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

Thinking about a chorus of frogs and crickets

Bird Droppings December 8, 2011

Thinking about a chorus of Frogs and Crickets

 

“You don’t get harmony when everybody sings the same note.” Doug Floyd

 

On most every night and early morning of the year when I walk about especially early in the morning I am listening to the choral arrangement of tree frogs, crickets, whippoorwills and an occasional owl. None in tune with the other yet so much together an interesting mix of harmonies and melodies as they do what they do in the trees and forests around our house. A few years back I am guessing my wife and I got alarm clocks for the boys that had earth sounds for going to sleep as well as CD or radio to wake you up, one of the sounds on the ten or so to fall asleep was crickets and frogs and an occasional owl. This morning as we are going through our first real cold spell of the year the morning is silent however although the near full moon helped ease the lack of sound.

I have found it haunting as I listen at night even when quiet. Many the night back in the day while camping I have fallen asleep to that chorus of nature. This morning I have to cheat a bit relying on electronics to give me a start with natures calls. I found a book recently for my granddaughter so as to get her started early by Eric Carl. The book is about a cricket and of course when opened to the right page cricket sounds.

As I look perhaps a bit deeper and further in our society the first quote rings true as well it takes differing of opinion to make all work in unison. A single voice would never succeed as much as we would like to think as I listened to the news many months back as a green party nominee for president is nominated and they run not so much to win as to offer a thought, a differing voice, a change or an alternative.

 

“Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions.” Albert Einstein

 

“The only means of strengthening one’s intellect is to make up one’s mind about nothing –to let the mind be a thoroughfare for all thoughts. Not a select party.“ John Keats

 

As I think back trying to warm my feet from a quick run to get some things out to my car for the trip to school, to my chorus of frogs and crickets, it is not a mix of voices with simply chance bringing it together there are specifics as the insects and amphibians call looking for mates or signaling territory. Each is very clear and concise and there are reasons and responses to each note and call. Somehow in our higher form of life we seem to loose function and form in politics other than self-serving needs? It tends to be more about me than the perpetuation of the species. Yesterday’s headlines in our local paper have a pastor and local politician resigning and moving to a small town in North Georgia.  He also served as marketing director of a group under indictment and sponsored several bills in the state legislator that were in favor of this group. One that caught my attention back a few months was using food stamps online for purchasing. I found the resignation and indictments coincidental maybe.

 

“The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.” John Stuart Mill

 

Thinking back a several months to that day we celebrate our country’s independence which is the day where opinions became free to express, a day where as I watched the movie the other day Majestic, with Jim Carrey, where a young man is accused during the McCarthy era of being a communist and he draws his defense not on whether or not he is a communist since the committee had already decided that but that he was entitled by the constitution to free speech The First Amendment. You know it is the opinion and thoughts of others that allow us to have room to think to pursue and grow to achieve beyond where we are. As I sit here listening to the sounds from an electronic device since from outside my chorus of frogs and crickets and an occasional owl is silent tonight I am pleased we can in this country still yet today have differing opinions and hope one day maybe most will be opinions of peace. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.  

namaste

bird

Looking to Nature for answers

Bird Droppings December 7, 2011

Looking to Nature for answers

 

As I read and ponder a world engrossed with money and how we can spend money I wonder if perhaps some of the thinking that is bringing so many American Indians back to their more traditional world views has merit. I was beginning to look at a book written by the creators of Waiting for Superman, a movie about public education. I first when reading a book look at the index to see who does the author borrow from and quote this to me often a precursor for my continued reading of that book. I first caught notice of John Dewey and went to the page that mentioned John Dewey. All that was written was that John Dewey taught that experienced based education was the way to go. Jean Piaget had six words while Arne Duncan had ten or so pages and even Bill Gates had more than that. I did not see one innovative educator in reference anywhere. Most were advocates of the privatization of education or people who were foundation heads and provided money. Sadly nowhere was really innovative education being considered. 

 

“Black Elk saw the earth becoming sick. The animals, the winged ones, and the four legged ones grew frightened. All living things became gaunt and poor. The air and the waters dirtied and smelled foul.”  Ed MaGaa, Eagle Man, Mother Earth Spirituality

 

            Black Elk was a teenager during the battle later known as the battle of the Little Bighorn, in which Custer lead his four hundred or so troops to battle the combined forces of Sioux and Cheyenne numbering over two thousand. Black Elk had a vision as a young man that would be later translated by his son and recorded by John Neihardt in a book, Black Elk Speaks. This quote is based Eagles Mans thoughts on a piece of the vision and yet how prophetic are the words. Looking back in recent history we have polluted rivers till they smell before we do anything. In Ohio a river caught fire from the pollution. Over the past year the great oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, articles on the massive clear areas on the bottom of the Gulf from the spill and mining threats in unspoiled areas of Alaska that would threaten salmon rivers lead the headlines. Dead coral and other normally alive areas are devoid of life indigenious peoples would be deprived of fishing if gold mining is allowed in Alaska wilderness. We issue smog warnings in most major cities on a regular basis and acid rain strips paint from cars and kills frogs.

 

“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

 

            I was walking on the beach a little over a year ago in Panama City Beach Florida. As the sun rose I was alone with the water, wind and pelicans flying along the edge of the water. There was a silence even as the waves rolled in and wind blew. There was calmness amongst the surroundings that put me at ease. As I gazed out into the Gulf with my back to the civilized world I could imagine this place before the tourism took over and high rises and condos sprang up.

 

“Although we can expect great progress from the greening of technology and the inventivness of the human spirit, we should not allow ourselves to be beguiled that information and technological advance will be sufficient.” Ed McGaa, Eagle Man

 

Perhaps I think too much and ponder too much as I sit here writing. I do believe we can accomplish a new world and a new way of seeing our reality. It will take each of us perceiving life differently than we choose to now. I wonder if that is even possible.

 

“The more knowledge we acquire, the more mystery we find…. A human being is part of the whole, called by us the Universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest – a kind of optical illusion of his consciousness. The delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a person nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Nobody is able to see this completely, but the striving for such an achievement is in itself a part of our liberation and a foundation for inner serenity.” Albert Einstein

 

In this world of ever changing technology and innovations what is new today will be antiquated tomorrow. Albert Einstein knew this as he offered the statement above. Einstein was a man of vision and thinking beyond what most of us will ever comprehend.

 

“Because the world at large does not get enough exposure to feminine principles such as acceptance, emotional expression, and peacefulness, we have moved to far from center and are therefore contrary to Nature’s plan. Humanities patriarchal track record is dismal at best. We need to remind ourselves as individuals as a culture, that aggression and intimidation are not our only options when something does not go our way.” Ed MaGaa, Eagle Man, Nature’s Way

 

            In my life time I have not known a true time of peace in the world. When I was a tiny child the Korean War was being fought as a teenager and young man Viet Nam and in more recent years we have been fighting in the Middle East for nearly twenty years. In my studies of history I have found that all wars have an inherent base cause of money. Stories go that Lyndon Johnson continued Viet Nam to provide business for US companies. Historians will write about our effort in Iraq as a war for oil. Greed has been a driving force in literally everything we do.

 

“It is not only important to walk down the path that creator has set before us; but we must walk in the way. The way is all the little things one does along the path. What kind of product is being produced? Is there a large pile of money? Is there a pile of accumulated physical things, such as cars, houses, property? Are there many degrees and awards on the wall? All of these things can be used in a positive way. Possibly, when one accumulates them as a means to a positive end, they can be certainly good. However if one accumulates them as an end; this may be not so good!” Susan Thomas Underwood, Walk With Spirit

 

            I am often reminded of a line from a song by Steven Tyler of Aerosmith fame. “Life is about the journey not the destination.” So often I forget and start seeking that destination and forget that so much is along the pathway. Opening my eyes and listening a bit more carefully there is much to see and hear. Here in Georgia we are in the grip of a winter freeze and temperatures have dropped below freezing. This morning I will bundle up as I head to school and try and educate a few children. Last night I watched Braveheart the story of William Wallace of Scotland in the late thirteenth century. An interesting tale while part fiction it has some truth. A man believed in freedom and fought for it dying betrayed by his own countryman. A bit away from my journeying and writing but as I think and ponder. Another day and as I have for so long please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

A new life as we make the journey

Bird Droppings December 6, 2011

A new life as we make the journey

 

Resurrection

By Susan Thomas Underwood

 

The universe is energy in constant motion.

There are ebbs and flows;

Outcomes and income,

And change…… Always change.

 

The physical world reflects this motion

In the cycles of life,

There is spring and fall, winter and summer,

Birth and death; and rebirth…

Resurrection!

 

Einstein proved that even time is relative

In his theory of relativity,

All is relative …. All is change

You can count on it.

 

Be then as the willow;

Learn to bend with the wind!

Always dream, though your dreams may change.

Always produce, though your product may change.

Always love, though your love may change.

Always live, though your life will change.

You can count on it!

 

            Susan Thomas Underwood is a native Oklahoman, Shawnee, and author. I saw her book of thoughts, Walk with Spirit on Amazon.com and thought I might take a look. This was a very special weekend for me and my family. We celebrated a first birthday for our grandbaby, my youngest son and his wife brought Charlie by Saturday and of course we kidnapped her for Saturday night this past weekend. My middle son asked his girlfriend of over a year if she would marry him a year ago this past weekend and this coming weekend we celebrate their wedding.  My nephew and his wife celebrated their son’s first birthday.  As an extended family we received so many blessings these past few days. As I read this first entry in Underwood’s book I thought to my own existence these past sixty two plus years and changes I have been through, as a son, parent, husband, father and now grandfather for a year.

 

“The beauty of the trees, the softness of the air, the fragrance of the grass, the summit of the mountain, the thunder of the sky, the rhythm of the sea, speaks to me. The faintness of the stars, the freshness of the morning, the dewdrop on the flower, speaks to me. The strength of the fire, the trail of the sun, and the life that never goes away, they speak to me and my heart soars.” Chief Dan George

 

Dan George was a Salish chief from Canada and an accomplished actor later in his life. Some may remember him from Little Big Man or Outlaw Josie Wales. But he was too an eloquent speaker and poet. He often spoke of nature but also of the intertwining of life. Of the roads we each travel and cross many times. I spent most of the past weekend watching, observing, holding and photographing my granddaughter. Each gesture and smile has been a first for her. How we as family respond and encourage her will be how she continues to respond.

I blog daily which if you are reading this I am sure are very aware. I also read numerous blogs and try and keep up with various news and education related websites and emails. One of which is appropriate entitled unlocktheteacher. In a post yesterday the author posted a poem from a former student. This is written by an elementary student getting ready to transition to middle school.

 

Transitions

By J. Harvey, 2011

 

Transitions,

In life there will be changes,

There comes a time when everybody’s life rearranges.

 

For instance when you have to say farewell to friends you know,

When everything you have gone through has made you grow.

 

The life you have grown accustom to has suddenly changed,

No matter where you turn or look it will always seem estranged.

 

I wonder how fast change has to take place,

I know in my heart that I’m not in a race.

 

How can one say good-bye?

To the ones that have made you laugh and cry.

 

I know that now is time for my last year,

With the friends and teachers that I endear.

 

This is a transition that must run its course,

How hard it is going to be, and full of remorse.

 

As I read these words from a child with all happening in my own life how meaningful they were to me. Each day we transition to the next and how we accept and move through the next is all part of the web of life.

 

As a teacher being a grandparent becomes teaching job number one, not so much to have her belief or think as I do but to provide pathways for her to walk and learn on her own. Our journeys in life are not always smooth going and it is being able to offer a hand when needed. Watching my granddaughter and son as we went for blood work the day after she was released from the hospital and seeing the bond that had been made in a few short hours is one of a lifetime. Watching her mother hold and talk softly whispering as she carefully touch’s her eyes, nose and cheeks is a bond that is impossible to break. During a brief moment I am peering through the lens of my camera as my granddaughter in a matter of seconds in her grandmother’s lap made a series of facial expressions while napping almost as if she knew I have grandma wrapped around my tiny finger now. As the orator and actor Dan George stated so many years ago, “they speak to me and my heart soars”.

Here I am into a new week and fixin to spend a few days with my grandbaby and adding a daughter in law, it is all happening so fast. May peace be with you all in the coming days and may we all keep all in harm’s way on our hearts and on our minds and may we always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Seeing each piece as we live

Bird Droppings December 5, 2011

Seeing each piece as we live

 

It has been several years ago that I began looking at life as a journey each piece building to the next. Yesterday I was reviewing my jaunt to take our granddaughter home to North Georgia. I got up to go run by the school and check creatures in my room I had to detour around a car accident as I did my immediate thought was what will I experience new as I go this different way. I did talk with several people and see things I would not have seen otherwise adding significantly to my day. But what of those strangers in those discussions that took place, did they continue the talk. I wondered was the idea engrained so it was carried farther and that is why my morning had a change. It was about pieces of the puzzle falling in place the great mosaic of life unfolding before us.

 

“People have the illusion that all over the world, all the time, all kinds of fantastic things are happening; when in fact, over most of the world most of the time, nothing is happening.” David Brinkley

 

So much of what we do we try and think perceive what everyone else is doing and miss the focus on now on where you are at the moment amazingly if you do you may see so much more.

 

“If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite. For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things through chinks of his cavern.” William Blake

 

Nearly fifteen years ago I was involved on taking a group of high school students on a retreat. We journeyed up to the mountains of North Georgia where one of the sessions was facilitated by a good friend. He asked folks in his group to find a spot and observe. Some saw great oaks and pines untouched for many years while others saw the great boulders in the river. However the one with the smallest vision saw perhaps the most. One girl who was going through some difficult times saw a beetle crawling along the ground and it came to her foot and rather than disturb the beetle she did not move and intently watched. It would start crawling over and tumble back start and tumble, time after time trying to crawl over her foot. She watched rather than help the beetle and on the twentieth try the beetle succeeded and crawled over her foot. When she came back to the group she was one of the last to tell what they saw and her story became the focus for the group. Others had not looked so minutely only seeing the big picture but that beetle story will be remembered by all success is there if we try.  

 

“Nothing exists until or unless it is observed. An artist is making something exist by observing it. And his hope for other people is that they will also make it exist by observing it. I call it “creative observation.” William S. Burroughs, Creative viewing

 

You know that the beetle story would have occurred even if not observed but no one would have known about it.

 

“If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.” Max Erhmanm

 

 I watch this happen daily in the halls of a high school where constant comparison is a daily process. Why not be yourself? Why not be true not simply a copy of that which you think you should be? It is a very hard sale to teenagers always wanting to be the coolest and the sharpest dressed and in style. When we have a decade dress up I am always suitable for 70’s, 80’s and 90’s since I still wear the same clothes.

 

“It is the function of art to renew our perception. What we are familiar with we cease to see. The writer shakes up the familiar scene, and, as if by magic, we see a new meaning in it.” Albert Einstein

 

I have been working on essays about a black and white picture of a bridge. It is an effort to get students who have never imagined, to be creative and to imagine what could be happening in a static photo. But with enough prompts and discussion amazing things happen.

 

One day in retrospect the years of struggle will strike you as the most beautiful. Sigmund Freud

 

I am always amazed at how today I write about the hardships and troubles of days gone by and often teach lessons based on those events.

 

“A penny will hide the biggest star in the universe if you hold it close enough to your eye.” Samuel Grafton

 

For fun try it a simple experiment. Hold a penny up to your eye and if close enough a star, a sun, a building can be covered up it is all about perception.

 

“Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of our fellow men. It then appears that we are among the privileged.” Helen Keller

 

Perhaps one of the most humbling experiences of my life was working with deaf children for two years. One of those pieces of the puzzle I speak of and remember so fondly. I often would imagine what it was like to be deaf and blind. Many the time to be better in tune with my kids I would go on field trips and be deaf with them wearing ear muffs from the speech pathologist I would listen through hearing aids the crackling jumbled sounds of the world. Oreo cookie wrappers wreaked havoc with hearing aid’s back in the day.

 

“The difference between a mountain and a molehill is your perspective.” Al Nueharth

 

How we see life and all around us is perspective and yes it could be Mt. Everest and or an ant hill. Often we get so stressed all we see are mountains. Relax and eventually even the greatest mountain erodes away with time.

 

“A weapon that you don’t have in your hand will not kill a snake. Looking for something can get in the way of finding it.” African Proverb

 

After so often spending a day looking at snakes at a herpetological convention I liked the sound of this. A local reptile expert was doing a demonstration and had a large diamond backed rattlesnake out on a table. Several times the snake nearly got loose as I watched maybe to add to the show although as I sat I was wondering about this fellows insurance.

 

“The wolf is upset about what he left behind, and the shepherd is upset about what he took away.” Armenian Proverb

 

It is all in the perception. The momma wolf is feeding pups and the shepherd too has children to feed. The shepherd is in the wolf’s territory and is exacting a price for being there. The wolf however has upset the shepherd and a price could be exacted as it has for wolves for thousands of years. It is all in how we look at it. Currently in our own country out west around Yellowstone Park livestock owners want reintroduced wolves killed off. Even though the wolf kills are a tiny percent of annual deaths and wolves have reduced coyote numbers which were a major predator. Only a few years ago they were endangered. In all of this the funny thing is ranchers want to use federal land to graze on they want to kill off grizzlies and wolves on federal land to graze their cattle for free.  

 

“Happiness is… usually attributed by adults to children, and by children to adults. “ Thomas Szasz

 

Far too many people are happy where they are. I have heard so many times I wish I was young again or I wish I were an adult. Enjoy the moments and experience all you can.

 

“You can never step in a stream the same way twice” Zen saying

 

On my desk at school is a photo of my son stepping across rocks at the same retreat the girl mentioned previously saw her beetle. John fell in several times but continued to try and eventually did go rock to rock across the stream. I wondered about this saying the first time I saw it. I find it is true in so many ways with each experience that is unique and no matter how hard you may try will never happen again exactly the same way. Enjoy life, live life but most of all listen see and be. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

Do more than belonging

Bird Droppings December 4, 2011

Do more than belonging

 

It has been quite a while since I was unable to walk out first thing in the morning whether weather or being lazy it was not a good morning to venture out and I think the dog knew it as well and slept in. A semester heads into its final week of classes than End of Course Tests and it will be hard with a few days off to try and finish so much unfinished business with graduate school and around the house in my herb gardens and flower beds. It has been a very dry year currently and any rain is welcome. It seems we have been having daily weather forecasts with scattered showers and a chance of sunshine and a chance of freeze. So much of my yard work has been put off due to wet conditions, grandbaby birthday, my mother in hospital and staying after school tutoring trying to help kids pass EOCT. It has been nearly five summers since I submitted a reflection of sorts for my doctorate work on a book I read based on looking at history in more than one color, more than one culture and or societal norm. Rereading that reflection led me to a powerful thought.

 

“Do more than belong; participate. Do more than care; help. Do more than believe; practice. Do more than be fair; be kind. Do more than forgive; forget. Do more than dream; work.” William Arthur Ward

 

As I sit here this morning responding to emails from previous days I am slowly catching up. It is through our actions we are perceived, it was many many nights ago at a basketball game several fans were asked nicely to leave by administration and eventually sheriffs intervened in the altercation. You could be upset with a situation but when you vocalize using words that in reality do not really make sense, as so often swearing does not (sit and write literal meanings to most swearing) and add hand gestures and increase volume, you are being perceived as out of control. When asked nicely to cease such distracting behavior and you continue that too so only adds to the perception of perhaps out of control. When you on top of this you then speak to a sheriff in a derogatory manner, it again fuels the flames of perception, and you easily could be seen as a person who has ceased to utilize their own self-control and the result, being asked quite nicely to not be in the gym in public view might seem a bit understated.

It could be behavior modification time and coincidentally having a background in BM, that’s behavior modification by the way. Although today we use less harsh terms, Functional Behavior Analysis and Task Analyzes. BM is what it is about and there are times when I see some behavior that BM could mean more along the lines of potty training. For example, the first offense at a basketball game would end in the next game you can come but must wear a dog training collar. In control booth sits your modifier, preferably a spouse or child who probably will enjoy this, holding the button. If you get out of control they get to press the button sending a mild shock to your neck. However if you continue they also have on the side of the control the increase switch, raising the voltage. I think there are some spouses that may automatically go to max even for first jolt.

There is a chance of course that the child or spouse in the control booth has read Skinner’s books and articles and knows intermittent variable reinforcement works great too and shocks just to let their collared friend know who holds the button, and that might become the norm. Sporting events would never be the same. In the stands half the people sitting and twitching from shocks and the other half is sitting quietly smiling pressing the buttons. Kids could play their games and cheerleaders could cheer and what a wonderful time would be had by all. However had everyone read the first line of the first quote today none of this would be necessary.

 

“When you see a new trail, or footprint you do not know, follow it to the point of knowing” Uncheedah, grandfather of Ohiyesa, Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman

 

Is that something we now teach? In teaching biology I use a lesson and style of teaching that I had used myself in a graduate school class demonstration on existential teaching methods. I let the students find the answers and acted only as a facilitator. In one plastic container is a tiger salamander (Elmo) and in the other a leopard gecko (Emily) one is an amphibian and the other a reptile. The lesson is based on taxonomy and differentiating between amphibians and reptiles. Having done this numerous times in summer school in Biology and in my own classes during the school year those that work through the lesson will remember which is which far better than having read a book or heard in a lecture, they literally followed the trail. How often do we take away curiosity how often do we brush the trail clean of tracks?

 

“The first and simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind is curiosity.” Edmund Burke

 

“It is a shameful thing to be weary of inquiry when what we search for is excellent.” Marcus T. Cicero

 

Far too often we do not have time for children’s questions; we do not want to follow a new trail as Uncheedah speaks of. We only want the status quo the peace and solitude of that lesson plan laid out months in advance and carefully formulated to cover each of the required curriculum needs of the subject in a given time span. Let us get from point A to point B and not venture off the track ever again.

 

“Curiosity is, in great and generous minds, the first passion and the last.” Samuel Johnson

 

“I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.” Eleanor Roosevelt

 

So often I talk with students who are not curious. They seldom ask why and only accept what is taught to them and many do not even do that and simply shrug their shoulders and state they don’t care.

We should be teaching children to challenge, to question, never just accepting an answer. Back a few years one of my sons in high school had the highest regard for a teacher and on an occasion pointed out an error on a discussion transparency dealing with a specific type of animal. He pointed out that what was on the slide was in error and backed it up with the very biology book they were using, as well as other sources. A year later in he was in another Advanced Placement Biology class, and the same slide, same response. He again pointed out the error and the teacher was still teaching exactly the same, still in error and had never changed that slide. By chance three years later, speaking to a class, that slide again appeared, this time his respect for that teacher was gone, while a good teacher, a poor learner. It was difficult for a “teacher” to except a “students” understanding of a topic albeit that students brother had raised and bred that specific animal at home for many years so it was not simply a student spouting off, there was experiential knowledge involved.

 

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.” Carl Edward Sagan

 

“Be curious always! For knowledge will not acquire you: you must acquire it.” Sadie Black

 

We got into a discussion of sorts on Friday about doing school work. So often teachers assign a certain number of problems in math regardless of whether the students know how to do that skill or not, homework for example you need to do these twenty problems. If the skill is known, why do the assignment other than practice, if not known, doing problems you do not know how to do, doesn’t help. This is not to pick on math teachers but so often this happens and students begin to look down on busy work. If that assignment had meaning, perhaps more care and effort would ensue.

 

“I think knowing what you cannot do is more important than knowing what you can.” Lucille Ball

 

“It is not good to know more unless we do more with what we already know.” R. K. Bergethon

 

When you can apply a piece of knowledge it lasts far more than when it is simply an idea, a passing, thought something to forget. In some subjects it is difficult to make ideas applicable, at least this is what some teachers think and students soon grow weary and curiosity is gone. Several times I have mentioned a friend who in teaching history would occasionally dress as a knight or king and or a lowly goat herder to make a point drawing the class into the lesson. We got into a discussion at my nieces wedding on education of all things. Sitting talking between a new medical doctor, a nursing Ph.D. student, a recent college graduate, and myself a doctorate student in education and talking about Mercer Medical schools interesting concept of learning. Students are directly involved in learning which medical schools consider a new methodology and nursing students have known for a long time and well John Dewey explained nearly one hundred and twenty years ago as progressive education.

 

“The essence of knowledge is, having it, to apply it; not having it, to confess your ignorance.” Confucius

 

“I would have the studies elective. Scholarship is to be created not by compulsion, but by awakening a pure interest in knowledge. The wise instructor accomplishes this by opening to his pupils precisely the attractions the study has for himself. The marking is a system for schools, not for the college; for boys, not for men; and it is an ungracious work to put on a professor.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

To instill curiosity a teacher must also be curious; a teacher must also be a learner. Recently I read several articles about schools where students and teachers make choices and decisions on the operation of the school, a truly democratic school. TheSudburyValleySchoolinMassachusettsis an example as I mentioned recently. Many years ago Socrates would simply ask a question and students would have to find the answers, not be told the answers and Socrates would assist through more questions. He must have upset his school board since he was required to drink poison.

 

“The trouble with the world is not that people know too little, but that they know so many things that ain’t so.” Mark Twain

 

This is a good place to wind down today. I am sitting here, thinking, pondering, listening to R. Carlos Nakai on my Blackberry and wondering about where the day may go and what will be said and who will listen. I find solace in that thought. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts and always give thanks.

namaste

bird

So many thoughts for one day

Bird Droppings November 13, 2011
So many thoughts for one day

I believe I was prepared from childhood to discuss this topic. It has been many years since my first introduction to Native Americans. I was three or four years old when I first remember my father’s stories of Little Strong Arm and Black Eagle. The term Native American had not officially become politically correct and we were raised with Indians. My father’s stories came from his background in the Boy Scouts of America; he had been an Eagle Scout, a scout leader and summer camp program director. Indian lore was a major portion of Boy Scouting in those days.
From a favorite book on Indian Crafts my father told us of counting coup. W. Ben Hunt explained the word and meaning.

“It was considered a great honor to count coup” W. Ben Hunt

My father worked his summers during college in New Hampshire at Camp Waunakee using Indian Lore as a base for camp activities and my father was the chief of the campfire. During his military service, as a corpsman in World War II, I learned he had spent many hours talking with Navaho code talkers as his Navy ship delivered them to islands in the South Pacific.
Through all of those years he would say he was part Native American but it was not until he was in his seventies that his sister uncovered my great grandmother’s lineage, Leni Lenape, a clan of the Delaware tribes and actually confirmed it. To me as a child Native Americans were special, my father instilled this in us but there was always a spiritual aspect I could not explain. As I was reading for this morning a thought I pulled out of another old book from my childhood days by William Tompkins. My father would use this book to teach us rudimentary sign language in case we ever needed to converse with the Indians.

“The originators of the Indian signs thought that thinking or understanding was done with the heart, and made the sign “drawn from the heart” Deaf mutes place extended fingers of the right hand against the forehead to give the same meaning” William Tompkins

As I read this line that thinking and understanding comes from the heart in Native American philosophy perhaps this was what drew me to this group of people. I grew up with feathers, drums, rattles and other Native American paraphernalia always around the house. In my own experiences the spirituality and acceptance of all things as sacred in Native American culture intrigued me. As I started into a graduate school program on curriculum theory, it had never occurred to me, how education had been so misused and so often deliberately so in history. Those in power avoided teaching some things; I use the term the fine print, to Native Americans.
The trust inherent in their culture and their understanding of life and nature was turned against them for profit and greed. Dr. Charles Alexander Eastman, a member of the Dakota tribe, a medical doctor and known in his tribe as Ohiyesa is quoted in Kent Nerburn’s, The Soul of an Indian as he addresses a major difference in white and Indian thought.

“Many of the white man ways are past our understanding …. They put a great store upon writing; there is always paper. The white people must think that paper has some mysterious power to help them in the world. The Indian needs no writings; words that are true sink deep into his heart, where they remain. He never forgets them. On the other hand if a white man loses his papers, he is helpless” Dr. Charles Eastman, Ohiyesa

In reading and discussing in grad school not much is different from the many innuendos in today’s education and curriculums of hidden agendas and political maneuvering. Looking back as I progressed in my own schooling I learned Columbus mistakenly called the indigenous people he encountered Indians thinking he had found a way to the Spice Islands of the West Indies. The name would stick until more recently as we became politically correct and use the term Native Americans. Columbus even wrote in his journal of presenting letters from the King and Queen to the Great Khan thinking he was in China or near according to noted historian Ronald Takaki.
As I became older and as I too sought out my own understanding of Native Americans and my readings went deeper. During my undergraduate years I spent a semester in Texas and experienced firsthand a powerful hatred even then in 1968 for Native Americans. My own journeys very much paralleled my spiritual and educational pathways as with each step my ties and understanding grew. I was looking for answers even back then.

“When you see a new trail, or footprint you do not know, follow it to a point of knowing (introduction).” Uncheedah, grandmother of Ohiyesa

I was searching for answers even in those days. As I finished up my undergraduate program at Mercer University I began to realize why Native Americans were never taught to read the fine print. In classes and from friends I received books and articles to read adding to my understanding. From one of our course texts, Author Joel Spring points out the concept of deculturalization.

“Deculturalization is one aspect of the strange mixture of democratic thought and intolerance that exists in some minds. The concept of deculuralization demonstrates how cultural prejudices and religious bigotry can be intertwined with democratic beliefs. It combines education for democracy and political equality with cultural genocide – the attempt to destroy cultures. Deculturalization is an educational process that aims to destroy a people’s culture and replace it with a new culture.” Joel Spring

From earlier on there was an effort to assimilate and dismantle the cultures of the Native peoples in America. In the early 1500’s Spanish colonists, were some of the first to deceive and destroy the native people? Several nights ago a recent History channel episode was based on Cortez and the conquering of the Aztecs. A statement was made by one of the historians on the show that in the course of less than two hundred years from that first encounter with Cortez, ninety percent of the indigenous people of the America’s were either killed or died from European based disease and a new world was enslaved by the Europeans.
So many times it was through deception. As the white man pushed into the new world treaties and agreements were signed often with little understanding on the part of the Native peoples. Land was not for sale yet the white man is offering us trinkets. How foolish is the white man? Vine Deloria Jr., states very clearly in his book Custer died for your sins:

“In the treaty of August 5, 1926, almost as if it were an afterthought, an article (III) stated: The Chippewa tribe grant to the government of the United States the right to search for, and carry away, any metals or minerals from any part of their country. But this grant is not to effect title of the land, or existing jurisdiction over it. The Chippewa’s, in the dark as to the importance of their mineral wealth, signed the treaty. This was the first clear-cut case of fraudulent dealings on the part of Congress. Close examination of subsequent Congressional dealings shows a record of continued fraud covered over by pious statements of concern for their words.” Vine Deloria Jr

I wonder if the Indian agents held their hand over portions of the treaty or wrote in such small lettering that most people could not read. It may have been perhaps using Old English lettering and only having taught in Times Roman fonts, which would bewilder most educated people even today. This concerted effort by those in control throughout American History was even condemned by the US government who were themselves, orchestrating much of it as shown by Joel Spring in his book.

“The US Senate Committee on Labor and Public Welfare issued in 1969 the report Indian Education: A National Tragedy-A national Challenge. The report opened with a statement condemning previous educational policies of the federal government: “A careful review of the historical literature reveals that the dominant policy of the federal Government toward the American Indian has been one of forced assimilation…. Because of a desire to divest the Indian of his land” Joel Spring

In many ways it was a naivety that undermined the Native Americans in their dealings with the Europeans and eventually US Government. But it was also an inherent trust that bound the various tribes and peoples together. There was no fine print to a Native American, his word was bond. It would be many years and near extinction till Native Americans realized the treachery. Kent Nerburn writes extensively about Native American Spirituality and offers;

“The rule of mutual legal compact, with its European roots, had no precedent among the individualistic native peoples of the continent. In addition, the idea of land as personnel property, a key principle on which the United States was basing its treaties was alien to the native people. How could one own the land?” Kent Nerburn

Our own current study of curriculum shows many over lapping and residual effects and it goes far beyond just Native Americans. Those in power write fine print for one reason so that is not read and in doing so essentially control the overall outcome and direction of whatever is in question. My position is we have been as a people continually dealt agreements, contracts riffed with fine print in regards to education and curriculum to a point it has become what we expect.
Even as a teacher our contracts contains numerous areas of extremely fine print. Daily we are being handed fine print in the news and through the medias about Iraq, politics, religion, and many too numerous to mention including our own president elect. Maybe one day we can truly have a democracy in our democratic nation funny thing is educator John Dewey said and felt the best way to assure a democracy was through a democratic class room. So as I set my thoughts to paper and close for this morning please help others read the fine print and please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and in your hearts.
namaste
bird