The Paradigm Shift Ahead blog 29

31 Aug
Preamble: The following opinion resulted from an email exchange with an old education colleague and friend.  Our values have always been congruent.  And yet, as the thinking that has become the Earth based education model developed, gaining buy-in has not been successful.  Immediate discourse concerning the disparities that exist among educators, parents and political leaders regarding tenure, testing, charter schools and the like, were the specific issues on the table.  All, but a few, feel the frustration that has come from caring deeply, yet unable to find the kind of agreement that sustains the hope we adults are responsible for sharing with our offspring.  That is the real point of education, isn’t it?  Regeneration of hope?

And so the motivation for authoring this blog.  With the understanding that life is a team sport coming from the Earth around me, as I continually appreciate in nature, and repetitive experiences as a real world, hands on, environmental educator, that learning moments in the environment mean so much more to others than “just” the point of the lesson at hand, I have taken on the responsibility to seek the buy-in of others as my role in the process.  I can’t bring about this kind of change.  We can.  So trying to again reach my friend in the attempt to gain a partner in the process, I wrote the following that might also have been written to you…

…No, neither of us has a clue on how to change things.  If we did, each of the specific issues that are a part of the hairball would have been settled and would have become perfect examples of how education is intended to guide its young toward effective problem solving ability.  Instead, it is the reason “Catch-22” was written.  And so, looking at the big picture that shows the pattern of behavior everyone is participating in, it seems clear to me that finding a/the causal agent is the beginning of the string that needs to be untied to eventually straighten things out.  And that focal point becomes the obsolete education model that lies at the root of how we have been, and still are, raised to think.


Step one, consider its history.  The methodology in the foundation of our beloved institution arose from man’s historical need to dominate other men.  Why?  Testosterone probably.  The genetic energy to compete and dominate, whether in a male or a female, makes sense in a balanced world.  Only the strong survive.  The biggest cave man in the cave.  Then the most manipulative of the smaller cave men.  Leaders naturally develop for those who are less able, and the subgroup survives to move its gene pool forward.  The band leader, the organizer, the king, the czar, etc.  The cream gets to rise to the top.  Out of this very positive energy, helpful in that mankind gains additional wisdom upon which he builds to further survivability, the process of creating and expanding empires that required enjoined, committed followers occurred at a time before we truly understood the process.  Did Victorian man understand psychology, ecology, genetics?  No.  He understood that might makes right.  He understood that science creates technology leading to the kind of power that is able to control resources and the wealth they produce.  And now he understands business in the form of competitive, free market Capitalism.  Look at each of the specific issues that divide us and you will find making more money as the counterpoint to progress.  Whether the matter on the table is teacher tenure or a free and open internet, the perceived “right” to make a killing stands in the way of a balanced, common sense answer.

So what’s the difference between the expression of testosterone in Victorian times and today?  It is the number of human inhabitants on the planet.  We fit in a somewhat balanced way until the calculus of energy use and human population density began to disrupt the very intelligence we have evolved from.  Understand clearly, man did not invent intelligence.  The Earth had it developed before Adam’s arrival.  We just invented the word.  Now we are only just beginning to fully appreciate what the word means.  Until 1982, when Howard Gardner described intelligences that are not presently measurable, the word intelligence was always singular.  Nor did we have ecological studies available to show catastrophic population declines when upper use limits are reached.  Who knew of lemmings back then?  Each point of difference that testosterone would like to answer for us has a relative dollar value.

The beginning of the string leading to a better balanced condition for all seven billion plus human inhabitants of planet Earth is a paradigm shifting systemic change to an Earth based education model that is representative of all of man’s accumulated wisdom.  Man/woman is the baseline condition.  Testosterone/estrogen.  Symbiotic business circumstance.  Capitalism with a conscience.  Intelligent design of the diverse whole, instead of convenient pieces.  Democratic value for freedom for every part of the team.  The value of one man, one vote.  We need to begin discussion at every level in the direction of what is right even as we have been brought up, and are habituated to believing so strongly we like to call it knowing, to focus on what is wrong and who is to blame.  And, as we are all team-mates in the process, whether educators or not, we each have a role to play in bringing change forward.  The Earth based education model needs you!


Calling All Educators

13 Apr
Last week the American Educational Researcher’s Association (AERA) met in Philadelphia.  Because of the intensity of Pennsylvania’s leadership to drive a wedge of influence guiding this region’s common wealth away from public education, some of the attendees to the conference invited interested locals to participate in a forum to discuss the issues that are edging the Institution toward private ownership.   Understanding that all of the tabled issues are as a result of human nature, and how the pedagogy in current use has encouraged habituated involvement in continuing to buy into the process of divisiveness in an attempt to solve problems, I felt a bolder, more innovative perspective might be helpful, and so chose to attend.
Sure enough, the first presenters offered a child centered approach that the hundred or so attendees appreciated, but in negative terms. A new enemy in the form of the the term “neo-libral” needed to be focused on; testing and the excessive value applied to bad data must be avoided; attacks upon teacher unions, because they protect all of the bad teachers who are responsible for our “failing” schools, needs to be repulsed; every point absolutely true.  All reactive.  I felt to be in the right place at the right time.  And so, when the first opportunity arose to reflect upon the matters at hand, I found the microphone hoping to assist in gaining the productive, progressive middle ground. Proactively.
In my opinion discussion among all of us that are interested in education (nearly all of humanity, wouldn’t you think?), having a divided intellect as a result of thinking with a tool that works through electro-chemical polarity, need a systemic shift in pedagogy to an educational model that will guide us away from discordant, divisive, argumentative problem solving strategies to one that helps us seek solutions that will provide win/win results.  Everyone in the room was there to find productive answers.  I was there to try my best to share one.  It is the same challenge I try my best to face here.  We’re all in it together.  Life is a team sport.  The Earth shows me.
Again repeating myself in this extended missive, the obsolete Victorian/Prussian/Factory education model that has guided the development of man’s thinking, grew out of ignorance of Psychology, Ecology, Evolution and Genetics.  Its foothold within our psyches relates to our competitiveness as it relates to “success”.  For this reason it seeks empirical support, experimental, statistical relevance; something that educational researchers are paid to provide.  And so, our energies, already divided electro-chemically, continue to fight over a more and more limited resource, even as the extent of the challenge grows.  I will remind you again that the Earth is now supporting more than seven billion of one species that is directly effecting the quality of the very air, water and soil products of which we are ALL made.  And we know about the lemmings.
I shared the idea that the Educational Institution must now begin the process of systemic shift to an Earth based education model.  It was a lot to ask, of me, of the group, of the others who care about the product of education that weren’t in the room.  But it isn’t a lot to accomplish.  The conversation must begin.  That’s all I asked that evening.  That’s all that I ask of you who have chosen to read this blog. You care.  You speak with others that also care.  Remember, the Earth shows us that life is a team sport.  It doesn’t provide empirical data.  But it has provided proof.  Its accumulated wisdom allowed Homo sapiens its opportunity to share its space.
I’m not sure of the result of my discourse at the forum.  In the short term, many members nodded approval as I spoke.  But in the end, the issues on the table before my arrival held their attention.  As I walked out while the remaining group divided up into action committees, one teacher in the lobby shook my hand and thanked me for “a good speech”.  I’m chuckling now.  I made a speech.  In the process that is life, life for which we are born to learn, I have just made another speech.  Can you hear me?


God and Gambling blog twenty-eight

16 Dec

Walking the streets of my city recently, I bumped into someone else’s mistake.  Two bucks, just laying there.  Found money.


Used to be, when this happened, I’d buy a Powerball ticket.  I no longer get drawn into that powerful need to gamble in life.  Well, not that way.  It does raise my awareness to that funky side of human nature- the drive to try for something unearned; a kind of entitlement.  But, here is found money.  Why not parlay it?  Isn’t that what god or the gods are telling me to do?  That is how I used to react to another’s misfortune of losing cash.


For some reason this newly found two dollars didn’t find the old groove.  Instead, I related it to another aspect of life on the streets of the city- its beggars.  Living life close to a very low economic edge (no complaint; a result of the choices I’ve made) and consistently confronted by those of greater economic need, I tend to walk away without giving.  I decided handing a dollar to someone in need was where this find was headed.


Sometime later an appropriate pan handler was in front of me.  One dollar in hand, I passed it forward.  “God bless you”, he said.  As I continued my walk, I couldn’t help begin to consider what that dollar had bought for me.  Thinking goes well with walking.  These were some of my thoughts:


If there is a God, I have already been “blessed”; I’ve won the life lottery.  Of all of the possible combinations of sperm and egg to come from my parents, the only pairing that could make me, happened.  And we’re not even considering the combinations that led to them. Making the best of what I’ve got in life is up to me.  Bless yourself, dude/dudette.


This guy was representing God.  That means he believed he knew what God was.  Isn’t that blasphemous?  Assuming the “going rate” for the word god is the creator of everything, believing that one knows God is not possible, we being imperfect and all.  This particular beggar isn’t alone, of course. Our culture generally assumes, gambles as it were, that no one will notice the hypocritical assertion included within their divisive beliefs in something so inclusive.


Then there is that other, inescapable reality we ignore as we make our way through life.  No one knows whether there is or isn’t a god (or gods, for that matter).  Whatever the doctrine or dogma, pick your poison, no one knows the truth.  Overly ambitious acts of will do not prove anything but proof of infantile behavior.  I, ME at its best.  Entitlement.  This is no indictment of belief, of opinion.  I’m expressing one here.  Thinking alone provides beliefs and opinions that help us make the decisions of life.  But to try to prove or enforce one’s righteousness simply proves self-righteousness.  This is what drives all terrorism, their’s or ours, religious, political, economic, you name it.  It’s gambling that no other part of the creation will notice or care about the conflict in terms.


Then, I thought, Paul, Paul, he was only trying to share back a little warmth for the contribution.  I might have told him, “Bless yourself with a walk.  Its better than standing in one spot.”  And I knew that thought was a bit too self-righteous for my taste.  Who better to know of his needs than himself?


Instead I knew I needed to write about the experience.  I’m gambling that this world needs my opinion on the subject.

Earth based education model- where it stands blog twenty-seven

6 Oct
Conversations regarding change and improvement of our most important product, the education of our young, seem to be going in circles.
That isn’t news, is it?  Make your point about education to anyone and, chances are, you’ll get something of an argument in return.  They will agree that something needs to change, but…  We are all experts.  We have been educated.  We all know the system and are easily drawn into its judgement. Part of this pattern is realistic: how does one make good choices, but to act upon efficiently judging disparate ends?  Another part must be that segment of human nature that is reactive, competitive. And then there is a third aspect that is a bi-product of Institutional Education.
Education developed a methodology, a pattern, during an age where nations accumulating resources on a global scale was the norm.  In order to gain the value of resources from far off places, one needed easily manageable servants to the system. The Institution began to establish its pedagogical superstructure with its top down view of life.  Some men are best and man is above all the rest.  This can be “factually” determined by transferring value of extracted resources into technological advances that ultimately win wars.  History has been written by those who were best at utilizing accumulated wealth to establish their version of fundamental truth.  So the educational model we employ today is steeped in competition.  Is there any wonder why we fight over pennies for public education in a Democratic society where an individual has the right to own guns in secret?  We now suddenly find there are more important issues than how we might improve the product of education as a result of an habituated communal thought process.  All of us think with a pattern developed this way.
Or not.  I suggest with a real love and respect for life and how we prepare our young for the 21st Century, we now need to think ourselves beyond the self imposed limitations of our heritage.  Hubris suggests that man is a part of an integrated whole.  Man’s intellectual capacity is not presently entirely measurable.  Although we are in part egotistically competitive, we are also socially responsible.  We are born to learn.  Becoming an adult does not mean an end to learning.  Willful objection to something new is an emotional reaction requiring objective reflection.  Change is neither good nor bad outside of context. Real need for judgement requires a balanced, trusting appreciation for all of the facts reflected upon instinctive, intuitive understanding within the context of the moment.  Yesterday’s truth is just as easily today’s lie depending on context.
We presently live on a planet whose human population is growing beyond seven billion inhabitants.  We’ve learned what happens when a population of any species surpasses the carrying capacity of its ecosystem.  The thinking of our leaders is in terms of growth when decisions should be made based upon sustainability.  Human culture knows so much more about life than it did when our cumulative population on the planet was less than a billion people.  Responsible leaders among educators need begin discussing a shift in pedagogy to an Earth based education model.
Man has only been able to evolve on Planet Earth because of the intelligence that preceded his.  Using the Earth as a reflective template for learning experiences is the path that will support development of the whole human.  Beginning the lifelong education process with fundamental truth as a basis for learning the language and numbers of analytic thinking is a monumental change decision making in the 21st Century requires.  We must raise children to be able to trust what we know through study and science as well as what we know intuitively and instinctively.  Just think!  Raising children to be whole, balanced critical thinkers and problem solvers, better able to consistently make decisions serving both themselves and themselves connected to a greater whole.  In this way we pattern a habit of trust in oneself as a stepping stone on the path to learning to trust others.  How would that be for a legacy?  I lived in 2013 and, as an educator, strove to adapt our habit of thinking from confrontational and divisive toward an ability to find win/win, sustainable solutions as an antidote to “lemminghood”.

Educator’s Gold blog twenty-six

5 Aug
There is more than one reason to be an educator.  A few of us choose it as a profession.  Very few choose it as professionals because of the compensation earned relative to energy expended.  With any real world awareness one understands it is less than an easy ride.  The “Gold” in the title of this blog is not referenced thusly.
Instead I would like to re-frame your thinking so that you reflect back into your life. You’ve had an equivalent experience like the one I am about to share, yourself.  We all have.  In that we all were born to learn, when it happens, we know!  I predict you will remember a like experience.
The one that drives me this morning happened at the gym recently.  My indoor place of physical health opens at 5:30 A.M.  More often than not, I am there to push out an hour of accelerated heart rate and muscle toning when the door opens.  That occurring requires someone else; a professional, so to speak.  Usually it is a gym rat who has gained the honor of having to be at work at an hour most prefer enjoying in bed, by being the lowest paid at his profession.  I’m very lucky.  My A.M. victim is thoughtful and attentive to his work.  And I tell him so.  I truly do appreciate someone being there when I’m most ready to do battle with the aging process.
My man is, like me, a reflective person.   For this reason we often share our thinking. Unlike me, he is young and struggling to define his place in a world in flux.  Not that the world I shared when I was his age was “fluxless”.  It’s probably just this later age that makes the world seem a more problematic place today than the one I remember when I was in my twenties.  “Whatever”!  This blog is about the learning process rather than nostalgia.
And so this particular morning a little communication about his search for self puts me in the position of a learning guide who understands that a balanced appreciation of what one knows intuitively and what one learns from the world around oneself will lead to a workable relative truth, a working hypothesis, a potentially valuable choice.   I was quoting from, and creating, the big picture message of this blog.  Happily, his self reflective nature not only makes him a good, patient listener, but his experiences have included enough of what I was “selling” so that we were in dialog.  I didn’t feel as though the perception of my effort was a soliloquy, preaching, professing.  But we each had work to do, and after a while pursued it.
I passed him a bit later, on my way to the water fountain, finding him glowing.  He caught up with me explaining that our previous conversation had him excited about what happens next.  There it was: Educator’s Gold!  The “aha” moment was happening.  That moment where one knows both intuitively and logically, in theory and in practice, where the balance between the general and the specific, find reflective agreement.  It’s the place in our brains where the action of education happens.  It is where we teach ourselves from a palette of extraordinary diversity.  It is where each of us is responsible for our own education.  It is where we teach/learn.
You have had your own moments of personal discovery and have felt that accompanied love of life with all of its potential.  And you’ve also been there to see a loved one learn from your experience.  The examples we set through the choices we make, all become colors, flavors, notes and textures on the palette of their experiences.  Often there is an effect without effort.  Timing is an undying truth in life.  I can’t change history, only learn from it.  I own no future, but must plan for it. Only this moment belongs to me to make best use of.
And, as I returned to moving some number of tons of weight, I learned.  On my way out I thanked him for guiding me to this next, long overdue blog.  Ah yes, the greater reason to be an educator, collecting little golden moments one fleck at a time.

Why, an Earth based education model- blog twent-five

21 Jun
There are two or three main protagonists responsible for energizing this product that I will recognize at the start.
Firstly, an almost three year old cousin, who has recently discovered the “why?” question, and how it tends to persist.  Secondly, the time has come to produce another piece of the mosaic.  And thirdly, the source that consistently, integrally drives me, as noted in blog number one, that is my genetic need to learn as it is directly connected to the air, water and soil products of which we are made.  I am born to learn and driven to seek peace of mind.
Walking through one of my city’s wonderful natural spaces to a family picnic this week, the three forces identified began to coalesce.  Unsurprisingly, a sense of balance with one’s self and one’s place in the greater scheme of things comes most easily to me under these conditions.  I strongly recommend doing the same as often as you can as a general source of self help.  Equally, giving children the basis for doing the same for themselves by systemic inclusion of Earth based activities directly connected to state teaching objectives, establishes the kind of balanced relationship we all need to help in understanding why, as we deal with the challenges of the 21st Century resulting from its continually growing human population.
That’s why.  Balance is better than confusion.  And when you start at the source, many of the issues of dispute gain some level of clarity that may be appreciated as peace of mind.  Do we want our children to grow up more confused or better balanced?  The old model utilizes the former for economic gain.
As the day unfolded within this glorious space, life abounding in a verdant chorus of sensory splendor, I had an unexpected gift awaiting me.  Funny, when I was working as a real world, hands on, enviromental educator I would openly, somewhat insanely, expect gifts from nature.  Karma-like, doing good things often begets good things.  And I have stories.  But I’ll stick to this father’s day experience here.  Having had no other Google found comparisons to this Earth based education model for fifteen months now, I feel comfortable claiming to be its “father”.  As time passed this day, the picnic group communing, eating and organizing for a mini-hike within the park, I noticed a couple of snakes quietly basking on rocks at the park’s stream’s edge.  I have been awaiting the moment when I might capture and share a meaningful snake experience for my little buddy, and here was my first chance.
When I jumped down to reach their level, the snake of choice, the much smaller of the two that was facing my way, alerted.  Warming on his rock became much less important than “getting out of Dodge” to my approach.  Its diving for cover left me with a much less coveted prize; the big, thick water snake that hadn’t yet discovered my nearing presence.  This was clearly a water snake, darkly banded brown like both poisonous and non-poisonous species are.  I’ve had a good number of experiences with each and have never chosen to capture a water moccasin.  The other, non-poisonous variety had found me many times.  Enough to know that they were almost always biters.  All animals have personalities.  We are the proof of that.  More or less aggressive fits with individuals.  But my experience with water snakes has been that if you choose to catch one, be prepared to be bitten.
As I croutched behind this creature, again and again reassuring myself that its slimmer head indicated it was not the poisonous species, a crowd began to grow behind me.  Some were family, others not.  All seemed to have something to say, especially along the lines of warnings.  Snakes do not immediately establish a balanced perception among the general human population.  From my position near the breech, I needed to be personally empowered, able to turn off the flow of energy behind me.  This was a big snake, the largest water snake I had ever seen.  And I owed a real, balanced first hand experience to my little best buddy, to say nothing of the rest of my present family and the growing number of other park attenders at my back.  I needed to be completely in touch with what was before me even as I had to turn off to what was happening behind me.
The snake began to tune in.  It sniffed the air with its tongue, certainly now learning of my presence.  I chose to lightly touch it.  It alerted, turned, made no move to strike, but rather headed for a rocky crevice.  That gave me the chance to grab hold of it lifting all of it but its biting head that it was instead using to bend into the dark protection under the rocks.  The crowd was going wild!  So was the snake.  Their energy chaotic, misplaced and emotional.  Its energy, most certainly also emotional, fearing for its life for real, was actualized through twisting and pulling with a small part of its total length, trying to escape my unrelenting grasp.  The snake never taught me to be afraid, just as I was not allowing people who I otherwise respect, no inroads into my focus.
It was time for the moment of truth.  I didn’t want the snake’s fear to cause it harm.  I needed to free it from hurting itself as emotion can.  I had to give it the right to defend itself with its mouth.  It definately was using its stink defense at this point.  But that was only unpleasant and not enough to deter me. Once the decision was made to remove its immediate escape option, I had the whole snake out.  I gave it no opportunity to bite by keeping its head close to the rocks that represented safe harbor and it didn’t purposefully try to bite.  Instead I gave it time to become more comfortable with the warmth of my touch. That’s why it was out on the rock to begin with.  By then the jury was out.  My young cousin and associated audience was going to get the enlightenment of a safe snake experience.
It took a while for the northern water snake, Nerodia sipedon, to calm enough for the lesson to reach safe to touch and to hold level for all who cared to. Time is the big, constant variable in life.  In some ways the old educational model doesn’t do well helping us to relate well to time.  Quartz precision can help put a man on the moon. It can also play a role creating a sub-atomic particle stereo-typing prone man wants to call the “god particle”.  Yet no one knows or has ever known if there is or isn’t a god or gods.  Nor have we proven that the universe has a over-riding set of rules that may or may not quantify everything in it. But we all can better know the world with which we are genetically, chemically connected and owe our offspring the opportunity to know it as well.  Doing whatever we can, each of us in our own way, we need to convince our leaders to act to replace the pedagogy behind Institutional Education with an Earth based model.  All of the lessons of life have been faced before and the example of success we seek is always all around us.
Today I thank you for allowing me to share my gift with you.  Happy everyday.  Life is a good thing.


Heroism in the real world -blog twent-four

20 May
As often happens in the realm of this blog, I will respond to a confluence of energies to speak toward.  For this one I cite the opinion of a recent visitor to a Bill Moyers Journal show, Sandra Stengraber, whose choice of action is the same as her theoretical position, as in “Do as I say and do”.  The other energy comes from my personal equivalent of Stengraber, my original hero, my mother.  Not a big stretch here, to appreciate one’s mother as a life sustaining hero, is it?  And, a little further up the road, dad fills the role as well.  Each of us owes our lives to simple acts of sustainability selflessly given us by our parents.
For sake of background, Stengraber was interviewed immediately before going to jail, having been arrested for refusing to leave a property where fracking was happening without a logical level of governmental regulation to protect her community’s air and/or water from chemical residue.  A mother leaving children behind to make a greater point for the safety and health of her offspring.  It’s hard to be a hero, isn’t it?
Or not.  My mom wasn’t much up for going to jail.  But times were different then.  The wolf wasn’t at the door so clearly as it is these days.  I am presently watching her mode of heroism as she fights through the challenge of recovering from a broken hip in this, her 95th year.  I also see it through the selfless act of motherhood she inspired in the daughter that is doing the same for her children.  The circumstances that are a product of our times have a lot to do with what heroism means to each of us.  That then translates into each of us doing the right thing as best we can, cause we all know how un-heroic those human beings closest to us more often become.  We all have imperfections that may make it a little difficult to remember who the real heroes are in our lives, and what makes them so.
Our culture is so enamored with measurement that we easily forget what seems so obviously true.  Is Ms. Stengraber more of a hero than my mother?   Is Joe Dimaggio?  Is Jesus?  Our culture helps us lose the greater truth.  We learn to expect more from ourselves than we should.  The act of doing the right thing before the eyes of others happens daily.  That is the action of the hero.  And in our acts are the lessons of life.  We learn first from example. The old education model says we learn from “teachers”.  It implies a finite virtue.  Therein lies a serious disruption to an otherwise simple, greater truth. Heroism happens whenever we do the right thing.  What Ms. Stengraber reminded me of was that I must not shy away from my role, as hard as it is (or isn’t) to persevere with the greater truth for education held within the bounds of this series of essays.
Our, your children, deserve a publicly provided education that acts as it speaks.  A worthy institution is manned by human beings who can equally learn as teach; teaching and learning are two sides of the same coin, neither greater than the other.  Yes we also learn from preachers and professors.  There is no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Education isn’t failing.  It needs to learn its way forward just as we are here.  Our institutions do not exist without the humans that create them.  Humans who are both heroic and flawed.  The Earth based education model (still a stand alone literal translation if one were to google Earth based education model, for more than a year now) recognizes and utilizes the common sense truth that man’s intelligence evolved from the intelligence of the life that preceded it.  Parental heroism doesn’t require dying for another’s sins.  It doesn’t require going to jail in opposition to apparent governmentally supported greed.  In my opinion it might require sharing this website address with other open eared educators, who may be better able to guide this perceptive context into the dialogue regarding pedagogy within the Institution.
Again: If someone tells you what to think, beware.  If someone tells you how to think, be wary.  If someone shows you how to think, be aware.  Like all of our heroes.