a Note on Instruction

Something needs to be said about the actual internal process of learning a thing.

Example 1 – I showed someone where the second variation of creation was in Genesis but he said, no, it was just simply restated in other words.

Three years later, he wrote me and said he had just uncovered an amazing thing: a second different creation story, proving that the book was cobbled together from two different versions.

He, of course, said it was his own discovery. And that was correct and as it should be because he DID discover it himself.

Example 2 – I told another friend, recently introduced to meditation, that after some time he could get to be in a continual state of meditation.

He laughed and said that was impossible. How could anyone possibly be in a meditative state ALL the time?

Three years later, he was telling me about his latest courses in yoga meditation and he had evolved to the point of continual meditation.

He chuckled and said, bet you didn’t think such a thing was even possible, huh?

In both these cases, I did not try to OWN the knowledge. I did not tell either of them that it was what I had told them years before.

None of us can learn stuff by being told.

The process of learning is entirely personal in nature.

If someone gives you a revelation and you get it right away, it is not because they told you – it is because you absorb the data, cross-check it with what you already do know and if it is verifiable, you agree with them.

Sometimes this happens instantly and, sometimes, you refuse to believe it until your added knowledge base allows the data to conform to what you know.

All learning is always done internally. It is personal.

And it is always by a process of self-discovery.

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Learning is a skill that has become lost.

Modern educational systems tout their high capability with getting students to “learn” but they seem to have forgotten what the concept actually means.

You learn that a coil on top of a stove is hot by experience. You do not learn this by being told it is hot.

The difference between the two systems is that one is learned and the other is indoctrinated.

Schools today are not giving the students opportunities to learn.

The vector of the subject matter and the focus of the tests given are not suited to learning, they are designed for indoctrination.

In a future where the ability to discern minutiae may become important, where shades of variation may be of utmost importance, we load the students with current concepts of good and bad, right and wrong. In moral situations, these things are good for the functioning of a society but it matters of math, science, and the humanities, it is ill-suited.

We display amazement of people capable of thinking out-of-the-box and yet our educational systems are, by design, trying to stuff everyone into the same eternal boxes.

If it sounds counter-productive, it is only because it IS.

This is most easily seen on social networks where people engage in “discussions” of various topics.

Those whose education was limited to highly directed public instruction usually are the first to start ad hominem attacks and their fallback position is practically always something on the order of “don’t you know anything?”

They, of course, have done very well in the institutions of public indoctrination and KNOW that there is only one right answer for anything and they OWN it because, of course, it is just what was taught in school.

And you cannot talk to these people because their mental universe – the box in which their mind sits – is firmly formed by the system in which they were educated.

If we would teach our students how to learn, how to think, I believe we would be in a much better place.

It almost lends credence to the conspiracists’ view that we are being indoctrinated thusly for a reason.

And, I firmly believe, it cannot end well.

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Classroom Discipline

Many times recently, especially explosive on Facebook, I have seen incidents where the child (usually in an elementary environment) goes ballistic and refuses to do anything the teacher says.

Then, when told to go to the office, the child simply falls to the floor and engages in a full-blown tantrum.

At their wit’s end, the teacher drags the child kicking and screaming all the way to the office so they can deal with getting the parent contacted.

The reactions to such a posting are quite humorous.

Usually about half the responses are from teachers who commiserate with the teacher over dealing with unsocialized children while the other half of the reactions are from highly indignant parents saying things like they would either punch the teacher or have them in court.

Bravo! I say, Bravo!

At least the parents seem to be wanting to take an interest in their children’s education. Bravo!

And I completely agree that such events should end up in court. Absolutely! Teachers should not have to bear the brunt of such infantile aggressiveness from either the children or their parents.

And I should advise the judge, sitting on such cases, to have a one word response to the cases: homeschool!

If the parents have not socialized their children enough to engage with others in a social setting, shame on the parents. And if they cannot understand the stupidity of expecting a teacher to raise their children for them, shame on the parents.

So, to better understand what a teacher goes through – in some minor form, of course, as they will only be dealing with their own children – the parents should be made to homeschool their children.

In the long term, it will probably not turn out too well for the children – due to lack of social interactions – or for the parents – what with the added stress and such – but at least the teachers in the public school can get back to their real job of teaching academic subjects rather than spending so much time dealing with behavioral issues that have not been addressed at home.

It should be noted that quite a few parents responded to such articles saying that the child was only five so of course they’re going to throw a tantrum.

THAT is the problem.

I have worked with many younger children over the years and have yet to understand how it should be assumed that is the normal behavior of a five years old. It is not. A two or three year old, perhaps, but generally speaking by age four, having been taught such things at home – and usually without a lot of heavy-handed discipline – most children simply do not behave like that at age five.

The parents who believe it so should really look in the mirror a bit longer and see where the issues really lie.

Still, there are going to be children with issues that are physiological, mental, or emotional that can impact behavior, especially when the child is tired.

And tiredness can come in many forms: sitting too long can lead to muscular tiredness, thinking too long can lead to mental tiredness, and so on. Classrooms need to be ever-changing to keep the children’s attention awake, alive, and engaged. And, believe me, sitting and staring at a book or a chalkboard is NOT going to do the trick.

Balanced varieties of activities will help keep the children engaged, active, refreshed, and energized.

Also, an occasional snack helps.

When a classroom is operating properly, with children that are ready (socialized) to be there, there should be no major behavioral issues.

That sort of thing should be left to the homeschooling arena.

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the Playbook

When an NFL quarterback goes to a new team, he will talk about learning the ‘new’ playbook. Most mention that the vast majority of the plays were the same as in the playbook for their previous team only the plays had different names. There is, after all, only a finite number of combinations.

Fairfax County public schools has developed a playbook for their curriculum. All their teachers are supposed to operate their daily classes from the one volume.

A television show about Tabitha’s salon takeover had an episode with a salon owner who had devised a playbook for her employees. Something they should all learn and operate from.

What is this obsession about playbooks?

There is a certain comfort in NOT having to think but just follow the instructions in the book, but everyone knows in the history of football the best players were the ones who could innovate. The play was a run to the right but the runner could adjust and go the other direction. Defenses learn the look of plays and sense what the offense is going to do and go for the ball. Greg Williams was a ‘great’ defensive coach but the best defensive player on the Redskins (Lavar Arrington) withered in that coaching scheme because he played by intuition, not some damned playbook.

Wouldn’t it be better to teach people to know enough about their subject so they could intuit what to do? Certainly there are people who cannot do that, but most people who have a genuine passion for the subject will get better at it because of their internal drive… not someone telling them to do so, micro-managing their every step within the framework.

When education and instruction actually occurs, natural abilities have a firm foundation on which to blossom.

Not something found within the confines of anything like a playbook.

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Lust at First Sight

Most males are like little boys, attracted by the prettiest, shiniest wrapped present under the tree.

Yet when the wrapping has been removed, the box torn open and the gift within is found lacking in substance, their interest dwindles and the fevered rush of expectation is gone.

A mundane-looking present may contain a gift that brings hours of enjoyment for years to come.

It is a hard lesson to learn: that appearances can be deceiving, the packaging does not always denote the worth inside, that books cannot be judged by their covers.

And yet our society is based on the “sound-byte” mentality. The cover of a book HAS to sell the book. The packaging HAS to sell the product. Why? Because that is the way we are.

Instant gratification has become more than just the motto of the present age, it is also the guiding principal.

So males and females alike try to enhance their external packaging to attract others and hopefully forge some lasting bond.

But after the wrappings have been removed, shouldn’t there be something of substance within?

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American Education Mediocrity

I have heard people say that what is wrong with America is people asking what is wrong with America. How positively mediocre!

I have heard people proclaim that if you are not a part of the solution then you are part of the problem. What blessed mediocrity!!

And I have heard that I should just remain calm as a revolution in education is coming.

I was told that back when I was in the public education system.

It was repeated when I complained about what my children had to put up with.

I hear it yet again concerning my grandchildren’s education.

Five years ago, my wife the educator, assured me it was coming.

Still waiting… still nothing.

The cluster superintendent she thought was “really going to make some changes” turns out to have done nothing more than politic a few good moves to ensure himself a higher position in the county.

(He was recently hired in New York state as the new Superintendent for a troubled district. A month in, he’s already resigned and moved to yet another Superintendent position elsewhere.)

That children, teachers, administrators suffered under his machinations did not seem to faze him or the others he aided in his power moves.

I told my wife that wasn’t “change” that was the same old thing we have seen for over a century.

When I worked for the US Postal Service, each new Postmaster General would review the system and figure out a fundamental change would have to be made. And so it was that with each new administration the operations were either centralized or de-centralized. The management-centric intellect could only conceive of those two variations as what “might” be wrong with the Postal Service.

The changes that I have seen in education over the years is the same sort of robbing Peter to pay Paul attitude. The pieces in the puzzle are never changed out for other pieces, they are merely re-arranged, and most of them are looking a bit worn and tattered from all the shuffling around.

And I am still waiting.

And I still see nothing on the horizon.

When I was in public school, the county in which I resided (Montgomery County, MD) was the number one county in the country academically speaking. At that time, Fairfax County, in northern Virginia, was always number two nationally.

A few years ago, Fairfax County, where my wife teaches, was number one and Montgomery County in Maryland had slipped to that number two slot.

Today, neither of them are in the top ten nationwide.

Though there is no hint of such changes locally, it does appear that there is something on the horizon. At least, on someone’s horizon. But it doesn’t appear to be anything that will better education in America.

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Stupidity Breeds Stupidity

Virginia’s Fairfax County Public Schools have long been at the top of the game in education. In years past they had stiff competition from Montgomery County Public Schools in Maryland, where I was raised. One year, one would be ranked highest, the next year the other would be. They were the two best in the country for many years.

Today, things are a little different. Neither rank in the top ten and both are scrambling to try and get better, maybe even get back where they once were, academically speaking.

I do not know what is happening in Montgomery County these days as I no longer live there; I live in Fairfax County now.

One small elementary school in the county had a run of bad luck… a fire, falling test scores, and the various accoutrements of an economically-challenged neighborhood.

Then they had a remarkable principal for several years who took initiatives to a new level and got the poor scores turned around. She was honored as “Principal of the Year” for the county and retired.

An interim principal continued the good works and the test scores maintained their excellent levels while the search went on for a new permanent administrator for the school.

At last, the district superintendent announced the name and, as it turned out, this person had grown up in the neighborhood and had attended that same school when he was beginning his road to becoming an educator. It seemed a match made in heaven.

In retrospect, someone should have noticed the slight odor emanating from the vicinity but the rosy glow of nostalgia and opportunity was a little too bright to notice the flinty gleam.

Ah, well, underhanded deals behind closed doors seem far too “dirty politics” to think of in regard to the machinations at an elementary school but that was what was going down in Fairfax.

A new Superintendent of Public Instruction had taken over the job a year before and she was intent on reorganizing the sagging structure. This restructuring was not widely known, at the time.

The new principal at this elementary school came in and scaled back all the programs that had been working to increase the academic levels and resorted to the old “tried-and-true” kill and drill that are the bread-and-butter of the incompetent.

At the end of the year, even before the echo of the last day’s bell had ceased its reverberation, the new principal announced that he was leaving. Seems the district super had been promoted to a higher position and the new position of “super-principal” had been created beneath the superintendent’s level. This guy was being appointed – promoted – to the new position.

If you kind of get the impression that this old switcheroo was in the works before the fellow had been assigned to this elementary school, you would have been a sure winner. Both the district superintendent and the principal had wasted two years’ educational excellence on the needy children of the school simply to insure they could move upward into their higher positions the following year.

Yes, I have heard it being excused as they were looking out for the better career move, or excused because they could now be in a position to help even more children…

Any excuse would surely work. They have been used for centuries to cover a great many crimes and misdemeanors, so what’s one more, huh?

The reality is the semi-worthless product they produced for this one school is probably about the best they can do. And now they are in positions of even greater authority to spread that incompetency far and wide. Who knows but what one or both will later become the country Superintendent of Public Instruction and we can see the same laissez faire enforced countywide.

Fairfax may then find itself struggling to break into the Top 100 School Systems in the nation.

The bottom line on this insanity is that the changes the guy left in place when he left were inherited by the newest incoming principal. Now she is stuck with the horrible test scores engendered by the changes made by the incompetent “Super Principal”. She is at a loss to understand how they could have gone so badly, so quickly, and more importantly: how can the situation be turned around before her school losses its accreditation?

It would have served everyone better if the district super could have just moved on and carried his golden-haired step-child into their rosy futures without infecting this school with their subversion.

Stupidity breeds stupidity. It does not take a genius to figure that out.

Now if they can just get the school back to what it was doing – which worked so well – before that pair of incompetents decided to “fix” what wasn’t broken to begin with.

May 2020 update: the principal turned “super principal” has indeed left the county and was hired to straighten out a struggling school system in New York. A month into his term as Superintendent there, he turned in his resignation and moved to another county not beset by so many problems. As expected, he is entirely incompetent. I pray the school system under his care can someday recover from his “guidance”.]

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the Future IS About Embracing Diversity

The worst part of the American brand of Mediocrity is the idea that what we have is the best, so we do not fiddle with it.

Not only that but we package and send it overseas to third world countries and try to ply them with our supposed greatness. Yes, most people would say what we have to offer the world is really great stuff: modern technology, time-saving gadgets, and truly amazing marketing.

What it does not have is much substance. Mostly what we can give them is consumer-driven economies, the race for the next “big thing” which is actually not much more than a small improvement over the last next big thing. Yes, it’s what we do. But we chase our tails like this because our entire social structure is built on this ever-renewing, ever-expendable, ever-disposable society.

Of course the real problem comes when such concepts of “disposability” expand beyond the confines of products and begin to be applied to other things. Other things like morals, social structures, attitudes, beliefs… oh, and people as well.

When we reach that point, you could say we have decided that the race’s self worth is practically zero. And seeing how we pretty much disregard the homeless, the needy, the suffering, I’d say we are just about there.

Wait, you say, there are many who care, many who give to help those less fortunate.

Yes, I will certainly agree with that but that just proves my point.

Who decided that these people were “less fortunate”? The marketing companies looking for opening new markets? The religious missionaries looking for new converts? It seems more like they are preying on the helpless rather than actually doing any real helping.

I have been in the third world and saw a lot of people who, though they wore nothing but rags, no shoes, and had precious little to eat, were actually quite happy. They interacted with their spouses and children and worked together to maintain the substance of life. They were not “blessed” by the latest gizmos or packaged food nor even the latest styles of designer jeans. They did not gossip about the latest news of Lindsey Lohan nor the latest antics of Paris Hilton or any of the Kardashians. They did not attend weekly services nor did they tithe.

These people were so far removed from what we assume life is all about that it is really no wonder we think of them as backward, needy, and starved for food, material possessions, and redemption.

Yes, just as if all that was really what life is all about. And yet these people have much happier and more fulfilled lives than most any American.

They do not bother with an education system that is designed for one purpose only: to create more cogs for the machinery of a disposable civilization. They teach their children the skills they need to survive.

They do not bother attending churches that are supposed to connect Man with God but only connect them to dogma. They are connected to the Creator in all their daily activities.

They do not bother chasing money in order to hoard it or save it for those “major purchases” down the road. Most of what they need they barter for.

And they have no need of psychiatrists to tell them what their mental problems are creating all the stress in their lives, because they don’t have any.

Passing along our culture to the entire world is counter-productive.

Just like killing off 5,000 varieties of apples because they are “not commercially profitable”, our society is deciding what is good for us in the world and quietly putting down all things that smack of “different-ness”.

And they will soon do it with people.

The pattern has already been established and when that day comes, I’m sure the majority of the people will say, “Well, it’s about time!”

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Oh, What have we here?

Looks like its been a year since I last wrote anything to this blog.

My, how time has flown…

Not that I haven’t been busy. I have!

Lots of writing and lots of…

Well, a lot of not doing anything here, of course.

Maybe I should really get focused.

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Through Covert Eyes

The Snowden thing shows how mediocre everything has become.

Obama claims to want transparency but his transparency is opaque. The President’s statements are proved to be lies almost before the echoes die from his utterance…

Now other nations are mimicking our NSA program and giving their populace the “benefits” of the same broken system, claiming “high tech” will soon secure our… well, security.

And the preference for math and science in the gifted programs – which we have exported as well – forget all the other gifts and talents which are so useful, some vital, to our species.

What happens when the science/techno world we are in falls apart? What of those highly prized talents then?

The mediocrity we are spreading is pervasive and creeps into all areas of our society.

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