Trying to find topsoil midst an erosion of soul

Bird Droppings April 15, 2011
Trying to find topsoil midst an erosion of soul

“To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognized need of the human soul.” Simone Weil, The Need for Roots

I saw this idea this morning as I was scrolling through thoughts saved over the days and the concept caught me, being rooted. I am in the middles of planting seeds and new annuals in my herb garden and gardening references are big with me right at the moment. I had a student not understand the concept of pedigree yesterday. She was totally lost as I tried to explain how we can look at the family tree of a given animal, person, and or plant and see the various traits we should end up with in the off spring. I have been intrigued with students taking this idea a bit further recently, many have little or no concept of much more than grandpa and grandma let alone where they might have originated from. The idea that their relatives came from elsewhere and were not American is difficult to grasp for many folks so entwined in today and the immediate.

“We have to hate our immediate predecessors to get free of their authority.” D.H. Lawrence

I noticed this idea from Lawrence and as I was thinking maybe this was a clue to not wanting to remember your roots and or your past. Interesting in light of the news media and current stories, traditionally in many poor areas it is those family ties that keep people going. Yet is there a tie between Weil and Lawrence, I could generalize and say people who are lost have few roots or few ties to heritage, or to tradition, they are not grounded and anchored in any way. The reasons for this could be escape, wanting away from, to distant from as Lawrence advocates.

“What a man sows, that shall he and his relations reap.” Clarissa Graves

“Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation.” Margaret Mead

Noted anthropologist Margaret Mead may have hit the nail on the head perhaps we as a society have stripped away by our constant boxing up inside. Maybe we have delineated the need for roots and tried to unsuccessfully replace it with little or nothing but the good of society. So in effect we are being told how, what, when and why on just about everything.

“The government is becoming the family of last resort.” Jerry Brown

Thinking as to how politicians on both sides of the fence play to this concept I thought back many years to my tenth grade literature class, it was 1965 to be exact. We read at that time a controversial book by George Orwell, “1984”. Contained within the book the total elimination of family and the government become your “Big Brother”, you were part of a whole and only an insignificant part at that. Various sociological and philosophical experiments have come and gone that have literally tried and to destroy family and traditions and roots, stripping away top soil laying bare to the hardpan of mans soul. Yet still with some people persistence, vigor, or will was still there.

“The strength of a nation derives from the integrity of the home.” Confucius

This is not just a modern day issue; Confucius raised questions 2000 years ago and used word integrity. It was about the integrity of the home. Perhaps this is the key. Solid roots can be found in integrity. Is it possible to look at people and judge their character by their roots, by how they were raised, by their family genealogy much like reviewing the potential of a good horse or cow? It has been a few years since I looked up EPD’s. I used to know what that meant, but in cattle it is the performance data and potential for that animal based on gathered collected data to be a suitable parent given specific traits you are looking for.

“If Mr. Vincent Price were to be co-starred with Miss Bette Davis in a story by Mr. Edgar Allan Poe directed by Mr. Roger Corman, it could not fully express the pent-up violence and depravity of a single day in the life of the average family.” Quentin Crisp

As I look at ideas and concepts and even jokingly at EPD’s used with cattle I found a plausible answer. EPD’s work because someone cares enough to check very specifically. Interesting we care about our cattle and horses yet so often neglect our own kind. I was thinking in terms of End of course tests and graduation tests that we are using to measure effectiveness of teachers and education. In the cattle industry if all you used was the end data you would eventually go out of business. Just because a steer weighs a certain amount in so many days comparing to a test score at the end of a course does not mean you will make money or that that was a good steer. Based on national averages the weight is ideal but how long did it take to grow that steer out? How much feed conversion ratio to weight gain did that steer take? Was the steer’s mother able to raise the calf herself or require a surrogate? What is the actual quality of the finished carcass? Questions when applied to education become significant. What concepts and knowledge does this student retain five years after high school for example?
Daily I encounter families that put the fictional family depicted by Mr. Crisp to shame. Over the years situations that most authors have not conceived of I see on a daily basis. Most fiction has base in fact unfortunately. So where do I go in this round about effort. We are faced daily trying to support people who are trying to grow and succeed with little grounding, little if any support. It may be a simple smile or handshake that keeps them going today from a teacher or friend. It may be a hug or kind word or an ear to listen which costs us a few moments of time. But if we take some time to share and to care what sort of impact will we make. It was so quiet out this morning when I went out with my dog. Weather people are calling for a storm tonight which coincides with last the past two weeks on Fridays nights just we have friends and family coming into town. Please keep all in harms way on your minds and in your hearts.

Can the soul be defined and or codified part 2

September 29, 2010
Can soul be defined and codified part 2

“Soul is different from spirit, the deep soul is the way we live everyday, our longings and our fears.” Thomas Moore

It has been nearly Twenty years since I first read a book written by Thomas Moore. I picked up a copy of The Care of the Soul in about 1993 or so. I was impressed as I read this great thinking had studied under James Hillman and Hillman was a student of Carl Jung. It was in his previous experiences I found some similarities with my own that drew me to his writings. Moore had studied most of his life to be a priest and after graduate school and wanting to do more than simply minister to a church went into secular psychology and therapy leaving the priesthood.

“It’s the aspiring spirit that gives life to the intellect and keeps it from being just a mind and a set of ideas.” Thomas Moore

“Soul is different from spirit—the deep soul is the way we live everyday, our longings and our fears.” Thomas Moore

My own interpretation of what soul is really is not that far from where Thomas Moore identifies what is soul?

“…to the soul, the most minute details and the most ordinary activities, carried out with mindfulness and art, have an effect far beyond their apparent insignificance.” Thomas Moore

“A genuine odyssey is not about piling up experiences. It is a deeply felt, risky, unpredictable tour of the soul. “ Thomas Moore

“How many times do we lose an occasion for soul work by leaping ahead to final solutions without pausing to savor the undertones? We are a radically bottom-line society, eager to act and to end tension, and thus we lose opportunities to know ourselves for our motives and our secrets.” Thomas Moore

As I ponder soul issues of politics and societal contradictions come into play. Sadly we have done this to ourselves. Living in a southern state that is either fourth or fifth in numbers of illegal immigrants primarily it seems states with agriculture as a major commodity and having worked with many students who I am sure are questionable I wonder at how we have done things in the US. Growing up in Coatesville Pa., I can recall being asked if I was interested in working at Lukens Steel Mill since while my dad was now in management he had been a steel worker at one time and literally all children were almost sure to get jobs if your father or mother worked at the mill when you graduated. Only a few years ago on my last trip back there was nothing left of Lukens Steel Mill.
Following the news as much as I can one item popped up in the past day or so. In the past few weeks’ legislation to stop tax incentives to companies out sourcing jobs was defeated primarily along party lines although some democrats did help stop it. We have been under the foot or maybe the boot of industry for some time and allowed to live a “happy” life until a more profitable means to do business comes along.
I watched a Johnny Isakson ad last night on TV as he promoted more flexible regulatory legislation and lower taxes and less government. The other side of the coin is he also introduced a bill to not allow unionization of airlines into Congress. Delta airlines is one of his biggest backers and Delta is in a fight currently over unions. Where am I going with unions, the way it was, and illegal immigrants, and outsourcing? We have stood by and allowed wages and perks of union driven groups to go throw the roof at times driving product cost up and often driving the industry such as steel to leave the country.
We have allowed industries for as long as I can remember (not just in this political season) to hire and bring in illegal workers for jobs at low wages. Many of the industries doing this in Georgia also back Johnny Isakson who by chances is Republican. We support outsourcing to a point most customer service is a joke anymore on the phone a recent ad played on this with a fellow in Siberia with fifty phones ringing and he answers hello this is Peggy in customer service hold please and proceeds to make a sandwich. I guess my issue is we have allowed this and the banking and mortgage problems to happen because of our own greed. Sadly it will take more than elections to change the souls of people.

“When we relate to our bodies as having soul, we attend to their beauty, their poetry and their expressiveness. Our very habit of treating the body as a machine, whose muscles are like pulleys and its organs engines, forces its poetry underground, so that we experience the body as an instrument and see its poetics only in illness.” Thomas Moore

I have been working on my dissertation based on the loss of soul in education which is something I firmly do believe is going on. We have taken creativity and imagination away in so many instances and replaced with memorization exercises and drills. Critical thinking has taken a hit in lieu of teach to the test. Coming back to thinking about Thomas Moore and soul only reminds me that so much needs to be considered in our quest for improving education beyond the simple cure of more money.

“There are apartments in the soul which have a glorious outlook; from whose windows you can see across the river of death, and into the shining beyond; but how often are these neglected for the lower ones, which have earthward-looking windows.” Henry Beecher, Life Thoughts

“I simply believe that some part of the human Self or Soul is not subject to the laws of space and time.” Carl Jung

We are so much more than profits or capital as some business minded educators refer to students as. Maybe if we could grasp that piece of us that some call soul and encourage fertilize and replenish it so that imagination and wondering could take precedence over the type of clothes you wear, car you drive or jewelry that is hanging on your arm we might could make some serious changes to our reality.

“Many of the religions I’ve been exposed to preach reaching for an impossible ideal, and my attempts as transcendence have left me inevitably frustrated with myself, others, and my life. That is why I appreciate Thomas Moore’s philosophy. Here is, in a nutshell: don’t try to transcend your humanity, embrace it. Moore’s ideas would resonate with spiritual wanderers and people who view life as an artistic work in progress. When Moore was a therapist, he noticed that many clients would come to him, wanting him to remove a flaw of theirs. They went to him like patients seeking a surgeon to remove a tumor. Our culture celebrates light, and many feel ashamed when we aren’t happy. However, Moore contends that sadness is, in a sense, a gift, for it gives one depth and perspective. Healing can take time. It rarely occurs overnight.” An unknown blogger

“Everything was possessed of personality, only differing from us in form. Knowledge was inherent in all things. The world was a library and its books were the stones, leaves, grass, brooks, and the birds and animals that shared, alike with us, the storms and blessings of earth. We learned to do what only the student of nature learns, and that was to feel beauty. We never railed at the storms, the furious winds, and the biting frosts and snows. To do so intensified human futility, so whatever came we adjusted ourselves, by more effort and energy if necessary, but without complaint.” Chief Luther Standing Bear

Another day is near completion and perhaps I am still floundering in my meandering about soul. It could be the chill of fall has me enthralled as I get out in the cool air in the mornings. But for today please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.

Just another Saturday

Bird Droppings July 31, 2010
Just another Saturday

I woke up like most other days and for some reason sat at my computer pondering much longer than normal. I was looking at some comments and reviewing a post I had made the day before and thinking about what direction to go. I started reading Ayers book To Teach yesterday and found it similar to Dewey and other educators that I enjoy reading. As I looked at a blurb from GAE Georgia Association of Educators denouncing the plan to go ahead with submission to Federal Department of Education grants stimulus award program since educators were not involved I was a bit concerned. I agree with that idea of involvement but the key component GAE is upset about is that it would require teachers to be more accountable and that accountability to be more thoroughly evaluated.
Currently in Georgia teachers have either one, two or three twenty minute walk through’s by administrators as their evaluation and that is primarily a state produced checklist of things to be looked for. It impacts your yearly evaluation and whether or not you will be asked back the next year. But it does not impact pay. Teacher pay in Georgia is based on years of experience and degrees. The longer you teach the more you get paid and the higher your degree the more you get paid. Problem is a teacher that is not good can pass their entire walk through and then have good annual evaluations and be one of highest paid in school. Their students may not be succeeding but that is not a reference point.

“Learning to teach takes time, energy, hard work. Learning to teach well requires even more: a serious and sustained engagement with the enterprise, an intense focus on the lives of children, a passionate regard for the future – that is, for the community our students will inherit and reinvent and for the world they are arching for.” Dr. William Ayers

I started an idea the other day which may seem redundant and silly. Instead of No Child Left Behind let’s approach education as One Child at a time. The more I thought about this idea and read does it not make more sense to approach each child as an individual rather than as a group or score or where they lie on the bell shaped curve. Granted it will take a bit more work to get to know each kid to know why and how each student works and understands but in the end I truly believe it will accomplish so much more and provide us with a future of thinkers instead of simply a society of consumers.

“Whatever an education is, it should make you a unique individual, not a conformist; it should furnish you with an original spirit with which to tackle the big challenges; it should allow you to find values which will be your road map through life; it should make you spiritually rich, a person who loves whatever you are doing, wherever you are, whomever you are with; it should teach you what is important, how to live and how to die.” John Taylor Gatto

John Taylor Gatto another outspoken educator trying to alter a system that has been struggling within itself for so long. John Dewey had it right a hundred years ago and it is still considered progressive education. Give your main customer a say so in the education of themselves. Have a democratic classroom. Amazing how quickly people and teacher go quiet when that suggestion comes up. A favorite actor of mine during his lifetime came into acting when most folks are retiring. Chief Dan George began his career opposite Dustin Hoffman in 1970 at seventy one years of age. One of my favorite films and his roles was that of outlaw Josey Wales side kick in the Movie of the same name. He had a famous line as he told the story of the civilized tribes going to Washington and being told by the president to endeavor to persevere.

“But in the long hundred years since the white man came, I have seen my freedom disappear like the salmon going mysteriously out to sea. The white man’s strange customs which I could not understand pressed down upon me until I could no longer breathe.” Chief Dan George

Today in education and in life the struggle of the winners dictating the outcomes in what ever arena we put before us is still true. Which ever party is in control will pass legislation be it for people or against with the people having little say. In education seldom are teachers involved in educational decisions and never are students and it is those imposed choice then that make education so overwhelming. I am writing my dissertation about the loss of soul in education and this is not in reference to religion but to the individuality of the children. We strip away in the early grades inspiration and creativity and soon only the motions of learning are occurring. We are teaching to the test. Cramming the information needed in the space provided.

“Can we talk of integration until there is integration of hearts and minds? Unless you have this, you have only a physical prescience, and the walls between us are as high as the mountain range.” Chief Dan George

It is about an integration of hearts and minds that is needed in education. The walls are getting higher as I write and one day it may be insurmountable. I am hoping enough people choose to look differently at how we educate children and begin to realize we need to address the soul as well. So sitting here pondering away I close as I have for eleven years please keep all in harms way on your mind and in your hearts.