Finding the Long straw

The wheat harvest is starting in Minnesota. The amber waves of grain are falling to power of the combine. As I look at a field of wheat I consider that it is not unlike our electoral process. It used to be when wheat was harvested the grain was thrown into the air and while the chaff was blown away the valuable life sustaining grain fell to the ground where it could be collected by anyone with eyes good enough to see it. Not unlike our system of caucuses and primaries are supposed to work. The process was open and understandable. The light fluffy chaff was blown away by the honest forces of nature while the heavy grain was visible and collectible by anyone who chose to take the time to see it and put in the labor to find it. Now however grain is separated from the chaff inside of a huge machine, often totally behind opaque walls, the process almost invisible to the naked eye. We are only allowed to truly see what and when something happens when the media decides to tell us what is happening and they too often tell us things they do not know but simply infer by looking at the gauges attached to the machine. Gauges that apparently and strangely can be interpreted in many different ways, Gauges that purportedly report what is happening inside of the machine out of our sight.

There is a lot of chaff lying about waiting to be blown away but like the kingdom of the blind we are unable to see all of it because our one eyed king is the media whose sight is blinded by prejudice, errant facts, and single issue biases that cause a fog affecting everyone’s vision and indeed often blinds us to the fact that indeed somewhere among all grain and the chaff there is someone, perhaps yet unnoticed, who can find the straws littering the ground after the reaping, that are strong enough to support and sustain us and yet not heavy enough to be that final straw that breaks the camel’s back. Time is short we must find that person soon. Our world is too dangerous for indecision, personal gain, and short term success to be our only guide. If I had one wish during this season of our political discontent it ouwld be that there was one source of information that I could depend on to deliver bias free facts, clean information without verbal baggage and mayhem aimed at convincing rather than informing.

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Paine Feels Our Pain

In 1776 Thomas Paine published Common Sense

It served as an inflammatory indictment of English control of the Americas and incited revolution. Like all common sense the value of his thoughts do not seem to have faded in the modern world. Many different groups can read many different things into these short selected paragraphs but at the end if it makes us think of where we are and where we are going then the value is not in the content but the understanding of ourselves.

Some thoughts from Common Sense by Thomas Paine

From the Preface

The cause of America is in a great measure the cause of all mankind. Many circumstances have, and will arise, which are not local, but universal and through which the principles of all lovers of mankind are affected, and in the event of which their affections are interested. The laying a country desolate with fire and sword, declaring war against the natural rights of all mankind and extirpating the defenders thereof from the face of the earth, is the concern of every man to whom nature hath given the power of feeling, of which class, regardless of party. censure is.

From the opening paragraph

Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages are no yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom…. Time makes more converts than reason.

From the middle:

As a long and violent abuse of power is generally the means of calling the right of it in question( and in matters too which might never have been thought of, had not the sufferers been aggravated into the inquiry)

Some writers have confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron the last a punisher. Society in every state is a blessing, but government even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state an intolerable one; for when we suffer or are exposed to the same miseries by a government, which we might expect in a country without government, our calamity is heightened by reflecting that we furnish the means by which we suffer.

To talk of friendship with those in whom our reason forbids us to have faith, and our affections wounded through a thousand pores instruct us to detest is madness and folly . Every day wears out the little remains of kindred between us and them; and can there be any reason to hope, that as the relationship expires, the affection will increase or that we shall agree better when we have ten times more and greater concerns to quarrel over than ever.

From the last paragraph

O! ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose not only the tyranny but the tyrant, stand forth! Every spot of the old world is overrun with oppression. Freedom hath been hunted around the globe. Asia and Africa have long expelled her. Europe regards her like a stranger and England hath given warning to depart

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Home School and Poverty

As I read a recent story about home schooling, I was reminded that the quality of home schooling may very well break along economic and religious lines. I read many stories about students of economically secure parents who are home schooled because of the parents desire to teach Christian or higher educational values but few stories about those parents wishing to teach racism, religious intolerance or very little of anything other than simply the need for another pair of hands at home. We read many glowing stories about home schooling successes and the freedom it gives students to do and learn other things but few stories about home schooling failures, because the failures come back into the public schools a year or two later and a year or two behind their classmates and disappear into the drop out pool of the general school population.
I know that when I taught in a high poverty middle school many of my students missed class not because they were skipping or ill but because they were needed to babysit their siblings or they were caring for parents/ grandparents who were ill because the economics of the cost of child care, nursing home care and mom or dad having to work every day to simply survive is a reality. And the lure of free needed care provided by a son or daughter just too strong. Home schooling for some families in this situation is the perfect solution for the family but not a good situation for the child. I am not much of a fan of bigger government but dropping even cursory supervision of home schooling while it may indeed aid some of our economically well off children, will ill serve some of our most needy children.
As always in education the most important factor for success is not race, ethnicity, the common core, curriculum or the teachers it is poverty, grinding debilitating poverty. Maslo’s hierarchy is alive and well and living in the United States educational system.

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Interesting Times

picklesWould you consider the phrase, ” May you live in interesting times.” a curse or a blessing? I spent a couple of hours this morning thinking and researching about this after reading the Pickles cartoon shown below on-line. I was doing that not because I am a philosopher but because the burglar alarm went off at 3:00 AM indicating a security breach at the obvious darkest point of entrance to our house (back ground level patio door).

The internet seems almost evenly split on the question of whether the “Interesting times” phrase is a curse or a blessing. Is it . ” better to live as a dog in tranquility than a soldier at war?” During the research I found an Israeli blog about living in interesting times ( which of course in Israel is almost daily) the blogger noted that you should only read the newspaper until you have enough information, never to the point where you become pre-occupied with that information. While thinking about that little tidbit, because it is a problem I do have, I became aware that it would probably take me a full week of study and verify if just the front page stories in the average newspaper were biased or accurate. Whether I wanted to be or should be interested or disinterested?

I keep thinking back to Alvin Toffler’s 1970 book “Future Shock,” where he predicts that we will be overwhelmed not by what we don’t have but by what we do have. In short , “Too much change in too short of a time.” and ” Too many choices.”

What do you think? is it a curse or a blessing to live in ” interesting times?” Will it ever be 1954 again? Will the opinions of those who lived through the 50’s be different from that of those who did not?

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The Problem with Lies

As I listen to the drumbeat of half-lies told constantly and without apparent guilt from our politicians on both sides of the aisle I must wonder are they the idiots that they believe their own lies or am I?

some thoughts quotes on lying.

“I’m not upset that you lied to me, I’m upset that from now on I can’t believe you.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

“Above all, don’t lie to yourself. The man who lies to himself and listens to his own lie comes to a point that he cannot distinguish the truth within him, or around him, and so loses all respect for himself and for others. And having no respect he ceases to love.”
― Fyodor Dostoyevsky

A truth that’s told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.”
― William Blake

“It is an occupational hazard that anyone who has spent her life learning how to lie eventually becomes bad at telling the truth.”
― Ally Carter

“If you tell a big enough lie and tell it frequently enough, it will be believed.”
― Adolf Hitler

“Anyone who believes what a cat tells him deserves all he gets.”
― Neil Gaiman

Oh, what a tangled web we weave…when first we practice to deceive.”
― Walter Scott

“I have a higher and grander standard of principle than George Washington. He could not lie; I can, but I won’t.”
― Mark Twain

“The cruelest lies are often told in silence.”
― Robert Louis Stevenson

“The only thing more frustrating than slanderers is those foolish enough to listen to them.”
― Criss Jami

“One lie has the power to tarnish a thousand truths.”
― Al David

The most powerful of lies is the truth told in such a way that no one believes it.
―Rich Safris

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School Start Dates

At the present time here in Iowa we are experiencing a debate over when the school year should start. Unfortunately it has become politicized to the point that no one seems to be able to think straight.

It would seem that the major concern of school systems over the school start date is that student’s scores on testing will decline if tests are taken after winter break. Being of the old school of teaching three things immediately come to mind. First, if the students forget the material in two weeks they didn’t learn it in the first place. Second, If they did learn it and they can’t pass the test over the material after two weeks then the test was either poorly written or included such minutia that it didn’t really matter if they learned it anyway. Arcing over both of these points is the absolute truth that for many children not all learning takes place in school.

It is a terrible indictment of our schools that the driving force behind so many of our educational decisions are test driven rather than driven by real learning. It is not a coincidence that as the government gets more involved with education that the test scores have declined further. When did the decline in test scores begin to occur? What was the causative factor?

Get the government out of the classroom and let the teachers teach and test scores will improve, until that happens, no matter when school starts, test scores will continue to decline.

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Faith, Hope, Reality and Despair at Walgreens

I received an e-mail yesterday saying my prescription was ready at Walgreens. I faithfully got in my car drove the 5 miles and after seeing 5 cars in the drive through, and knowing that at least one, had someone my age, who would be confused or argue with the window flunky that the prescription was too expensive I decided to go inside hoping to save a few minutes. Once inside passing by several inmates who had mistaken Walgreens for Wal-Mart I made it to the pharmacy counter hoping for a quick turn around. Upon reaching the counter I was filled with despair when I was told that the prescription they had e-mailed was ready, was not ready and it would be a few minutes. So I sat down wondering exactly what a few minutes meant but sure that it would be defined by my stay. I sat down in the “comfortable” plastic chair they so kindly provided in the waiting area, I sat in the faith that they would indeed fill the prescription in a few minutes. 27 minutes later, my hope almost gone after listening to 12 adults who had just been breathing on me pick up prescriptions for anti-biotics and while sitting next to 4 obviously sick kids I still had hope that I would get the prescription rather than something that required a new prescription. Now after you have sat for 27 minutes the issue becomes that you have already spent 30 minutes plus drive time. Should you leave in despair of ever being served or wait another 5 minutes and if you wait another 5 minutes would not logic indicate that you should stay another 5 minutes after that until you get what you came for. Reality sets in so you decide to set up an artificial zero tolerance guideline. You decide that the guy in the leather jacket is your limit, currently 5th in line behind two people who should have known better than to buy a North Slope jacket in that size. You think I’ll let fate decide, if he gets to the cash register before they call my name your leaving and so he made it to the cash register and I left facing the reality that tomorrow was another day and that they probably called my name just as I opened my car door outside. I wonder is this an allegory or parable for my life or simply how infectious diseases actually spread.

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