Sunday, July 23, 2006

Good morning! I'm in a better mood today, and will continue my thoughts on education. If you have been following along, what follows should make sense. If not, then you'll have to go back to the very beginning to see the whole point.


INTERLUDE VII

What is a puzzle, if not a person -
Part hid from self, part from others.
As, from day to day, another piece
Is found - is lost - is found again.

What is a person, if not a puzzle -
To himself? To those around
Who look, or speak - sometimes to scoff,
To ridicule or to ignore?

Or, to those who, on occasion, do take note,
And, stopping for a moment, extend
A hand of friendship, of concern perhaps,
And then move on - themselves a puzzle?

How to pull the pieces into place,
Give meaning to the bits, frame
All into a more completed whole, if
Not by love?

Ah! That's dangerous! Of course, and
So is life! But not the way you may think;
A puzzle, trying to be a person, fears love
For it may reveal too much. While a person
Trying to solve the mystery, welcomes
What he may learn.


LOVE

The most over-used, misunderstood
And abused word in the English
Language. Or one of them, certainly.
Brotherhood, sisterliness, affection,
Warmth, concern, caring, passion, or
Erotic excess - and more. All are
Subsumed under its heading, or assumed
At one time or another.

Yet this single word has a deeper,
More universal meaning, and all
The others are expressions, in varying
Contexts, of this meaning. And that is:
To share with another that which is
Deepest within me; giving to that
Which is deepest within another - one person
To another, both equal in humanity
And need, and caring.

That is the heart of living in a human
World; that is the essence of learning;
That is the force that drives true human
Progress, as recorded in the great
Conversation. That is what so often is
Not evident among the boxes, the puzzles,
And the system. Hence, decline and
Mediocrity, and poor SAT's.

Let love in; let teachers care,
And fear not to show it; let
Students care, and fear not being
Singled out; be not ashamed - love
Is not soft or weakening, when
Truly understood.

Schools, families, and institutions
With love at the center are transformed
And transported beyond sociology into
The truest history - that of the human
Soul. Without love, then, all is naught
But statistics: let love in, please!


FRIENDSHIP

I cannot imagine living without friends,
Or without friendship - they are my
Completion, in a way. Oh, I am whole all
By myself, and true to that within me
That is best. But, being human, and alive,
I need more than me, alone, to do
And share with, or what's the point? We
Aren't made with feelings and with
Caring just to sit beside a stream all day.
There's time, and need for that as well,
But other's are around; without my friends
I might well lose touch with all I am,
A person with a heart, who needs other hearts in tune.

Friendship is the finest of all the
Ways there are to care for others.
It's the way to say: "wake up, live, grow"
To reach the peak of all that's
Best in each of us, and share it
With another. And sharing, be just
Who I am, no more; and if sometimes I am
A bit less, it doesn't matter, for
I have a friend who cares, accepts, and
Doesn't judge. A friend who knows
How I may feel, or think; who listens with
A hearing heart and lets me be - myself.
In this tough world, there's enough aloneness
To serve the solitary souls who
Seem to want to be without connection;
Who in their deeper hearts may cry
For solace, respect, love and comfort,
Yet do not find it in their hearts
To give; fear letting others in.
Such is not for me, and if it's weakness
Then I'm weak, unafraid to let another
See my need, unashamed of tears
Of sorrow or of joy, unabashed by softer
Thoughts, buoyed up by love.

For love it is that's at the core;
The corner stone, the keystone of
The arch that's friendship. Without condition,
Absent judgment, possessing no one,
These stones so closely fit together form
A solid and enduring monument to the
Best that's in us all. So join with me
And be my friend, and live, and love,
And grow.
So it follows along, I think. And you are getting a good idea of my philosophy of education, and where I'm coming from.
Shall I be trite, and say "Have a great day"? I guess I did!

Monday, July 17, 2006

I don't care what your religion is - it's all about the same unseen being who so many worship under different names. If only the fighting over religious systems, interpretations of religious writings, theology, etc. we could have a more peaceful world, I think. I watch CNN and am desolated by the killing, the rocket attacks, the reprisals, the recrimmination, the unbending attitudes, but most of all by the "collaterarl damage" caused by the missiles and air attacks. It seems that the Hezbollah are firing their missiles from sites in the midst of civilian areas, and are targetting non-military areas like Haifa, Tiverias, etc. Israel has to strike back in self defense and of course, to stop the rockets, they have to hit the sites, and the result is unnecessary civilian casualties. Or at least that's the picture I have.

On another topic, our move is going foreward. We're slowly getting packed up and ready to leave here on August 24. All I need to do is arrange for the final utilities bills to be as of that date.

I'm still thinking about education, but can't bring myself to add to my Puzzle Boxes today.

Maybe tomorrow.

Peace, everybody!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

We had some friends over last evening, and inevitably the topic turned to politics. We reached a consensus on the ticket for 2008.

How’s this? John Edwards and Barack Obama! Wouldn’t this put the Democratic Party back on track to it’s basic principles? Something has to get that party out of it’s doldrums.

For the Democratic Party seems to be drifting, like a rudderless ship, with no pilot at the wheel. Instead, it is fragmented and floundering, with very few speaking anything but what is designed to get the vote. Of course, all politicians have as their primary objective reelection, and thereby hangs much of the problem with contemporary politics and government.

Being a politician has become a lifetime occupation, with a great retirement package, health care better than most Americans, and the possibility of lucrative employment by corporate interests or think tanks if defeated, or upon retirement. This couldn’t be further from the Founders conception of the legislative branch. But the times have changed, and we are where we are.

What is needed is individuals who stand for something; individuals who listen more than they talk, and listen to those whom they represent. Instead of testing the political winds, they should do as they are elected to do – take the composite interests of their constituents and speak for those interests, with concern for the truth, They should get out of DC and talk with people more often. Not just at pre-election times, but all of the time.

The “Beltway mentality” grips the entire political machine on the Federal level, and responsible people within that beltway have a warped conception of what is really of importance to the rest of the nation.

We need a party that truly speaks for the little people; that will work toward a truly universal health system for ALL Americans; that will work toward improvement of the environment, utilizing the best information and the best minds to formulate policy; that will approach the problem of immigration with humane consideration; whose foreign policy will strive to truly work for peace among nations without using the “big stick” to intimidate others. A party that stands for responsible government; government that is transparent and truly accountable to those whom it governs – WE, the citizens of this nation. Attentive to the rights of everyone to seek and speak the truth.

There are many avenues to the truth, and in this world of the 21st Century, with the intenet, wireless communication, etc,. we have the means of truly seeking the truth and investigating it. The “Patriot” act is a travesty and should be repealed; for it is an invasion of privacy that is not justified by any rational means.

So, what think you? Edwards and Obama in 2008? Is it viable, does it make sense?

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Look at it from the viewp0int of a man from Mars.

These Earthlings! What a crazy bunch! They have the greenest, most fruitful planet in the galaxy, and they are ruining it! My gosh, they use up the resources as if they were unlimited in quantity; they dump poisonous refuse in their water, and in their air; they fight each other over minimal things that could be settled by rational talk! Oh, yes, they do have their good points! They have families, and they love those children and spouses (for the most part). They have friendships, and others who care for them. They have religions, each of which basically teach the same thing - compassion. And many follow those tenets. But others laugh at them, or worse, attack them as non-believers in their particular system of beliefs.

One asks: why can't they see how ridiculous all of this is? Why can't they escape the irrational belief in "my country, right or wrong", or the equivalent. Why can't they see that they are destroying their very heritage? Why have they ceased to be good stewards of that heritage?

One can only wonder, and watch, and hope that one day, they will come to their senses. In the meantime, we sit here on our distant world, and only observe.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

HI! It's been several days, and we've been busy with packing, etc.

It's time to add to my thoughts on learning and teaching. If you don't see the connection between what you read now and the alleged subject, go back and read what has gone before. I think you'll begin to catch on!

So, here goes.

INTERLUDE VI

Failure to know - oh, what's
A classroom for, if not to
Try, and miss, and try again, and
In the failing, knowing yet more
Each time, growing ever more
Confident. Or, finding all the
Things that will not work,
Trying again.

Ideal, you say - of course. So - why
Not, instead of fear of failing,
Love of knowing; instead of knowing
All or fearing the result, the search,
The questions, and the value of uncertainty.
As I am uncertain at this point, and
Should be afraid, but am not - rather
Exhilarated at the prospect of finding more.
Failure and authority most often
Team up together, but need not.
A friendlier environment for searching
Can be set - it takes some work.
And confidence on a leader's part, of
Course - so here's another riddle
To be dealt with, if not solved.
And the search goes on.

CIRCLES

What is there about circles - sitting
'Round a circle - that disturbs?
Authority has trouble with its status,
That's for sure! For a circle is
A democratic figure - no place on
It's circumference better than another.

So in the search for solutions to
The puzzles - of self, of life,
And of the great conversation, what better
Form than the equality and evenness
Of a circle. Each puzzle in each box
Can be itself; and others, differently.

In rows and squares, or lines and ranks,
Some can be low, some higher, and
One highest (or lowest) in the hierarchy.
Yet hierarchies lend themselves best
To conclusions, not to inquiries;
And, too often, Truth is lost.
Circularity lends itself not only to equality
But to sharing: to openness of speech
And hearing; to the engagement of the
Heart as well as of the mind; to
Humanness and love - the focus and the center.
Hence learning, and the search goes on.


COMMUNITY

There's nothing quite so puzzling as a
Group of puzzles, with attendant
Labels and boxes and rules and
Order, all and each vying with
Others for some end or other.
Community, we call it, and what is
Common is often hard to determine.
Yet it's there, so let's look.

In our special situation, it's not a
City or a village we're concerned with,
But a learning situation, an experience concerning
Some more than one, yet less than a multitude. Puzzles,
in their boxes, with their labels,
In a box in a system - a classroom in a school. And
that's a community? Oh, yes!
Rarely a tyranny; more often a
Benevolent autocracy; occasionally
A democracy. In which one can learning
Truly advance, as we have been saying?
When there is no fear; where the love of
Truth, and curiosity, prevail; where
No hierarchy impedes; where the goal
Is growth, the conversation open.

Where each is learner, teacher -
One and the same - and each
Can be a puzzle, outside his box,
While puzzling the greater questions.
Of this life, and in so doing,
Come ever closer to understanding,
Knowledge, and changes growth implies,
And reach to wisdom as an end.

Such a community is one of love;
For every member must love the
Others for the discourse to go on; must
Care about the process and the goals,
And the sheer delight of watching others
Grow. Such a community values
Puzzles, nurtures them, and in the end
The puzzles love themselves.

PERSONS

So, finally, each puzzle stands revealed -
A person, young or old; teacher,
Student, parent, child. The names are
Many, the roles legion; which hat to wear
At each moment? Labels are so important!
Without a label, I don't know how to deal -

With you. Person is too personal, I
Sometimes think; better to learn the
Box and its label, and get on with
More important things. Like what?
Like learning what is set forth to
Be given back; to conform to -
Norms of the system, the larger boxes
And their labels? Am I better
For it? Are you? Or are we both
Far better for the uncertainties of
Confrontation, the mutual sharing of
Our doubts - our puzzles?

And which way lies the learning that is true
And good - for growing? Puzzles by
Themselves learn nothing. As persons among
Persons they attain a dignity of wholeness
And aliveness that is human - and each puzzle
Begins its mystery to reveal

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Time to add to my thoughts on learning and teaching. You may notice that eventually, I'll make the point that one doesn't teach, but the "teacher" is more a facilitator, creating an environment for learning, and opening the subject up to students for their questions, concerns, etc. And the most important part is learning to ask good questions: how to formulate the question, how to organize what replies the question elicits, etc. This is, after all, how we learn, isnt' it? That's what the toddler begins to do, and continues to do through school, unless it is short cicruited by being told "you're wrong", "don't ask such questions", or wait until you're older", or some such.

And the worst part is grades! Someone must fail, in order that some may excell, and the current emphasis upon state testing forces the student to concentrate on "correct" answers, rather than learning.

I truly believe that this is a malady that is affecting the public in general. We haven't been led to formulate good questions, but excpect the news to give us the answers, and then we accept the answers as fact. Without further inquiry.

This is, I think, where so many schools fail their students. And, as you will see, this may well be what is happening to our relationships with others, friends and others alike. Could this have anything to do with a high divorce rate? Could the inability to communicate rationally and thoughfully perhaps lead to irrconcilable problems between a couple who began with such hope, only to descend into recrimmination, etc?

So, here are some more thoughts to consider:

RELATIONSHIPS

To relate, one must communicate, and
Be communicated with, in turn.
All else is only make-believe, no matter
What the words are. One-way
Messages at best are mere beginnings -
Without response, no communication,
And no relationship can happen. Nor
Will it - frustration and anger - end.

To relate one must listen, must be
Still at times, to hear the words
And feelings of another. And they,
In turn, must also do the same.
Often what one hears or feels from
Students is not what fits the lesson
Plan - at all. So what to do?
The Plan? Relate? Communicate?
To relate one must of softer stuff be made,
Than that which plans and bureaus need.
Flexible and willing to wait; to
Overlook the next line, or paragraph,
In text or syllabus; to include all others
Softly while but one may have a need:
All this and more. More? Yes, most
Certainly, we're near the heart.

To relate, one must communicate,
Listen, and be soft - gentle and
Inclined to wait - but more -
One must care; care about the
Other, whoever that other is; care
About one's self; care about caring
Itself; caring also for the truth;
For beauty and for wisdom.

To relate, then, one must love -
And loving, live and grow along
With others, not against the grain
Of life. And living, loving,
Growing - are these not what
Learning's all about? And if learning,
Then teaching, if it makes sense at
All, means living, loving, relating.
If not, what then does anything mean?
And no wonder the puzzles!
Never mind the labels or the boxes -
I don't love labels, do you?

CURIOSITY

What is it about curiosity that killed
The cat? I suspect the foolish cat
Asked questions that were not included
In the syllabus. Or perhaps wanted
To know the answers to questions
Too upsetting to the establishment.

The essence of curiosity would seem
To be a child-like love of life,
And constant wonder at the variety
And mystery presented to the senses.
One larger puzzle, yet unboxed and
Without labels - waiting for unraveling.

Child-like wonder - how to keep it
When all the messages are "grow up,
Be mature"? That's tough to do! But
Must be done, else the rest of us
must come undone in our grown-up,
Adult world of being taken in.

To be mature means no longer to be
Taken in by myself - to re-discover
What I knew as a child, and to act
Upon it, responsible for the inquiry
And to its outcome, and to those involved.

Trusting my own questions.
Curiosity gives shape and substance
To the world - the answers are
Always there; it remains to ask
The right questions. All right
Questions are not "good" ones - someone
Might not like them. They might

Challenge another, a regime,
A theology or a leader - and these
Questions are not to be permitted in
The real, adult world - not until
The asker is first provided with the
Proper information. Even in a

Free society! Think about this:
Curiosity and maturity in a
Society that takes pride in Liberty!
That's the point, isn't it? Education
In a free society has become a
Joke. Aren't you curious?

Saturday, July 01, 2006

I am so disgusted with the do nothing congress, and a president who is, to be kind, a lightweight, that I can't separate out any one topic to comment on this morning.

So, I'll just continue with my thoughts on learning and teaching.



LEARN

If I meet you, and don't like you
The first time, I may act aloof,
Impolite, or rude. When next we meet
And I am different - less aloof,
Friendlier, more aware - what has
Changed? My behavior! Why?
Perhaps because I've learned something!
And that's what this is all about.
All sorts of things are learned, and
When truly so, something magic
Comes about. The one who's learned
Is no more the same, exactly as before.
He or she now thinks, or sees, or hears
From a different viewpoint; he or she feels
New feelings, re-assesses old ones, and
Behaves, little or much, accordingly.

How does this take place? No one is
Finally, absolutely sure. They may not
Have asked all the right questions! Oh?
You say - they haven't the right answers
Yet! Another way of saying - not the same
Thing - but something similar, perhaps.
And yet the questions are the clue, I think -
In life as well as Academe.

For I remember best what I have sought,
Not what I've been given - and seeking
Is a questioning, brought about by
Many different things - crisis, wonder, Loneliness, or
love - yes, and fear, to name a few.
In each case I wish to resolve
Some conflict, or some doubt in me
And the search begins - the questions.

The world is full of answers - ask the
Good questions, and Truth will
At the same time draw closer; knowledge
Increase; Wisdom in its own good
Time appear. Learning is living -
Aware, awake, in touch with others
And ourselves - and at the core, it's
Loving, and being loved.

No test can tell, no grade make
Sense; no teaching ever reach
The heart of learning, save that
Which asks, and shares, and wonders
Out loud, doubts, stumbles - learns,
And models for others that which is
Living - learning, growth and loving:
And behavior changes.

INTERLUDE IV

So - we have puzzles inside puzzles
Inside boxes within boxes;
Some are learners, and some are
Subjects - all connected by words
In a system archaic that separates,
And alienates, and cannot live.

Or love, either, for that matter -
When relationships are defined
By the rules, by the roles, by the names
On the boxes instead of by the
Puzzle inside. But the puzzle is
Living, the puzzle is loving -

Or wants to, but can't, or isn't
Allowed to. The system can't
Handle such subjectivity, such
Intimacy as relationships between
The puzzles. Too much uncertainty;
Too much risk - to the system,
At least.

But how do we learn - and teach,
If not within relationships -
Shall we explore?
I hope you are still with me!