judge each day by the harvest but by the seeds that you plant.” Robert Louis Stevenson

Why should there be no teasing?

Bird Droppings January 11, 2018
Why should there be no teasing?

 

“Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, and is it true, does it improve on the silence?” Hindu proverb

 

So often I speak first and clean up afterwards many times simply walking away quiet generally leaving whoever I am conversing with confused and bewildered. Having a long weekend ahead and hoping to get some serious writing in later today I was cleaning up my email when I found one from a dear friend from nearly fifteen years ago. It was the first one of that day and was about a subject we both were deeply involved with working with high school students.

 

My friend was a youth leader here in Atlanta area and an organic gardener as it goes several years back we discussed teasing and its effects on children. How what is said can often be more potent than any physical contact especially with teenagers. My friend Anna Evans offers this check on teasing and three things to look for.

 

“I have always said you recognize “teasing” if three things are present: There is a shred of truth to what is said, someone has their feelings hurt, you wind up saying …’I was only teasing’. We can’t take those moments back and they are often some of those life changing moments, often not for the “good” Yea, we humans need a 10 second delay like TV so we can adjust what we say…sure would make for a kinder world.” Anna Evans

 

With another Superbowl around the corner for those of you old enough to recall I wonder if Janet Jackson would take her ten seconds back from that Superbowl slip up.

 

“Jests that give pains are no jests.” Miguel de Cervantes

 

As I was wandering about the internet I came upon a website for The Center for Effective Parenting, they offer information for parents and often that same information can be totally applicable to teachers as well. We as teachers often see children for more hours awake than parents do sadly. The Center for Effective Parenting, offers a possible guide:

 

“Parents should try to find out from their children some specifics. For example, parents should try to find out what the teasing is about, who is doing the teasing, where the teasing is occurring, how their children have reacted to different episodes and what occurred afterwards. Parents should try to keep track of such information for a few days to find out what precipitates teasing, if there are things their children may be doing to encourage teasing, and if there seems to be some pattern to it.” TCEP, website

 

“ Teach appropriate responses, Ignore it, develop a quick tongue, Practice, Provide lots of love and encouragement, Discuss it with teacher or day care provider” Kristen Zolten, M.A. and Nicholas Long, PhD, Department of Pediatrics, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

 

As I look at the expert’s rationale it is a simple ABC’s, the Antecedent, Behavior and Consequence scenario which I have brought up many times in looking at behavior. As I was reading this morning and thinking about zero tolerance for bullying that is in effect for most schools I came upon an interesting website, author and ideas.

 

“Every minute spent in school handling interpersonal problems is a minute taken away from education. Students are all-too-eager to get away from academics. When they discover their teacher is willing to stop what he’s doing to deal with social problems, it is child’s play to fill up the school day with problems.” Izzy Kalman, Bullies to Buddies

 

As I think back to my own teaching style I redirect, ignore often and comeback. Very seldom do I slow down to let teasing take the fore front. Izzy Kalman borrows heavily from old adage of “Sticks and stones can break my bones but words can never hurt me”. Kalman takes an opposite view to many educators in that aggression is not learned but genetic. It is an active part of the human condition and so should be dealt with in that manner. Many books and articles and doctorial theses have been written about bullying and teasing. The TABS, which is the Teasing and Bullying survey is produced by The Mental Research Institute and can be a good resource and tool for teachers and parents.
As I sit here pondering listening to the water running in my aquarium by the window and R. Carlos Nakai on the seven note cedar flute hauntingly playing on my hearing aids which on most days I can crank up a bit louder than normal while at home. This issue of bullying is real it is in us and maybe far too often we sidestep and look away as kids tease each other.
I look back to that first statement from so many thousands of years ago, “Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?” We can choose what we say that is not genetic that is learned and an active ongoing behavior subject to ABC. We can set an example for children, and that too is learned and not genetic. So in effect if we sat an example can we change the world and maybe through natural selection down through time do away with teasing and bullying. Research is still out but I am still willing to put in an effort. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your heart and regardless of your political followings there are people hurting and dying in Haiti who need our prayers and help and always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

Trying to find a way back to normal

Bird Droppings January 10, 2018

Trying to find a way back to normal

 

“Tin soldiers and Nixon coming, we’re finally on our own. This summer I hear the drumming, four dead in Ohio. Gotta get down to it soldiers are cutting us down should have been done long ago. What if you knew her and found her dead on the ground how can you run when you know?” Neil Young

 

Perhaps it was just a wandering thought but while I was sitting thinking and pondering now a few days back one afternoon listening to Neil Young’s Live at Massey Hall, the song Ohio played and stuck with me. I am involved in the Georgia Educators Association and in a past meeting a print out of the bills presented in the first two days of state legislator were handed out. One was for a campus carry law, where students at college can carry concealed weapons. The second that caught my attention was one to allow administrators to carry concealed weapons. In a group of educators the consensus was one hundred percent against both. Somehow I got thinking to 1970 when the Kent State massacre occurred which is what inspired Neil Young to write this song the shootings were essentially an accident. Young National Guardsmen in fear for their lives shot first asked questions later and several unarmed students died.  It was in a protest against a war students were shot and died deemed an accident but death is a terminal research project.

 

It has been a traumatic year and New Year with congress trying to undo the past presidents eight years as fast and hard as they can knowing it will cause chaos. New appointments being pushed through with little or no vetting. I honestly wonder if guns sales will go down now that fake news stories of the president trying to take guns won’t work. I find it interesting how flames are fanned and profits roll through the roof around gun control controversy. Ever notice how every time something like this occurs gun sales and ammo sales go sky high? There is no morality or constitutional amendment for that it is greed fan the flames drive the sales up.  It saddens me watching the people I know fanning flames that only lead to more Kent States or Columbines. I do recall the last State of the Union address and I did not stay up but read reports the next morning. According to Donald Trump it was boring he almost fell asleep yet nationwide it was most popular ever.

 

It was a little over four years ago today my wife could drive to work on her own after the doctor gave her clearance to drive after recovery from a broken foot. Today I just started her car since it was cold out. I am slowly getting in a routine after the holiday which is sort of odd. Some days I am getting to writing early and others its afternoon. I am literally trying to find my way back to normal and it will take a few days or so. As lunch time rolls around, I keep wondering what is on the table for today. Adding to my new routine is a sincere desire to finish my doctorate. I feel as if I can seriously get a start on the day getting organized and jump into it. I need to get my butt in gear and use my time more wisely no more naps and being lazy.

 

Anyhow back to my original thought I was listening to “Ohio” by Neil young and the song sort of stuck with me and as I pondered how do you ever get to normal after an event like that. Incidentally one of the shooting victims from Arizona was at Kent State and lost a friend. I went looking for a few notes on the song and borrowed from Wiki-pedia the following:
“’Ohio’ is a protest song written and composed by Neil Young in reaction to the Kent State shootings of May 4, 1970, and performed by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. It was released as a single, backed with Stephen Stills’ ‘Find the Cost of Freedom,’ peaking at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100. Although a live version of the song was included on the group’s 1971 double album Four Way Street, the studio versions of both songs did not appear on an LP until the group’s compilation So Far was released in 1974. The song also appeared on the Neil Young compilation album Decade, released in 1977. It also appears on Young’s Live at Massey Hall album, which he recorded in 1971 but did not release until 2007.” Wiki-pedia

 

As I thought back with the song in my head to that day so long ago and where I was at the time finishing up spring semester at Eastern Baptist College in St. David’s Pennsylvania and starting to volunteer at a program in Paoli, actually getting my feet wet in teaching, where my brother was a student. There are so many memories coming back all around a song. At Eastern Baptist we all started to wonder if the antiwar groups on campus that were relatively radical at the time were next for the National Guard. There was a tension that is hard to explain especially if you are a nineteen year who has seen and heard so many horror stories about the war in Viet Nam and at that time violence on campuses in the US.  We all wondered then if our country could ever get back to normal.

 

“There is nothing more difficult to carry out, nor more doubtful of success, nor more dangerous to handle than to initiate a new order of things: for the reformer has enemies in all who profit by the old order and only lukewarm defenders from all those who would profit by the new order.  This Luke warmness arises partly from the fear of their adversaries who have the law in their favor, and partly from the incredulity of mankind who do not just believe in anything new, until they have actual experience of it.” Machiavelli (1469 – 1527)

 

My mother sent this Machiavelli quote to me back in the day and today so many similarities in our public awareness on both sides of the fence. I skip back to this past holiday season and for us as teachers in our county with a another break coming up and with a shortened calendar year and longer days to save money and now hopefully no more furlough days. I find I am seriously a creature of habit and being out of routine for so long it is very hard to get back to normal. As I look at the national scene in politics and legislation I often wonder if we ever will actually do things for the people of the country and no longer for sponsors of politicians. On a passing thought maybe politicians should be required to wear stickers like in NASCAR of sponsors.

 

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” Henry David Thoreau

 

It has been some time since I came back to Thoreau. I recall reading about him and Walden back in high school but it was just an assignment at that time. I as a student was living this quote. I was a victim of Alfie Kohn’s, decontextualization. I was going through the motions of a being student but never quite really understood what it was I was doing there or why. Somewhere in Macon Georgia at Mercer it clicked and I became a student and found that being a student and learning were two completely different things. This is sort of like realizing how engrained our routines actually are in our daily lives. I come into school clean my room each morning and get ready for the day sit and write read a bit feed my various room critters and get ready for students. Sadly my after school time for errands is confined to a narrow window in the afternoon and then home to cook dinner and play with my grand babies.

 

“As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives. “ Henry David Thoreau

 

I took a picture on last year in October at sunrise and posted on Facebook like so many images I post. I wanted to use a Thoreau quote on my “Wall of Fame”, at school and in looking through my images this sunrise was so intense it just seemed right and so it became a poster for my photo wall at school.

 

“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” Henry David Thoreau

 

As I read over several times these quotes from Thoreau they started to sink in. I need to think over and over those deep thoughts that I want to attain and accomplish and rather than procrastinate go about following my path way to completion. So I am slowly getting back to normal and just emailed a friend after a long change in routine it takes four or five days to get back in the groove. We have as a nation, state, county, school and family so many things ahead of us we need to begin working through and around and over so we can get back to normal. Then of course I really don’t think normal is where I probably ever will be according to many. Please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and to always give thanks namaste.

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

Bird

 

  1. “Don’t judge each day by the harvest but by the seeds that you plant.” Robert Louis Stevenson

Horses and Trains and learning

Bird Droppings January 2, 2018

Horses and Trains and learning

 

It has been many years since I last rode on a train. I mean a serious train going more than the distance between concourses at an airport. Years ago when I lived in the Philadelphia area, we all used mass transit to commute, to go “downtown,” to get around and to even travel a long distance, say to Florida. Trains are not quite what they used to be. Many of the true passenger trains are now extinct and the only other trains seem to be freight and rapid transit within big cities.

 

It has been nearly seventy years since diesel and electric engines replaced the giant steam locomotives that plied the tracks from Scranton, Pennsylvania and the rich anthracite coal regions to New Jersey and New York, hauling the fuel of the times on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad. I have long been fascinated with the great trains of the past and perhaps because Mr. Frank E. Bird Sr., my namesake and grandfather was an engineer on the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western coal trains from 1900-1946.

 

I do not remember much of my late grandfather, even though we traveled from our home to see my grandparents as children many years ago but the images of his being an engineer have stayed with me.  Sitting by my desk at home is his silver engineer’s watch a rather large pocket watch known for its remarkable ability to keep nearly exact time. I am told my grandfather was proud of his watch and its weight in my hand is noticeable as I ponder, it makes me wonder at how much our world has changed.

 

“One returns to the past, to capture it as it was and as it hovers over the present” William Pinar

 

But the past is part of who we are and within us in the present in our imaginations and memories. We need to avoid making the past all we are for each minute we live we are creating a new past.

 

“Our lives may be determined less by our childhood than by the way we have learned to imagine our childhoods” James Hillman

 

As children we are fascinated with trains and even now in this day and age of digital everything and computers we still have trains at Christmas time. There are still electric train sets for sale it amazes me. I always wonder at the fascination so many people have with trains. What is it that intrigues us so about trains? When the giant steam locomotives pulled massive freight trains cross-country the enormity of the engines and power were drawing cards. In literature trains always are featured. In one of the literature classes we are reading, listening too, and have just watched the new movie of John Steinbeck’s classic

“Of Mice and Men”.  In the movie the story starts and ends with George’s reflections as he rides a freight train to his next town. Blues musicians emulate trains in their music and words.

 

My early interest and fascination grew as a child and in 1954 I woke up to a Christmas morning and a circular track of a model Lionel O gauge steam engine and train set around our Christmas tree.  It became a family tradition and that set was a family fixture for many years.  When I had children of my own it was pulled out again and set up nearly thirty years later although this time it ran its circle around the dining room table trying to give a piece of my childhood to my children.

 

“Memory is an aspect of who we are” Dr. Marla Morris, GSU

 

“Memory is the raw material of history, whether mental, oral or written, it is the living source from which historians draw” Dr. Marla Morris, GSU

 

I was trying to share my past with my children as my father had passed down to me.  When I was a child my father would often tell stories of my grandfather and the great steam locomotives he would pilot.  Occasionally he would pull out an old engineer’s cap or lantern of my grandfathers to add some visual excitement to the stories. Still sitting on my mother house on the shelf is my grandfather’s kerosene lantern from the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad.

 

There is a surreal aspect to these massive metal machines, intertwined with our music and imagination trains are a fascinating piece of our being.  Trains are an element of the industrial revolution yet linked metaphysically to us, it could be the size and power, the getting us from point A to point B.

 

I will wander a bit and take my morning thinking away from the subject of trains, and to another mode of transportation but still in line with my thoughts. It has been a few years since we sold our draft horses Rick and Blue, a team of dapple gray Perchron horses. Each horse stood over six feet at the shoulder and weighed in at well over a ton. Rick and Blue were big powerful animals. They could pull anything. I was asked to talk to a group of parents one night at a function and needed a visual aid to get my point across. An aspect of that discussion was narrow mindedness. I brought along the harnesses from Rick and Blue.

The massive leather harness’ weigh over 85 pounds each and include a set of blinders for the horses. The blinders kept the horses from being distracted and only allowed the horse to look forward. I used that example to show how so many people can be like the draft horse and get stuck only seeing one thing, one direction at a time and are unable to look to either side or to see anything new or different. Granted there are many ADHD students I wish I had blinders for.

 

So am I really wandering today or what does a set of horses and trains have to do with one another? They are both big and powerful and trains much like Rick and Blue go in a straight line down the track no side trips no going off the tracks. I was talking the other day with another teacher about taking a journey on a train and how that train goes from point A to point B. We then pick up what we need along the way. I ended up comparing the journey to education and to learning.

 

As I thought of the train tracks and how so many of us get stuck simply following the tracks I thought of all the knowledge waiting sitting along the way but off the tracks. This knowledge could be away from the tracks and or hidden from the straight and narrow. I wondered what it be like if tracks were flexible and we weren’t limited by that straight line. We could go where the best ideas were and the best methods and we could really load the train full instead of simply picking up what load we can along the tracks.

 

I put an Aerosmith CD in my car today as I left the house and track four or five is a song “Amazing” which contains a line that I hold dear. Several years ago my oldest son, the night after a very dear friend was killed in a car accident left a sticky note on my computer. It was a simple line actually a quote and yes I have used it for a quote of the day now many times. It is interesting how we also have this quote on the wall outside the cafeteria. The note was a line from an Aerosmith song, a Stephen Tyler original. “Life is about the journey not the destination”. We get so caught up in the destination, for example getting to the end of the tracks following the curriculum to a T or the “TEST” at the end of the semester that we lose sight of all around us, we lose sight of the journey. Our journey and our students is teaching them to think and if they think they will learn

 

So how do we get to point B and really still get there with as much as we can possible load on the train. We travel and we gather as we go but we are fortunate we can leave the tracks if we chose. We can go sideways. We can go back. We can go forward. One thing that is so crucial is we all need to remove our blinders and see all that is around us and live each moment of the journey.

 

“Piercing through the illusions of modern life is extremely difficult, given a culture where advertising and other media forms are organized so persistently to produce mass public deception” Gerald Smith

 

Smith points to an ongoing issue we have in finding who we are and why.  The illusions Smith points out, “obliterate the lines between fact and fiction”. We get so caught up in what we are being told we are and why we soon fall on the straight track or go through life with blinders on. In order to dig deeper into we have to understand who we are as an individual and how we translate and comprehend our realities and how people see us.

 

“Freud, Jung and now Lang (among others) were digging underneath the surface of their lives, trying to uncover the roots of what is experienced on the surface” Gerald Smith

 

“Maybe this is the time to embark collectively on a new long journey inward, not for the purpose simply of celebrating our personal or collective subjectivities, but for the nobler one of laying down the outward things that enslaves us.” Carl Jung

 

 I have wandered a bit today and maybe a bit too deep into ideas and thoughts that I find intriguing and puzzling. I once referred to the term of herding instinct that people tend to herd, want to be in groups. We so want to take the easiest route. I looked at apathy yesterday. We live in a time where we want things to be simple and easy. I want to simply get to point B not have extra sightseeing along the way. Sadly so many people live life that way. They live with blinders or follow a pre-laid out track and never get to know there is so much more. A student asked a question this morning dealing with biology. The question was about global warming and how some people say it is not occurring and yet so many are saying it is. There are folks who will never admit to and or even suggest some ideas have truth. They are caught up in there veil of ignorance. Watching the news and the impact our current war is having on veterans, the number of those in harm’s way is growing exponentially Please keep them all on your minds and in your hearts and remember to always give thanks namaste.

 

 

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird

 

Setting an example is such a simple lesson plan

Bird Droppings December 29, 2017
Setting an example is such a simple lesson plan

“We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with an emphasis on example, because all learning is a dead language to one who gets it second hand.” Kent Nerburn, The Wisdom of the Native Americans

I have over the years looked to the wisdom contained in Kent Nerburn’s writings many times. In a recently completed graduate school project I used a similar wording, we teach by example and using Dr. Laura Nolte’s words “children learn what they live”. They learn not only subject matter but attitude and character from teachers as they observe and watch the ebb and flow of life about them.

”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 G Jung

I have been a Carl G. Jung fan for many years. As I was reading through several of his ideas earlier this morning I found that this thought stuck out. Perhaps it is being a grandpa and watching a little one absorb every element around her. Perhaps it is as a father watching my sons now all grown each choosing pathways in life and wondering at times if we at least gave decent directions along the way. I am finding as I grow older it is the example we set that is the most powerful educational tool available. Better than any curriculum or text series, better than the greatest speaker, and much better than anything that can be planned for. It is about the warmth of our souls and passing this to our children and grandchildren.

“Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library.” Luther Standing Bear

“Learning how to learn is life’s most important skill.” Tony Buzan

As so often happens when several educators get together the discussion on differing views and philosophies of education does come up and with me often at family gatherings as many of my immediate family are in education the topic will become education and learning. Yesterday afternoon sitting in my mother in laws house we were talking about teaching and working with special needs children. In a society so filled with appliances and contrivances that aid us in doing every little detail sometimes we forget that simple things can aid in how to learn, how to study, and how to open our eyes to that which is around us.

“Learning hath gained most by those books by which the printers have lost.” Thomas Fuller

There has been much research done on learning and on how the mind works. Many are the great thinkers that have built entire schools of knowledge named after them based on ideas of learning. Developmentalists have written and been written about, numerous other philosophies constructivism, modernism, and many other isms make it an interesting field.
“Learning is constructed by the learner and must be a social experience before it is a cognitive experience” Max Thompson, Learning Concepts

“Being ignorant is not so much a shame as being unwilling to learn.” Benjamin Franklin

We have to want to learn and I have found that apathy is a really hard part of our society today in education to deal with. So many students are apathetic toward life, learning, and even their own existence. It is difficult to learn if you chose not too and conversely it is ever more difficult to try and teach a person who chooses not to learn.

“Research shows that you begin learning in the womb and go right on learning until the moment you pass on. Your brain has a capacity for learning that is virtually limitless, which makes every human a potential genius.” Michael J. Gelb

Sitting in a group of students who deliberately chose to be ignorant is an interesting situation and I find myself often in that situation with the particular students I work with. Asking why is even more interesting.
“Whatever”
“What good is it?”
“Ain’t gonna do me no good outside of school”
These answers are always so eloquent and thought out that I am sometimes amazed. Students think about why they shouldn’t have to learn and they actually put effort into coming up with reasons why education is stupid and or not needed.

“The highest form of ignorance is when you reject something you don’t know anything about.” Wayne Dyer

Several years ago in YAHOO news, an article caught my attention and as I read I realized I too have used similar analogies. In some dictionaries McJob has been described as a meaningless job, a job with no direction and very little in requirements and McDonald’s has sued to have it removed stating that jobs at McDonalds are meaningful and do have direction. I do know of a young man who started working at McDonald’s and is in Business School now and owns his own Starbucks. Ray Kroc many years ago before he passed away got his start selling milkshake machines to restaurants when he met the McDonald brothers who had a restaurant selling hamburgers. Ray Kroc’s widow in her will did leave, one and a half billion dollars to charity all based on working in McDonald’s.

Ray Kroc founded the McDonalds franchise with literally nothing but an idea and hard work. It was not apathy that built McDonalds and it was not ignorance and lack of learning that contributed. I often wonder if the self-empowered ignorance of modern man is boredom.

“Observation was certain to have its rewards. Interest wonder, admiration grew, and the fact was appreciated that life was more than mere human manifestations; it was expressed in a multitude of form. This appreciation enriched Lakota existence. Life was vivid and pulsing; nothing was causal and commonplace. The Indian lived in every sense of the word from his first to his last breath.” Chief Luther Standing Bear, Teton Sioux

Each day as I observe students and teachers existing for lack of a better word, I see people who often are not experiencing life. They are simply occupying space as I say. I use a testing tool in my room, the Miller Analogy Test which is used often in graduate school programs for entrance. I explained how difficult the test is and how some graduate schools and I had data showing scores for acceptance and I made it very clear this was hard. Within every class I do this with one or two heed my warnings and quit right off the bat several who actually have difficulty reading the test I will read the questions to. Some completed the test. The actual grades on recent semester report cards were very bad yet in a class where the average reading level is extremely low over half the class had scores of 30 or higher. Granted this was not a valid test in the manner I gave it and only for fun. However imagine the self-esteem building when I explain several local universities use 30 as a minimum for acceptance into a master’s program and 45 for their Specialists programs and I had three students go over a score of 45.

I am always amazed when challenges are thrown out how some people except some dodge it and some quit. Earlier in my writing a passage from Kent Nerburn’s book The Wisdom of The Native Americans. “We taught our children by both example and instruction, but with an emphasis on example,…”, and as I thought back to my assignment of a test far beyond most capabilities they had taken the MAT it was in how it was approached no pressure applied you could or could not take it. I casually mentioned how hard and difficult but continually also mentioned I thought they could do it.

SUCCESS is more than simply doing something success is Seeing, Understanding, Commitment, Consideration, Education, and Satisfaction and of course Self. A simple concept but so difficult to teach when students have been beaten down all their educational lives and careers. Children Learn what they live is on my wall every day a giant black light poster from 1972. Keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts as our efforts to bring peace in the Middle East become more difficult with each moment it seems. With sunrise only hours away please always give thanks for what you have namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)
bird

Understanding the symbols of life

Bird Droppings December 21, 2017

Understanding the symbols of life

 

“Symbols express and represent meaning. Meaning helps provide purpose and understanding in the lives of human beings. Indeed to live without symbols is to experience existence far short of its full meaning. Ways of expressing and representing meaning include the symbol systems of mathematics, spoke and writing language and the arts.”

This quote is from a book developed by the Four Winds Development Project – The Sacred Tree (1984) Editors: Phil Lane, Lee Brown, Judy Bopp and Micheal Bopp

For several days I have been pondering this simple paragraph. It has bothered me in more than a spiritual way. What if a human being does not understand symbols? I am sitting thinking in terms of education the inability to move through existence without understanding? I see this as a significant issue in education. We tend to facilitate achievement in a given subject not based on understanding but based on acknowledge of symbols not understood.

I recall a comment from a math teacher as I questioned a certain problem. We do not need them to know why, simply know this equation creates this graph. That was several years ago. Math curriculum and testing has become a joke in many parts of the country. Numbers of failures have increased. I started thinking especially in math. We seem to be at an early age wanting the correct answer and not to know why it is correct. When the math becomes more difficult how is it a student will solve the problem without someone or something (calculator) showing an answer. We are teaching math wrong was my corresponding thought. We need to go back and teach the symbols.

I more often than not find my discussion on a spiritual level more so than on an educational curriculum subject although the bulk of my education has been in curriculum and education. Understanding the symbols is a key component of understanding our existence and place in the world. This applies to reading to art, and to written language. Teach the symbols first when children can understand the symbols they can piece together the parts of the whole. Without the pieces the whole is insignificant. I watch students graduate frustrated because they know little of what has been taught. They have simply been doing the minimum to get to next level and the next and out of school. I watch school systems pushing students along. They are missing the pieces along the way and can never truly see the whole puzzle presented.

So today just a thought for more thought. How do we really teach the symbols. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts as you proceed through this weed and weekend ahead and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends I do not say this lightly,

Mitakuye Oyasin

(We are all related)

bird