New Education?

via Daily Prompt: Educate

 

Educate.  It’s what I do.  It’s part of who I am.  It is what I believe in.  I am an educator.  to educate is my life and my passion.

It’s not an easy profession.  Some feel it is a calling.  I believe it is a passion.  To educate is to create a welcoming place for change.  We all know that life changes.  We can fear it or we can embrace it.  We only move forward.  (unless someone has a working TARDIS that I’m unaware of.)

Do we look forward with anxiety?  Of course, everyone does.  It’s the unknown.  It’s scary.  Ignoring it won’t make it go away.  Fear is understandable.  It keeps us alive.  But fearing the inevitable is futile.  You can slow change but not stop it.

It’s time.  It’s now.  I move forward to educate.

 

I AM THE TEACHER.

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Data is just Data……or is it?

Blind Faith in Big Data

Data is just numbers….. it’s how we ask the questions of it and how we design what we are looking for and at. So since humans are fallible and have biases, data is usually skewed to maintain the status quo long after the quo has lost its status. Change continues to occur.

Looking at data is a good thing.  However, we need to remember who collected the data, where in society was the data gathered, how did they create the algorithms to aggregate the data and what questions are being asked of the data.

Think about it, this process takes time but our society does not stand still.  Quantitative information has its place but it is NOT unbiased or neutral.  Howard Zinn stated that you cannot be neutral on a moving train.  Data cannot be neutral either.  The train is our world…  it keeps moving forward even as we look back.

Everything is “data driven” today.  Schooling, shopping, politics, living and even dying.  We look at trends, averages, means, medians.  What do they mean?  What can they tell us?  Well, they can tell us where we have been, and show where we MIGHT be going.  And most of us would like that because we do not like not knowing.  We are afraid of the unknown.  It’s not a bad thing but nothing remains static.  And usually change happens even if we dig in our heels and stomp our feet.

But all of this is what most people do.  NOT EVERYONE.  Relying on data, trends, averages, means and medians negates the outliers.  And the outliers are where most of our change occurs.  Inventions happen because someone didn’t stay in their lanes, color inside the lines or sat in their boxes.  Innovation occurs when someone looks at a process and decides there’s a different way of doing the same thing.

This is why we continue to look back at history.  We discover new ways of looking at our world.  We find out new information about the people who came before us.  And we figure out that NONE OF THEM WERE PERFECT.  All of them had flaws.  They made mistakes.  This does not diminish our history or our heritage.  It creates a deeper understanding of both.  Our culture changes because it has to.  Time only goes one way.  As Mary Chapin Carpenter sang, it can go fast, slow and stall sometimes but there is no reverse.

Moving forward is our only choice.  Or you can stop, but that would be to stop living.  And I do not believe any of us want to do that until we absolutely have to.  I’m not ready to stop yet.  I have more life to live and so much more to learn!!!

 

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How do I teach about diversity now?

I have been developing a project on cultural diversity for my students . My initial questions to them are: “What does it mean to be treated “respectfully and equally?” “Will achieving this respect and equality lead the U.S. to become a “more perfect Union?”
 
I have been watching, listening and shaking my head over Charlottesville and its aftermath. I grieve for Heather Heyer, who had to lose her life for hate.
 
In this frame, my questions become paramount.
 
My Dad was an immigrant. He came here in the 1930s. My Mother’s parents came in the 1900s. I am proud to be a U.S. citizen but today it is hard. It is hard because our current president does not understand the importance of the office he holds. We are not a “new” nation that is trying to find its way. We believe in freedom but not at the expense of others. I can’t say I don’t understand how people can be so narrow-minded in the 21st century because change is scary for everyone. It is how we deal with it that determines who we are.
 
Our country has been dealing with slavery and its aftermath since it began. Our original politicians pushed the issue 20 years into the future to get agreement on the Constitution. I understand that compromise. But we postponed the inevitable until 1860. Many have ancestors who fought and/or died in that brutal conflict which had to do with power and control, both over people and government. Again, one side won. Slavery was finally abolished and the federal government became more powerful than the state governments. Some people have never gotten over this.
 
Even those in Congress who purport to support a smaller federal governmental role, really do nothing to make it a reality because it would diminish their power and control.
 
Be honest about your bias.
 
This is what I tell my students. We all have bias because we have all been raised by human beings, in human society and we are not perfect. We want to feel good about ourselves and some will do that at the expense of the “other.” It’s not correct or appropriate but it’s true.
 
Be honest with yourself.
 
For those who espouse Nazi tenets, I am what Hitler wanted. Both my parents’ families were from Sweden. I can trace my heritage back in Sweden over 7 generations.
I do not denounce my heritage but I denounce your perversion of it. I am ashamed of you, your lack of ethics, your hatred and your attempt to desecrate my heritage with your vitriol. STOP IT NOW.
 
Be honest to yourself.
 
Do you truly believe we would be a “better” country without diversity? Because if you do believe that I bet that none of you would be here. WE ARE ALL IMMIGRANTS!
 
Be honest.
 
Our illustrious President believes that if we remove the statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, that the next logical step is to erase Washington, Jefferson, Monroe, and Madison from our history as well. It’s as if there is a limit to how much history the United States can have. REALLY?
 
I admire Washington, Jefferson, Monroe, Madison and Lee and Jackson, Lincoln, Grant and Sherman.I don’t admire war but sometimes there is no other way. I understand that we want short, simple facts that are binary in choice. Life doesn’t work that way. Life is complicated. Life is hard. Life is tough. Life isn’t always fair.
 
Really LOOK into our history. Study it. Read conflicting accounts.
 
You might wonder how I can admire all those persons above. Washington, Jefferson, Lee, Jackson, Madison & Monroe, all owned slaves. Yes, they did. And some of them did not question whether that was appropriate or not. Some of them did. Lincoln spoke on both sides of the issue. Lee believed Africans were inferior to Europeans. But they ALL struggled over slavery. Millions of people died during the Civil War, and the majority of them, on both sides, did not own slaves.
 
It’s hard when your culture changes around you. It upsets what you believe, how you act and who you are. But railing against it will not stop the change from coming. Educating yourself about what you do not know is the only way to proceed.
 
We are always afraid of what we do not know or understand.
 
Howard Zinn said, “you can’t be neutral on a moving train.” It’s time for ALL of us in this country to look back at our history. To look critically and own up to our shortcomings, our failures AND our successes.
 
It is long past time to face our demons. We have pushed off our discussion, argument, fight over discrimination in this country. It is a weight we can NO LONGER BEAR.
 
It is time for our country to move out of its adolescence and into maturity. We need to grow up and deal with the “icky, yucky” stuff we have avoided for over 200 years.
 
How do I talk to students about the uniqueness of our country BECAUSE of its diversity if our country cannot deal with it? I can because I believe that we want to be our “better angels.” Because I try to see my biases and try to overcome them. Because I want them to have a better place as they mature. Because I love them. I love life. I love people. And I believe we all want to be better people.
 
We have fought wars over this. Now it’s time to learn to be at peace with it. We cannot become a “more perfect Union” if we continue to try to be neutral on a moving train.
 
That’s all I got!
 
 
 
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Now is the time…..

Our country has an opportunity here. We have consistently avoided the issue of slavery since our inception. In 1787, our founders met in Philadelphia to create a new form of government. Some wanted to end slavery then, others did not. Those in the middle wanted a different government that would remain viable. Compromises were made. The nation was to look at it in 20 years. Again, we postponed the issue.

We cannot go back and change the past.

We fought a war not quite 100 years later over the same issues. Families were torn apart. The slaves were blamed for the entire situation. Not the system that perpetuated it. We again, decided to “kick the can” down the road. Let our children and their children deal with it. We have more important things to deal with. Economy, wealth, power.

We cannot go back and change the past.

We prospered and grew. We got involved in world economics and politics. We fought in two world wars. One war would lead to a second because of ego and hatred. The second war showed the entire planet what would happen if we allowed one belief to dominate. The killing in that war was abhorrent. Much of it was not about territory, but because some groups of people were considered inferior than others.

The United States helped to win that war. Many say we were the reason for victory. Our way of life, our freedoms and our strength of will were the determining factors. Maybe that was part of it. But we did not look inward to see our own cancers growing.

We cannot go back and change the past.

Our prosperity continued after that war. We grew exponentially. We became wealthy and most of our citizens prospered. However, that ‘original sin” was still there. And because of it, a entire group of people were handicapped in our economic race. Only one. There were others, Asian, Italian, Greek, Irish, who eventually rose to the status of those who wielded power and were accepted as equals by subsequent generations.

We cannot go back and change the past.

Those tainted with the original sin remained. They grew in numbers, some in wealth and some in power. But the stain remains. It is rooted in our national psyche now. We continue to avoid it, believing it will just disappear. But like any cancer, if you ignore it, it grows and mutates and continues to absorb and destroy everything in its path.

We cannot go back and change the past.

We have come as far as we can with the myth that we are all equal now. Time alone will not make us equal. It is time we confront that “original sin.” We have to acknowledge it, and its aftermath. We need to yell at each other, fight with each other (figuratively, not literally), and come to an agreement that we, the United States, screwed up. We did not deal with the problems as they arose. Now we have come to a point where we may be on the brink of another not-so civil war.

We cannot go back and change the past.

However, we can go forward to try and fix the our future. We must tell the truth. Our founders were fallible. Our leaders have not had the moral strength of character to stand up for our ideals. We have systematically singled out one group to remain part of our underclass. It is time for us to own up to our humanity. We will never become the GREAT country we aspire to be if we do not do this now. We will become another empire in history that did not learn from its mistakes. It is time to be the adults in the room.

We can move forward toward equality, true freedom and liberty.

Commit – More Radical Spaces/Safe Harbors in the Classroom

Commit

Just read this quote by Eleanor Roosevelt:

Where, after all, do human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world. Yet they are the world of the individual person; the neighborhood he lives in; the school or college he attends; the factory, farm or office where he works. Such are the places where every man, woman, and child seeks equal justice, equal opportunity, equal dignity without discrimination. Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere. Without concerted citizen action to uphold them close to home, we shall look in vain for progress in the larger world.

Her remarks to the United Nations on March 27, 1958.

 

Saw the Daily Post of commit.  I thought this quote would apply.  Human rights sound so daunting.  How can one individual contribute to all humanity’s rights?  Eleanor Roosevelt had it correctly.  One human being at a time.  One person, different from you are.  We have more in common than we think.  We can belittle them, disparage them, hate them but if you look at each other, don’t we have more in common? We live, we love, we lose, we win.  I sound like some sappy love song.  But don’t we all deserve the same rights, liberties and freedoms.  I have begun reading a book that’s been on my shelf for a long time.  I had read parts of it in the past.  It is about FDR’s “Second Bill of Rights.” He first proposed Four Freedom in 1941,  the freedom of speech and expression, the freedom to worship God in his own way, freedom from want and freedom from fear.  I believe we can all agree upon the first two, freedom of speech & expression and the freedom to worship God in our own ways.  I bet we believe in the second pair, freedom from want and freedom from fear, as they apply to people we know and love.  But do we as a nation, believe that every United States citizen should have the last two freedoms?

Would you say that everyone in this country is free from want?  Not desire but from want.  Does every person in this country have what they need to live a productive and secure life?  I believe that our “leaders,” of all sides of the political spectrum have forgotten about this speech of FDR’s, if they ever know about it at all.  It became part of the basis for the United Nations.  We have become deaf and blind to all who are not as fortunate as we are.  We have forgotten about what happened in the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s.  Across the world.  But especially here in the United States.  We have few concrete reminders of World War II.  Yes, we have monuments, big and small.  We have few reminders of the Great Depression besides what we read in books.  And since we live in a skeptical society, maybe there are some who do not believe it even was a terrible as it portrayed.  So we continue to say, that’s the past.  It won’t happen again.  It can’t.  How many of us can understand what it is like to not have food, water, shelter?  To wonder if you will survive another day?  To even contemplate dying instead of living because it is too hard?

How many of us live in fear?  Yes, we worry about the next terrorist attack, walking outside sometimes.  But how many of us live in abject fear everyday?  If this was truly true none of us would leave our houses.  What if we didn’t have our houses?  Our families, our wealth?

Think about it.  We have more in common, don’t we?