“One problem I see with those of us who want to be humane is that while we invariably support calls for justice at a macro level, some of us are not above taking advantage in our personal, day-to-day dealings. I once rented a room in a house full of Marxists, and one of them was one of the least just individuals I’ve ever met. Yet he regularly marched in favor of justice for the oppressed peoples of this world. If we want peace, it’s essential that we be peaceful. And if we want justice, we have to be just—down to the smallest transactions. I think a lot of people can agree with this easily. But there are always “grey areas.” That’s where we have to be especially disciplined and thoughtful.” -Mark Bittner, We Must Be Just, April 2013

Friday, December 12, 2008

Lasting Legacy

One hundred percent of all people who now live will eventually pass out of this life. That percentage cannot be changed or altered in any known way. As we go through life, we work hard, both at work and at home. During our lifetime we will have an opportunity to prepare the legacy that we will leave behind when our life is over. What lasting effect do you want to have on those around you? How do you want to be remembered? No matter what we choose to do with our lives we will leave a legacy: a legacy of something or nothing, a legacy of good or bad, a legacy of knowledge or ignorance, a legacy of wisdom or foolishness.

What we do, or don't do, may have an effect on our posterity in some way. How we choose to raise our children will effect how our children raise theirs, and so forth.

We all want what is best for our children, but often times what we believe to be best for them is not what they are here to become. As parents and mentors of children we seem to have an idea of what we want our children to be. Sometimes we guide them down their own path and sometimes we force them down a path we want them to take because we believe it to be best. Have we really pondered the reason, result or effect it will have on them? Every person our children come in contact with will leave a mark of some sort. What marks do you want your children to be left with?

As parents and mentors of our children we want to raise them to be strong and intelligent. We want them to be better than us; to not make the same mistakes we made. We want them to build upon the knowledge we give them so as to have more time to increase their own knowledge far beyond what we have. We want to teach them the skills we posses so they can become even more masterful in those skills than we are.

In order to build a greater posterity we need to closely examine how it is we are teaching our children and what it is we are teaching them. Keeping our children in our homes builds strong family bonds. Sending them away, especially at an early age, teaches them to rely on themselves because mom and dad aren't there. Sending our children out of our homes for long periods of time weakens family bonds and teaches children that strangers (strangers are those whose families we do not know, including the friends our children make away from a family setting) are the only ones to count on because they are the ones with whom our children spend most of their time. This is why children and teens are more apt to seek counseling with their peers than their parents. Strong bonds are not made and kept within the first three years before preschool. Strong bonds are not made and kept within the first five years before kindergarten. Strong bonds are not made within the first 14 years before high school. Strong bonds must be continually and consistently maintained in order to keep them strong. If you want your children to come to you then you need to be the one with the strongest bond to your children. If you want to be the most influential in the lives of your children then you need to be the one with whom they share the stronger bond.

We must also take great care in what we teach our children, because that will be part of the legacy we leave with them. Teach them to desire the good and despise the bad. Teach them to desire the simple things in life and they will find joy in those things. Teach them to honor the good traditions of their fathers. Lead them by example. We should rid ourselves, as parents and mentors, of all that we feel is not fit for our children to watch, read, say, do, hear, desire. Many parents question how their children learn bad words and behaviors before leaving the home for schooling. These parents ought to examine what it is they bring into the home themselves. What media do we allow to be influential to those living in the home? Our children are products of what we allow to be put into them.

There are many new and wonderful learning options available to our children in this technological age, but beware. All too often we see that science and technology replace morals and values in society. It is easy to be led away from the good and simple things in the name of progress. We must learn for ourselves if something is good for us by learning all we can about the pros and cons of a new idea or practice. We want our posterity to be left with only the best to influence them. We want our children to be able to become what it is they feel drawn to become, but what they are influenced by can have a deep effect on what they desire to learn about and do with their lives.

The intellectual, spiritual and moral food we give our children will be what helps them to grow. Any lack of these vital nutrients, or replacements of such with synthesized products, will leave our children deficient. Our children, and so our posterity, cannot survive on deficiency. Feeding our childrens' minds with intelligence and teaching them how to think, not what to think, will prepare them for leading. They will be more capable to strongly lead their family, friends, community and country. Teaching a child how to think, instead of what to think, makes all the difference in the world.

When a child begins to hunger for knowledge show them where to find the proper nourishment. Feed their desire to learn with the knowledge that best corresponds to their interests. If you continue this type of nourishment throughout their childhood they will continue it into their adulthood on their own. You will have given them such a great power, that of true knowledge and education. A learned man is neither blind nor foolish, a learned man is one who can think on his own. A wise man is one who will question everything and, through the process of true education, will learn all he can. A wise man will teach his children all he has learned, thus ensuring the intellectual survival of his own posterity. Ensuring the intellectual survival of our posterity will keep them a free people and keep them from being slaves through ignorance.

Consider well the legacy you are leaving your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc. Choose now what that legacy will be and act now. You cannot change yesterday, but live today by learning from yesterday in order to make tomorrow better. Begin today by creating that legacy you would like your posterity to learn from. Create that future in your lives today.

I love this passage from C. S. Lewis' The Abolition of Man:

In reality, of course, if any one age really attains, by eugenics and scientific education, the power to make its descendants what it pleases, all men who live after it are the patients of that power. They are weaker, not stronger: for though we may have put wonderful machines in their hands we have pre-ordained how they are to use them. And if, as is almost certain, the age which had thus attained maximum power over posterity were also the age most emancipated from tradition, it would be engaged in reducing the power of its successors. And we must also remember that, quite apart form this, the later a generation comes - the nearer it lives to that date at which the species becomes extinct - the less power it will have in the forward direction, because its subjects will be so few. There is therefore no question of a power as long as the race survives. The last men, far from being the heirs of power, will be of all men most subject to the dead hand of the great planners and conditioners and will themselves exercise least power upon the future.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Compelling Power

These definitions are found in the American Dictionary of the English Language, Noah Webster, 1828:

Force, To compel; to constrain to do or to forbear, by the exertion of a power not resistible.
2. To overpower by strength.
3. To impel; to press; to drive; to draw or push by main strength; a sense of very extensive use.
4. To enforce; to urge; to press.

Compel, To drive or urge with force, or irresistibly; to constrain; to oblige; to necessitate, either by physical or moral force.
2. To force; to take by force, or violence; to seize.
3. To drive together; to gather; to unite in a crowd or company.
4. To seize; to overpower; to hold.
5. To call forth.

Compulsion, The act of driving or urging by force, physical or moral; force applied; constraint of the will; the application of a force that is irresistible.
2. The state of being complelled or urged by violence.

Upon first examination of these definitions we may feel that to be forced or compelled is something to be avoided. However, I ask you to consider what, or who, it is that is compelling our education. Is it someone else or their ideas that are being forced upon us, or is it our own desire to learn about a subject of our choosing that compels us? Are we driven by our own hunger for knowledge or by a system that was designed to make education uniform? The positive or negative state of these words is of our own making. Being compelled by another, to do something we hold no desire to do, makes these words appear to be negative in meaning. If we are driven by our own interests in pursuit of knowledge, under our own power to freely choose where our road will lead, these words take on a much more positive state.

When we are negatively compelled, we find that we feel negative emotions toward whatever it is that is compelling us. When we are positively compelled just the opposite is true. How, then, are we to have a positive educational experience? The answer is simple: by allowing our own educational desires to compel us to action, not the desires of others.

John Taylor Gatto worked as a school teacher for nearly 30 years in New York. After he won New York State Teacher of the Year he received almost 1,800 letters in response to some essays he wrote about what he had witnessed as a schoolteacher. Here are a couple of excerpts:

Frankfurt, Illinois "I had a rich personal inquiry going on in many things. School was for me a tedious interruption of my otherwise interesting life."

Madison, Wisconsin "I'm desperate what to do. Three bright and lively children but everyday I see a closing down of enthusiasm as they grind their way through a predetermined school program."

Force, compel, and compulsion do not have to be words whose actions we try to avoid. If we allow our own educational desires to drive us, these words can be the greatest force in who we become.

Soaring Potential

To fly with an eagle is to see sights unseen, as starlings fill the skies.

Even that little brown bird on the ground knows where it’s potential lies.

The ostrich and emu share a common trait, running is their forté.

Other birds, when allowed to be, seem to enjoy their play

A bobbing cockatoo dancing on it’s perch is truly a silly sight.

Now imagine that bird, free with its flock, as it passes in graceful flight.

Have you ever seen a pandemonium of parrots descend upon a tree back home?

For, you see, in reality, parrots weren’t bred to be alone.

The nightingale brings beauty to our ears, the peacock beauty to our eyes.

While all through the trees, where the mourning doves roost, hang the mourning dove’s mournful cries.

The flamingo stands on one leg for hours, while the penguin soars through the deep.

And though variety abounds throughout, they’re all birds from their very first peep.

There are birds that mimic, birds that screech and birds that can sing a soothing tune.

There are birds that welcome the morning as it breaks and birds who serenade the moon.

There is beauty to be found throughout the world of birds. Still, and none the less,

Only a bird, who is allowed to soar free, knows it’s own potential best.

“Do not do what someone else could do as well as you. Do not say, do not write what someone else could say, could write as well as you. Care for nothing in yourself but what you feel exists nowhere else. And, out of yourself create, impatiently or patiently, the most irreplaceable of beings.”

André Gide

"All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education"
- Sir Walter Scott