Monday, November 18, 2013

Forgiveness Is The Sweetest Revenge.

You ought to be sorry when bad things happen, right?

In 8 years of marriage my husband has never uttered the words I’m sorry. You might find this odd however, after speaking with other women I realize that my husband is not the only man who does this.

My wife heard me say I love you a thousand times, but she never once heard me say sorry.

Bruce Willis

The challenge in our relationship comes in our philosophical and cultural difference about the two words “I’m sorry”.

Sorry Is Not Enough-2

Me: I believe that you should accept responsibility for your actions and try to make it right by taking a first step and apologizing.

Him: Sorry doesn’t fix anything. The action has already been committed so sorry will not help.

As you can imagine, this becomes problematic when raising our children. At 35 years of age I reflect daily on my Life and there are SO many things I wish I could apologize for; had I known better.

So of course, as a mother I believe it is my duty to teach my children how to apologize But, our ongoing battle and discussions have made me dig a little deeper into just what apologizing means to him and if maybe, MAYBE, he might have a point. But I beg to differ.

In fact, as the world becomes a global village, apologies are growing increasingly important on both national and international levels. Communications, the media, and travel have drawn the world ever closer together. Ultimately we all share the same air, oceans, and world economy. We are all upwind, downstream, over the mountains, or through the woods from one another.

We can’t help but be concerned with Russia’s failing economy, Eastern Block toxic waste, Middle Eastern conflicts, and the rain forest, whether it be for reasons of peace, fuel, or just plain oxygen.

In this international community, apologies will be vital to peaceful resolution of conflicts. Within the last several years alone Nelson Mandela apologized for atrocities committed by the African National Congress in fighting against apartheid; Exxon for the Valdez spill; Pope John Paul II “for abuses committed by Christian colonizers against Indian peoples”; former Japanese Prime Minister Morihiro Hosokawa for Japanese aggression during World War II; and Russian President Boris Yeltsin apologized for the massacre of 15,000 Polish army officers by Soviet forces during World War II. And that’s only the start of it.

Probably no language function has been in the news more lately than the function of apologizing. Week after week, the famous as well as the infamous stand before the public and apologize or, in any case, receive demands for apologies. Hardly a week goes by without some apology or other making the news – often the front pages.

It seems like it should be such a simple thing, teaching your child or student to say “I’m sorry” when an apology is called for. But far beyond simply repeating a conditioned response, truly understanding the nature of an apology and being able to deliver one sincerely requires a level of social competence that many adults find difficult.

As parents we want to teach our children empathy for others. It’s part of teaching them that they have an impact on their world and the people around them. Teaching our kids to say “sorry” encompasses all sorts of good things, like making friends and sharing, so it makes sense that “sorry” is one of our first verbal lessons. In some ways we intend this word as a hinge, linking the behavior of one child to the feelings of another, and it makes sense to put it this way because we want those connections to be made in our children’s minds.

However, “sorry,” as a word, often turns up empty, while hurt feelings (or body parts) persist. This is why it becomes important to emphasize to children that the word isn’t just a word, it is also an action. We, as parents, need to watch for the “sorry” that becomes nothing more than a behavioral escape hatch, leaving the conflict largely unresolved.

Some argue that a full apology requires many more elements than just those two words, such as acceptance of responsibility, an expression of genuine remorse, an offer to make amends, and an excuse-free explanation.

After a fight and before forgiveness often comes an apology. But saying “I’m sorry” comes more easily for some people than it does for others. There is even a new study that suggests that specific personality traits offer clues about whether a person is likely to offer a mea culpa.

To me, the biggest stumbling block to apologizing is our belief that apologizing is a sign of weakness and an admission of guilt. We have the misguided notion we are better off ignoring or denying our offenses and hope that no one notices.

On the other hand, sometimes apologies come too easily and too frequently, as when we apologize for things that are clearly not our fault, not in our control, or otherwise unworthy of apology. Examples include apologizing for being hurt by someone else’s offense, apologizing for being over-sensitive, apologizing when someone else bumps into you, and apologizing for apologizing.

It seems “I’m sorry” is infamous for its inadequacy. It often seems flippant, insincere, or incomplete, as in “I’m sorry you feel that way” or “I’m sorry, but…”. Wayward public figures are notorious for inadequate apologies, especially those that involve a failure to own up to wrongdoing.

Academic research has found that accusations of wrongdoing are often made in hindsight based on what psychologists call the “curse of knowledge.” The curse of knowledge exists when the outcomes of a decision are used to evaluate the quality of a decision in hindsight. In other words, once the outcome is known for a decision made under conditions of uncertainty, everyone knows whether the decision was good or bad. The old saying, “hindsight is 20/20” relates to this phenomenon.

So will two words fix it?

Sadly, it’s a common mistake.

We as parents and caregivers often fall into the trap of looking for a formula that saves us from having to think all the time. We’re busy. We’re stressed. Analyzing every single conflict situation that comes up with our children is sometimes difficult, sometimes downright impossible, given the other demands on our time and the frequency of the conflicts. We’re hanging out for a short cut, a magic solution.

Siblings or peers fighting? Someone must be at fault. Therefore someone needs to apologize. If we can work out who’s to blame and make that sorry happen, it’s all sorted.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

Sorry, as a word, means very little to kids. It’s a thing that’s required, like “please” and “thank you,” but kids say it largely to appease adults, and the word has very little in the way of meaning or impact. It’s a word without identity; you can’t point to “sorry,” and it’s not a cat or a sandwich or a ball at the beach. Even as a feeling it is hard to identify.

It’s not happy or sad or hungry or tired, it’s just a thing you say when you’ve done something wrong. If you accidentally spill some cereal on the table or leave the car door open, you have to say you’re sorry. If you eat your sister’s cookie, you’re sorry. And, if you pick up a Lincoln Log and hit your brother over the head with it because at that moment you absolutely, positively hate him, still, you’re sorry. So what does it really mean? What is its purpose?

I’ve been told sorry doesn’t fix the hurt. It doesn’t take away the pain; doesn’t mend the broken pieces like super glue is supposed to it just smooths it over and brushes away the shards and sticks an ugly band-aid on top and expects everything to be ok.

I’m sorry doesn’t mean anything anymore to anyone it just something you say to make the other feel like you really are but you’re not and if you are it doesn’t matter because sometimes the wound just goes too deep stitches couldn’t even repair the damage.

Even if there was a doctor who worked on hearts like a mechanic works on an engine there’s no way to fix a broken metaphorical heart it has no real shape no real place of being.

That’s because words are not magical. Words are not erasers; they cannot make bad actions go away. Only good actions can start to make bad actions feel okay.

We all know adults who constantly apologize for their bad behavior, then tomorrow or next week do exactly the same thing again. Where do you think that starts?

So, I’ve come to learn that the real point of an apology is forgiveness. And, forgiveness should never be based on the apology. In fact, if you think about it there really are few instances when the one who has been hurt will be fully satisfied by the apologetic response. The hurt remains and the insult apparent. To our little girl, she fully expects retribution for anything her brother has done to her. Raising little boys who fight it out on the “battlefield”, girls are a bit more of a challenge as they seek a “courtroom” so to speak.

They are looking for judgment and enforcement of the verdict. However, God has told us to forgive. In fact, God goes so far as to say that if we choose to be unforgiving then we cannot experience God’s forgiveness. What we seek from God is fully contingent on how we choose to treat others.

When we seek from others what is outside the boundaries of our personal expectation than we close the door to that opportunity of blessing in our life. Essentially, “If it’s not good enough for them, then it is not for you!”

With that in mind, forgiveness is absolutely imperative for those who seek a relationship with God.

The most common cause of failure in an apology–or an apology altogether avoided–is the offender’s pride. It’s a fear of shame. To apologize, you have to acknowledge that you made a mistake. You have to admit that you failed to live up to values like sensitivity, thoughtfulness, faithfulness, fairness, and honesty. This is an admission that our own self-concept, our story about ourself, is flawed. To honestly admit what you did and show regret may stir a profound experience of shame, a public exposure of weakness. Such an admission is especially difficult to bear when there was some degree of intention behind the wrongdoing.

It can be difficult to admit being wrong (we are well-equipped with psychological defenses and self-serving biases to protect us from facing the possibility that we messed up), and it can be scary to make oneself vulnerable to the possibility of rejection, since an apology, no matter how heartfelt, does not always elicit forgiveness.

That is why a genuine apology offered and accepted is one of the most profound interactions of civilized people. It has the power to restore damaged relationships, be they on a small-scale, between two people, such as intimates, or on a grand scale, between groups of people, even nations.

If done correctly an apology can heal humiliation and generate forgiveness.

Yet, even though it’s such a powerful social skill, we give precious little thought to teaching our children how to apologize. Most of us never learned very well ourselves.

We tend to view apologies as a sign of weak character. But in fact, they require great strength. And we better learn how to get them right, because it’s increasingly hard to live in the global village without them.

Live and Learn. We All Do.

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Filed under: motherhood, Spirituality Tagged: African National Congress,, Boris Yeltsin, Bruce Willis, Elton John, History, Marcus Prouse, Morihiro Hosokawa, Nelson Mandela, Sorry seems to be the hardest word, Twentieth Century, World War II

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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

The Greatest Of All Illusions Is The Illusion Of Control.

As a mother, I’ve always intended to put my children’s well-being in God’s hands. But the truth is, from pregnancy on I’ve felt responsible for feeding them, protecting them, and loving them. I’ve been under the illusion of control when it comes to my family.

As a parent, I often convince myself that somehow I can control outcomes for my children. Even as someone committed to treating children with respect and honoring their inner voice and authority, sometimes I still hold onto this illusion of control.


But, the illusion of control robs our children of their own experiences in life. It robs them of the fundamental right to feel what they feel without judgment from us. It can force them to conform to our expectations to get what they need because they fear that we will judge their feelings.

Rather than accept where they’re at, we try to change them and the outcomes.

This illusion has its roots in childhood.

As children, most of us had the experience of the adults around us controlling (or at least trying to control) many aspects of our lives. We were told that when we grew up, we could make the rules. But as long as we were children we had to live by others’ rules.

We grew up believing that there was a time when we would be in charge and in control. By example, we learned to try and control the people around us. Sometimes this need to control was internalized and we became perfectionist, trying to control ourselves.

Control is an illusion. There, I said it. Accept it and move on. You are not in total control of anything at all. You can have some control of some things, but total control is not achievable. Take these examples – you are not in total control of your own mind. If you were, then you would not think of a pink elephant when I tell you not to think of a pink elephant, but I will bet you money that you thought of one.

You are not in total control of the way you feel. If you were, then you could just stop being anxious and stop worrying about everything right now and never be anxious again. And, you are not in total control of your behaviors. If you were, then you could stop blinking your eyes while being awake for the next 5 hours.

So, we are not in total control of our own feelings, thoughts, and behaviors – therefore there is no way we will be in control of anyone else’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors either.

Control is one of humankind’s greatest illusions. Let’s face it—even with all the information available and expansive educational preparation—unexpected events often interfere with our plans and our best efforts to control an outcome or an event (and even ourselves!).

You physically are a group of over sixty-trillion living cells that do what they do by themselves. Every second, there are trillions of things happening inside our bodies that keep us from dropping dead, and we have no control over it.

Blood is being pumped, cells are being created, hormones distributed; a trillion things out of our control have to happen just for us to digest food, and we are not even aware that it is happening right now.

People are aware of the fact that they are not in control of the inner workings of their bodies, but most people are not aware of the fact that they do not control what is going on outside of them either.

Most people believe they are in control, and the exact opposite is the truth.

The dance of life: God/life leads and we follow in the dance of life. In other words, the physical environment does something, and your inner environment (mind) reacts to it.

We are under the absolute control of our environments.

You get hungry you eat, need money you work, the phone rings you answer it, get cold you put on a coat, get hot you take it off, and if you have an itch, you scratch it.

Then there is larger environmental control; where and when you are born, if you are rich or poor, educated, talented, healthy, looks, sex and race, etc.

The easiest way to check if we are in control or not is to just look for someone that does not die like everyone else. No one beats death, not even the faith healers, and no one wants to die. The fact that everyone dies and in less than a hundred and fifty years tells you with no doubt that we are not in control.

Control is a deep, deep need.

Perhaps the deepest need people have is for a sense of control. When we feel out of control, we experience a powerful and uncomfortable tension between the need for control and the evidence of inadequate control.

Note that the need is for ‘a sense of control’, not just for ‘control’. This need around how we feel about control is much deeper and has a wider scope than just seeking power and the control it brings.

If you’ve ever seen somebody put on a lucky jersey so that their favorite team will win, you have watched the illusion of control in action. This cognitive bias is the tendency for human beings to overestimate the amount of influence they have over outcomes that they actually cannot affect.

Psychologist Ellen Langer first discovered and named this bias in the 1970s. In one of her experiments, subjects were given lottery tickets; either at random or allowed to choose their own. The subjects then had the chance to trade in their tickets for other tickets that had a higher chance of paying out. The subjects who had chosen their own ticket were less likely to part with it than those who had a random ticket. Though the lottery was random, the subjects acted as if they felt their choice of ticket had some bearing on the outcome—demonstrating the illusion of control.

Because control is such a core part of our fallen human nature, so is the false belief that there is an A action that will lead to the B result we want, if we can just figure out the right formula.

Missing from our belief system is the conviction that God will give us the grace to deal with the pain of living in a fallen world. Thinking we are on our own, we become obsessed with getting rid of the reality of a fallen world.

We are likely to spend much of our day unknowingly focused on trying to fix things in the world that are broken or that have the potential to cause pain. But God has never commanded us to repair the damage of the Fall. He simply asks us to trust him one day at a time until one day He makes things right.

We think control guarantees us the life we want. We try to control because we’re trying to guarantee the outcomes we think we need. Obviously, the benefits to having control are very attractive. We think if we can achieve our Outcome Focused Goals, we could create heaven on earth and we would be perfectly happy.

Unfortunately, trying to create heaven on earth is more likely to create hell on earth for others and ourselves. Ironically, our efforts to try to control things can often cause us to be more out of control.

The illusion of control can lead us to make bad decisions or take irrational risks. It can cause us to engage in magical thinking—like the wearer of the lucky jersey above—or even believe in the paranormal.

When things don’t go as planned, you have a choice – look outside or look inside. Looking outside is about control and looking inside is about lack of control.

When you look outside, what you’re saying is the universe didn’t behave per the plan, and you’re going to teach it a lesson. You’re going to tighten the screws until it does what you want; you’re going to add personal energy (probably all your energy) to lock things down; you’re going to control what must be controlled so the universe follows your plan.

The look outside approach can work, for a while. You can put your fingers and toes in all the holes; you can make sure everyone does their job; and you can be the master scheduler for the universe, but only for a while because the universe has limitless energy and you don’t.

And while your control-the-world strategy looks like it’s working, it’s not – not even in the short term. The universe is playing you – it’s sucking your energy while you tread water. The universe isn’t stupid – it knows you can’t last.

At its core, the universe likes to teach; and when you fight it head-to-head, it wants to teach you about opportunity cost. While you spend all your energy wresting it to a draw, it prevents you from moving forward. It wants you to learn you have finite energy and to be thoughtful about how you spend it.

I don’t know about you but, in the midst of my Life’s chaotic moments this article reminds me that the entire purpose of all that we do as parents is to “…[train] yourself out of the job.”

Live and Learn. We All Do.

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Filed under: Religion, Spirituality, wellness Tagged: Agriculture, Business, Control Systems, Electronics and Electrical, Ellen Langer, god, Illusion of control, motherhood, parenting, Pests and Diseases

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Monday, October 28, 2013

I Am A Conservative, But I Am Not A Zombie.

Do you believe in zombies?

The prestigious Archaeology Magazine has posted research detailing evidence of a zombie outbreak in ancient Egypt near Hierakonpolis approximately 5000 years ago.

Yes, Archaeology Magazine!

The intrepid archaeologists posited that these zombie attacks were caused by a viral culprit:


The idea that zombies are supernatural beings needs to be discarded. They are not the Spawn of Hell, although, they certainly look the part. They are, or were, people who were infected by the Solanum virus. The virus creates a zombie by eating away the frontal lobe of the brain for replication, thus destroying it. The virus mutates the brain and allows the brain to remain alive but dormant and without the need for oxygen. Once the mutation is complete, approximately 23 hours from infection to fully functioning zombie, the ghoul will be on the unending search for living human flesh, thus spreading the infection.

If you don’t believe, have you at least noticed that zombies are the new black? They’re everywhere, and they have a plethora of fans. On TV there is Bite Me, Ugly American and Team Daryl which was spawned by The Walking Dead (chosen as the #1 Show on Television).

A Google search of ‘zombies’ yields 117 million hits.

There are actually three different kinds of zombies. All of them are like humans in some ways, and all of them are lacking something crucial (something different in each case).

Hollywood zombies. These are found in zombie B-movies. Their defining feature is that they are dead, but “reanimated”. They are typically rather mean, and fond of human flesh. The zombies pictured on this page are mostly Hollywood zombies (though I’m informed that the one at the bottom is really a ghost demon). An expert tells me that the name should be “Pittsburgh zombies”, since the most important zombie movies were made in Pittsburgh, but somehow it doesn’t have the same ring.

Haitian zombies. These are found in the voodoo (or vodou) tradition in Haiti. Their defining feature seems to be that they lack free will, and perhaps lack a soul. Haitian zombies were once normal people, but underwent zombification by a “bokor” through spell or potion, and are afterwards used as slaves.

Philosophical zombies. These are found in philosophical articles on consciousness. Their defining features is that they lack conscious experience, but are behaviorally (and often physically) identical to normal humans.

Both the fear of contagion and the fear of predation are hard-wired into the human central nervous system. In other words, these are the cross-cultural,‘instinctive,’ pre-cognitive and pre-linguistic buttons that the modern zombie pushes.

The word zombie, the living dead, has its roots in West African/Haitian vodou religion. Historians and anthropologists trace the origin of zombies to the folklore of several tribes in western Africa, from Ghana to Nigeria. During the slave trade of the late 1500s through the 1800s, persons from these regions were spirited away from their homes to till the plantations of the Caribbean and the European colonies, bringing with them the voodoo culture of magic and spells.

The zombie as represented in film symbolizes a mindless, soulless being with the desire to consume the living, as opposed to the vodou zombie who exists to do the bidding of its master at all costs. At its most basic definition, the term zombie refers to a person who is no longer thinking for themselves. In the case of the West African/Haitian culture, this person is a slave.

Like humans, zombies came out of Africa. There they led rich lives being worshipped as Congolese snake gods (nzambi). The ability of certain snakes to use poison to paralyze their prey was ritualistically imitated by tribal priests, who then proclaimed themselves able to resurrect the dead as well. In such vodoun or Obeah cults, the term nzambi migrated in meaning to “spirits of the dead.”

Transported to the Americas, vodoun took root in Caribbean slave culture, mating with indigenous religions to spawn zombies, zumbies, jumbies, and duppies and spreading northward to the continent. By the 17th century vodoun was strong enough to trigger the Salem witch hysteria of 1692. Tituba, a Carib Indian slave bought by Samuel Parris in Barbados and brought to Salem, filled her young mistresses’ heads with vodoun notions like invocation of the devil, possession, trances, animal familiars, and the sticking of pins into “poppetts” (dolls) made to resemble enemies. The girls’ psyches broke down, alternating between hysterics and catatonia. Tituba was among the first arrested and was the first to confess, in lurid detail—yet she survived while 24 others did not.

To this day, voodoo is prominent in western Africa, Haiti, New Orleans, and parts of the Caribbean Islands.

Although most cultures would consider the zombie to be a fictional creature, zombiism (i.e., being a zombie) is rather common in Haiti, with instances of people being reported dead by loved ones, only to be spotted fully reanimated and wandering around town several weeks to several years later. In Haitian and African culture, zombification is a punishable offense on the same order of severity as murder.

What is lacking from the historicist or contextualist account of zombies is an accurate understanding of the psychology that underlies the fascination and repulsion that zombies engender. All cultural concepts are engaged in a struggle for survival, but that struggle is not fought in some disembodied ether – it’s fought in people’s minds.

What’s on people’s minds is determined by their experience and their culture, certainly, but also constrained and, in the first place, enabled by genetics. People are disposed to be interested in a limited range of things, to be afraid of a limited number of things.

Although we fear the zombies we see portrayed in film, most may, on some levels, subconsciously relate to the symbol being communicated. We use the term “mindless zombie” in a defaming manner toward those who are perceived as blindly following those not deemed fit to follow. If the leader or organization is not one in which one can pledge loyalty, then they are seen as manipulative and unworthy of anyone’s fealty and those that follow them are regarded as mindless due to their failure to perceive the true nature of the organization others so easily recognize. The zombie as defined here is not one to be feared but is one some may pity or even worse, scorn.

Exploring the zombie as a cultural symbol forces us to confront the mind/body issue that many films fail to address. Where religion struggles with the mind/body issue as a reality, science approaches it as a philosophical exercise whose results focus on concepts that would prove the plausibility of a consciousness in artificial lifeforms which result in an artificial intelligence. The transference of the consciousness from one physical vessel to another is a widely accepted theme in a majority of science fiction television shows and films–from the alien technology used in the Stargate Universe that allows a person to swap bodies millions of light years apart to the transference of the human consciousness into a cybernetic form in the upcoming television series Caprica.

This concept has remained a major topic of religious and philosophical study for much of humanity’s history. Both the concept of a “mindless zombie” and the theory of a dualistic human state–the separation of mind and body– is at the core of Joss Whedon’s television series Dollhouse. The significance of this study raises the question not only of the consciousness remaining viable apart from its original form but also whether the body can exist without the consciousness? If the body is capable of existing without a consciousness, is the vessel or shell still a person? The theoretical plausibility of zombies raise the much deeper issue of personhood and as such makes our understanding of the culture symbolism of zombies even more crucial.

The zombie taps into deep-rooted, ancient fears that extend far back in to our hominid lineage and beyond: notably the fear of contagion and the fear of predation. Humans are equipped with ‘elementary feature detectors geared to respond to biologically relevant threats,’ as Arne Öhman has spent a life of research demonstrating, and we react strongly and predictably to features that seem to represent ancestral dangers, even when the source is only a fleeting shadow in the twilight, flickering images on the silver screen, or indeed mental images procured by ink on paper.

There is a clear pop-culture fascination with zombies. Forget Halloween costumes. They’re dragging themselves along on a hit show, “The Walking Dead,” on AMC, holding conventions, taking part in protests and lurching in “zombie walks” through cities from Toronto to Omaha, Nebraska.

Part of this, I’m sure, is just an expression of our culture’s enjoyment of seeing violence performed on seemingly deserving subjects: Zombies can be killed in a variety of creative ways, and since they don’t feel pain and are already dead, there’s apparently no need to feel guilty about it.

But what if this fascination is about more than just gross-out gore and action thrills?

What if it represents a subtle, subconscious understanding that something is wrong—spiritually wrong—with our culture.

Zombies represent the appetite divorced from everything else. They are incapable of judgment, self-awareness, or self-preservation. Though they still move and act, they are not really alive. They hunger and are never filled. And they aren’t just hungry for anything—they specifically want to eat the living, and even more specifically the brain, seat of rationality and self control.

In Pauline terms, they are the sarx in its purest form. Without a soul to control it, the flesh is a slave to its own desires. The rise in popularity of zombies, then, may reflect a rise in anxiety over the elevation of appetite in modern life, a popular recognition that appetite has gotten out of control, and that unchecked, unreflective, and immoderate appetite is a form of death.

It’s this symbolic potential that seems to be behind the recent zombie film resurgence.

Zombies may inspire fear within those who witness them in popular culture, and this fear can be compared with the same emotions that people might experience when they encounter the unknown. Some of the fears brought on by zombies include fear of brain dysfunction, fear of death, and feelings of hopelessness. Zombies, in turn, make these fears into something concrete, something we can reflect upon from a safe distance, as opposed to more active methods of facing our fears, such as high-risk activities like sky diving or bungee jumping.

It’s not always subconscious, actually; Romero’s Dawn of the Dead overtly uses zombies to satirize consumerism. The humans are besieged by the walking dead in a shopping mall, and one of them says that the zombies have gathered there because that’s where they always went in life. Shaun of the Dead uses zombies in the same way, though more humorously. It takes a very long time for Shaun to realize that all of the shambling, vacant-eyed, disgusting people around him have actually become zombies, as their behavior really hasn’t changed all that much. (At the movie’s end, Shaun’s friend Ed’s lifestyle doesn’t seem to have changed at all after his own transformation into a zombie.)

The zombie phenomenon is very interesting theologically, as it’s sort of a “return of the repressed” way of recognizing the deadness of appetite-driven modern culture. As we become more and more zombified, as our culture becomes ever more adept at amplifying our desires through advertising, pornography, and a media culture obsessed with gratifying every appetite, we can see the inevitable results of that process shambling along on their rotting legs.

Another fascinating feature of most modern zombie stories is that, most of the time, the zombies themselves are not actually all that dangerous.

They’re usually slow and clumsy, almost never use weapons, and are too mindless to formulate any tactics. They just plod forward toward their victims, and only their numbers, persistence, and resilience to damage make them much of a threat.

No, what really makes things scary for the protagonists in a zombie story is not the zombies’ power, but the humans’ own weakness.

The survivors in Night of the Living Dead could have easily withstood the besieging zombies if they had stayed cool-headed and followed their most intelligent member’s plans. But instead they degenerate into infighting and hysteria, and that gives the zombies an opening to overwhelm them.

The theological lesson here is that it’s the frailty of our human wills that gives the sarx its power over us.

When we’re faced by naked appetite, we are all too often defenseless and paralyzed. And of course, the worst fate that can befall the victim of a zombie—far worse than being eaten—is to be turned into a zombie oneself. What seems at first like merely an external physical threat can get inside us, corrupt our humanity, and turn us into just another mindless, ravenous drone.

There is never just one meaning to a symbol as rich as the zombie. People have feared many things in many different guises over the centuries, but some fears are eternal and universal.

Zombies have come to occupy a very prominent spot in North American popular culture. This popularity has spilled over into other aspects of everyday life, making zombies a reoccurring metaphor in politics and economics, as well as the natural sciences and mathematics.

As a sub-genre of post-apocalyptic stories, since WWII zombies have reflected society’s concern with crises such as political conflict, social and cultural change, and economic decline. Yet, since the crystallization of the modern zombie in George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead (1968), zombies have also contained an under-current of environmental anxiety in addition to political, social and economic anxieties.

Zombies are historically contingent, and stand-in for specific types of environmental anxieties that shift and evolve to reflect the times.

Mainstream interest in zombies has steadily risen over the past 40 years.

Vampires have become sexy, mummies CG, monsters sympathetic, but no horror baddie remains as au courant as the lowly, lurching zombie.

It’s not just television, books and films that are cashing in on zombies. Preppers, as seen on National Geographic’s Doomsday Preppers are spending millions to survive a zombie apocalypse (and other end of world scenarios). They are buying land, growing their own food, stockpiling weapons and designing zombie proof bunkers. In today’s culture, zombies are major players and big business.

Zombies are a value stock. They are wordless and oozing and brain dead, but they’re an ever-expanding market with no glass ceiling. Zombies are a target-rich environment, literally and figuratively. The more you fill them with bullets, the more interesting they become.

Roughly 5.3 million people watched the first episode of “The Walking Dead” on AMC, a stunning 83 percent more than the 2.9 million who watched the Season 4 premiere of “Mad Men.” This means there are at least 2.4 million cable-ready Americans who might prefer watching Christina Hendricks if she were an animated corpse.

In most films, zombies are created when man-made events produce genetic mutations in normal humans. In either scenario, we have a person who is no longer in control of their own life. Helpless, and at the mercy of their new nature, the zombie’s only option, as depicted in modern film, is to band together and rise up and devour the living. In many cases this act does not free the zombie but only adds to their number those who now shamble forth and fight with them.

A person who has been zombified, or transformed into a zombie, can have a blunt affect, dull gaze, and almost stuporous behavior, characterized by a lumbering gait and simple, repetitive vocalizations and movements. Most medical evaluations would characterize victims of zombification as having mental disorders such as catatonic schizophrenia. The aforementioned traits have been incorporated into the current interpretation of zombies found in modern film and media.

What makes that measured amplification curious is the inherent limitations of the zombie itself: You can’t add much depth to a creature who can’t talk, doesn’t think and whose only motive is the consumption of flesh. You can’t humanize a zombie, unless you make it less zombie-esque. There are slow zombies, and there are fast zombies— that’s pretty much the spectrum of zombie diversity. It’s not that zombies are changing to fit the world’s condition; it’s that the condition of the world seems more like a zombie offensive.

People instinctively know to avoid the kind of toxic substances that over evolutionary time constituted a lethal threat to our ancestors, such as rotting meat.

That’s because natural selection has fine-tuned our perceptual apparatus to be on alert for such substances: those of our ancestors who cried yuck at the sight of decomposing flesh were more likely to propagate their genes than the ones who dug in happily.

Over time, the rot-lovers became extinct, and the human population today is united in its innate aversion to spoiled meat. This is an experiment you can do at home: purchase a packet of steaks, let it sit on the kitchen counter for a week and a half, and then open it and smell the roses. If your response is less than enthusiastic, that’s natural selection protecting your genetic material from a potent threat, right there.

New thinking tells us that consciousness itself is an evolutionary adaptation, and it is easy to see how being self-aware helped us survive.

But consciousness also can limit what we see. It allows us, even encourages us, to live in denial of the biggest new threats. For ruling establishments especially, the pressure to keep people oblivious can be all the more acute because admitting to big danger directly threatens legitimacy.

As Stephen King has pointed out on numerous occasions, horror fiction is so often about ordinary people trapped in extraordinary circumstances, and about their efforts to cope.

Humans care supremely about humans, and the motives and thoughts of other people is an ever-lasting well of interest to most of us. Just witness the prevalence of gossip anywhere, or the contents of most fiction throughout the ages. It’s all about what makes people tick, about human nature.

Zombie stories, too; zombies are attention-grabbing and salient in themselves, to be sure, but concerns and speculations regarding human nature usually make up the bulk of the thematic structure of zombie stories. It’s hard to imagine a story pitting zombies against squirrels or groundhogs being much of a blockbuster or bestseller (not to mention zombies vs. polyatomic ions, or the Zombie War on the Fibonacci Sequence). People are interested in the human element.

So zombies tell us more than just that Hollywood likes to come up with new ways to show gore. They also tell us about our own souls. When we watch or read or play a story about them, we see ourselves as both zombies and the victims. We know it, but we don’t realize it. What we need to realize is that we’re already undead, and that the only cure is regeneration.

Live and Learn. We All Do.

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Filed under: Religion, Spirituality, wellness, Zombie Tagged: africa, apocalypse, Caribbean, CDC, Culture, google, Haiti, Halloween, hollywood, Joss Whedon, Samuel Parris, Stargate Universe, Television, Walking Dead, Zombie

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

The Only Thing That Interferes With My Learning Is My Education.

The new Federal education standards known as Common Core, are stirring up a big argument around the nation.

The standards have been in existence for a while and are now becoming an issue because they are just recently being put into effect across the country.

If you are not aware of what this is; Common core refers to a set of standards that are intended to provide clear goals for what students are expected to learn, and include a series of benchmarks in English and Math that all students will have to meet by the next school year.


The standards apply to students from kindergarten through 12th.

This cure-all wonder drug – the Common Core, short for the Common Core State Standards Initiative was cooked up by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers. And, this magic potion promises to cure America’s education ills, according to its Mission Statement:

The Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them. The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers. With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be best positioned to compete successfully in the global economy.

Before these standards were set, states came up with education benchmarks that were unique to each and every state.

Common Core tries to make sure all students, nationally, are on the same level, and was created by Governors from across the nation as well as education commissioners.

45 states have adopted the Common Core standards.

In 2014, there will be testing to correspond with the Common Core standards, after they take full effect.

Specifically, the Common Core claims to cure the ills that have long plagued America’s education: inequality and inefficiency. “Common standards will help ensure that students are receiving a high quality education consistently, from school to school and state to state. Common standards will provide a greater opportunity to share experiences and best practices within and across states that will improve our ability to best serve the needs of students.”

So how wonderful is this wonder drug? There is no empirical evidence at the moment to make any judgment since no one has taken it yet. But common sense can help.

It is important to remember that although they are referred to as Federal or National education standards, the Federal Government did not create them. They are referred to as this only because the majority of states have chosen to adopt them, and they are aimed at being a national set of standards.

The misnamed “Common Core State Standards” are not state standards. They’re national standards, created by Gates-funded consultants for the National Governors Association (NGA). They were designed, in part, to circumvent federal restrictions on the adoption of a national curriculum, hence the insertion of the word “state” in the brand name. States were coerced into adopting the Common Core by requirements attached to the federal Race to the Top grants and, later, the No Child Left Behind waivers. (This is one reason many conservative groups opposed to any federal role in education policy oppose the Common Core.)

Like so many education reform initiatives that seem to arise out of nowhere, the Common Core State Standards is another of these sweeping phantom movements that have gotten their impetus from a cadre of invisible human beings endowed with inordinate power to impose their ideas on everybody.

For example, the idea of collecting intimate personal data on public school students and teachers seems to have arisen spontaneously in the bowels of the National Center for Education Statistics in Washington. It required a small army of education psychologists to put together the data handbooks, which are periodically expanded to include more personal information.

Nobody knows who exactly authorized the creation of such a dossier on every student and teacher in American public schools, but the program exists and is being paid for by the taxpayer.

Already hailed as the “next big thing” in education reform, the Common Core State Standards are being rushed into classrooms in nearly every district in the country. Although these “world-class” standards raise substantive questions about curriculum choices and instructional practices, such educational concerns are likely to prove less significant than the role the Common Core is playing in the larger landscape of our polarized education reform politics.

The curriculum replaces the classics with government propaganda. According to the American Principles Project, “They de-emphasize the study of classic literature in favor of reading so-called ‘informational texts,’ such as government documents, court opinions, and technical manuals.” Over half the reading materials in grades 6-12 are to consist of informational texts rather than classical literature. Historical texts like the Gettysburg Address are to be presented to students without context or explanation.

The Common Core, however dressed, shares the fundamental spirit with NCLB: standardization of curriculum enforced with high-stakes testing. In fact, the Common Core comes with more force on a larger scale. The side effects will be even more significant.

“If you had a stomach ache, if you were nervous, if you were lethargic, if you needed energy, if you had tuberculosis, if you had asthma, all sorts of things. It was going to cure what you had.” That was historian Dr. Howard Markel talking about cocaine, a wonder drug praised by the medical researchers, doctors, and great minds in the 1880s, including the likes of Thomas Edison, Queen Victoria and Pope Leo XIII. “I take very small doses of it regularly against depression and against indigestion and with the most brilliant of success,” wrote Sigmund Freud.

“And today begins a new era, a new time in public education in our country. As of this hour, America’s schools will be on a new path of reform, and a new path of results.” That was President George W. Bush talking about the No Child Left Behind Act in 2002. “Our schools will have higher expectations,” he continued, “Our schools will have greater resources to help meet those goals. Parents will have more information about the schools, and more say in how their children are educated. From this day forward, all students will have a better chance to learn, to excel, and to live out their dreams.”

Today, we know that cocaine is indeed potent, in fact, so potent that there is an ongoing expensive battle against it.

And Bush’s NCLB? Every state is trying to get out of it, some even willing to trade it with a worse set of demands from Arne Duncan.

All medicine has side effects. When it cures, it can harm the body as well. Put it in another way, there is no free lunch. Everything comes at a cost.

Education cannot escape this simple common sense law of nature for a number of reasons. First, time is a constant. When one spends it on one thing, it cannot be spent on others. Thus when all time is spent on studying and preparing for exams, it cannot be spent on visiting museums. By the same token, when time is spent on activities not necessarily related to academic subjects, less time is available for studying the school subjects and preparing for exams. Second, certain human qualities may be antithetical to each other.

When one is taught to conform, it will be difficult for him to be creative. When one is punished for making mistakes, it will be hard for her to take risks. When one is told to be wrong or inadequate all the time, it will be difficult for her to maintain confidence. In contrast, when the students are allowed freedom to explore, they may question what they are asked to learn, and may decide not to comply. Finally, resources are a finite as well.

When a school or society devotes all resources to certain things, they don’t have them for others. For example, when all resources are devoted to teaching math and language, schools will have to cut out other programs. When more money is spent on testing students, less will be available for actually helping them grow.

Diane Ravitch has exposed many cases of education wonder drugs or silver bullets in her outstanding must-read book The Death and Life of the Great American School System: How Testing and Choice Are Undermining Education and other writings. She writes, “…in education, there are no shortcuts, no utopias, and no silver bullets.”

The Common Core has not been tested. If anything, standards and testing in the U.S. have not amounted much in curing the ills of inequality and inefficiency.

When I first read about the Common Core State Standards, I cheered. I believe that our schools should teach all students (except for those who have severe learning disabilities), the skills, habits and knowledge that they need to be successful in post-secondary education.

That doesn’t mean that every teenager must be prepared to enter Harvard, but it does mean that every young adult, with few exceptions, should at least be prepared to enter their local community college. That is how we give students a real choice.

I confess that I was naïve. I should have known in an age in which standardized tests direct teaching and learning, that the standards themselves would quickly become operationalized by tests. Testing, coupled with the evaluation of teachers by scores, is driving its implementation. The promise of the Common Core is dying and teaching and learning are being distorted. The well that should sustain the Core has been poisoned.

Written mostly by academics and assessment experts—many with ties to testing companies—the Common Core standards have never been fully implemented and tested in real schools anywhere. Of the 135 members on the official Common Core review panels convened by Achieve Inc., the consulting firm that has directed the Common Core project for the NGA, few were classroom teachers or current administrators. Parents were entirely missing. K–12 educators were mostly brought in after the fact to tweak and endorse the standards—and lend legitimacy to the results.

The standards are tied to assessments that are still in development and that must be given on computers many schools don’t have. So far, there is no research or experience to justify the extravagant claims being made for the ability of these standards to ensure that every child will graduate from high school “college and career ready.” By all accounts, the new Common Core tests will be considerably harder than current state assessments, leading to sharp drops in scores and proficiency rates.

We have seen this show before. The entire country just finished a decade-long experiment in standards-based, test-driven school reform called No Child Left Behind.

The tests showed that millions of students were not meeting existing standards. Yet the conclusion drawn by sponsors of the Common Core was that the solution was “more challenging” ones.

This conclusion is simply wrong.

Don’t judge teachers by their students’ scores. Test scores are a poor measure of a child’s quality and an even worse measure of the quality of teaching. Moreover students’ performance on tests is the result of many factors, many of which are beyond the control the teacher. Thus it is not only unfair to judge a teacher based on test scores, but also ineffective—research has shown that test-based incentive programs do not lead to improvement of student achievement.

There has been no bigger change in ten thousand years of recorded human history than the overwhelming transformation of society and commerce and health and civilization that was enabled (or caused) by industrialization.

We’re so surrounded by it that it seems normal and permanent and preordained, but we need to lay it out in stark relief to see how it has created the world we live in.

In just a few generations, society went from agrarian and distributed to corporatized and centralized.

In order to overhaul the planet, a bunch of things had to work in concert: Infrastructure changes, including paving the earth, laying pipe, building cities, wiring countries for communication, etc. Government changes; which meant permitting corporations to engage with the king, to lobby, and to receive the benefits of infrastructure and policy investments. “Corporations are people, friend.”

Education changes, including universal literacy, an expectation of widespread commerce, and most of all, the practice of instilling the instinct to obey civil (as opposed to government) authority.

None of this could have happened if there had been widespread objections from individuals. It turns out, though, that it was relatively easy to enforce and then teach corporate and educational obedience. It turns out that industrializing the schooling of billions of people was a natural fit, a process that quickly turned into a virtuous cycle: obedient students were turned into obedient teachers, who were then able to create even more obedient students. We’re wired for this stuff.

A hundred and fifty years ago, adults were incensed about child labor. Low-wage kids were taking jobs away from hard-working adults.

Sure, there was some moral outrage about seven-year-olds losing fingers and being abused at work, but the economic rationale was paramount. Factory owners insisted that losing child workers would be catastrophic to their industries and fought hard to keep the kids at work—they said they couldn’t afford to hire adults. It wasn’t until 1918 that nationwide compulsory education was in place.

Part of the rationale used to sell this major transformation to industrialists was the idea that educated kids would actually become more compliant and productive workers. Our current system of teaching kids to sit in straight rows and obey instructions isn’t a coincidence—it was an investment in our economic future. The plan: trade short-term child-labor wages for longer-term productivity by giving kids a head start in doing what they’re told.

Large-scale education was not developed to motivate kids or to create scholars. It was invented to churn out adults who worked well within the system. Scale was more important than quality, just as it was for most industrialists.

Of course, it worked. Several generations of productive, fully employed workers followed.

But now?

Nobel prize–winning economist Michael Spence makes this really clear: there are tradable jobs (doing things that could be done somewhere else, like building cars, designing chairs, and answering the phone) and non-tradable jobs (like mowing the lawn or cooking burgers). Is there any question that the first kind of job is worth keeping in our economy?

Alas, Spence reports that from 1990 to 2008, the U.S. economy added only 600,000 tradable jobs.

If you do a job where someone tells you exactly what to do, he will find someone cheaper than you to do it. And yet our schools are churning out kids who are stuck looking for jobs where the boss tells them exactly what to do.

Do you see the disconnect? Every year, we churn out millions of workers who are trained to do 1925-style labor.

The bargain (take kids out of work so we can teach them to become better factory workers as adults) has set us on a race to the bottom.

Over the last three generations, the amount of school we’ve delivered to the public has gone way up—more people are spending more hours being schooled than ever before. And the cost of that schooling is going up even faster, with trillions of dollars being spent on delivering school on a massive scale.

We spend a fortune teaching trigonometry to kids who don’t understand it, won’t use it, and will spend no more of their lives studying math. We invest thousands of hours exposing millions of students to fiction and literature, but end up training most of them to never again read for fun (one study found that 58 percent of all Americans never read for pleasure after they graduate from school).

As soon as we associate reading a book with taking a test, we’ve missed the point.

The industrialized mass nature of school goes back to the very beginning, to the common school and the normal school and the idea of universal schooling. All of which were invented at precisely the same time we were perfecting mass production and interchangeable parts and then mass marketing.

The common school (now called a public school) was a brand new concept, created shortly after the Civil War. “Common” because it was for everyone: for the kids of the farmer, the kids of the potter, and the kids of the local shopkeeper. Horace Mann is generally regarded as the father of the institution, but he didn’t have to fight nearly as hard as you would imagine—because industrialists were on his side.

The normal school (now called a teacher’s college) was developed to indoctrinate teachers into the system of the common school, ensuring that there would be a coherent approach to the processing of students. If this sounds parallel to the notion of factories producing items in bulk, of interchangeable parts, of the notion of measurement and quality, it’s not an accident.

The SAT, the single most important filtering device used to measure the effect of school on each individual, is a (almost without change) lower- order-thinking test.

The reason is simple. Not because it works.

No, we do it because it’s the easy and efficient way to keep the mass production of students moving forward.

School’s industrial, scaled-up, measurable structure means that fear must be used to keep the masses in line. There’s no other way to get hundreds or thousands of kids to comply, to process that many bodies, en masse, without simultaneous coordination.

And the flip side of this fear and conformity must be that passion will be destroyed.

There’s no room for someone who wants to go faster, or someone who wants to do something else, or someone who cares about a particular issue. Move on. Write it in your notes; there will be a test later. A multiple-choice test.

Do we need more fear? Less passion?

The notion that an organization could teach anything at all is a relatively new one.

Traditionally, society assumed that artists, singers, artisans, writers, scientists, and alchemists would find their calling, then find a mentor, and then learn their craft. It was absurd to think that you’d take people off the street and teach them to do science or to sing, and persist at that teaching long enough for them to get excited about it.

Now that we’ve built an industrial solution to teaching in bulk, we’ve seduced ourselves into believing that the only thing that can be taught is the way to get high SAT scores.

We shouldn’t be buying this.

We can teach people to make commitments, to overcome fear, to deal transparently, to initiate, and to plan a course.

We can teach people to desire lifelong learning, to express themselves, and to innovate.

And just as important, it’s vital we acknowledge that we can unteach bravery and creativity and initiative. And we have been doing just that.

School has become an industrialized system, working on a huge scale that has significant byproducts, including the destruction of many of the attitudes and emotions we’d like to build our culture around.

In order to efficiently jam as much testable data into a generation of kids, we push to make those children compliant, competitive zombies.

Human beings have, like all animals, a great ability to hide from the things they fear.

The universal truth is beyond question—the only people who excel are those who have decided to do so. Great doctors or speakers or skiers or writers or musicians are great because somewhere along the way, they made the choice.

Why have we completely denied the importance of this choice?

It’s clear that the economy has changed. What we want and expect from our best citizens has changed. Not only in what we do when we go to our jobs, but also in the doors that have been opened for people who want to make an impact on our culture.

At the very same time, the Internet has forever transformed the acquisition of knowledge. Often overlooked in the rush to waste time at Facebook and YouTube is the fact that the Internet is the most efficient and powerful information delivery system ever developed.

The change in the economy and the delivery of information online combine to amplify the speed of change. These rapid cycles are overwhelming the ability of the industrialized system of education to keep up.

As a result, the education-industrial system, the one that worked very well in creating a century’s worth of factory workers, lawyers, nurses, and soldiers, is now obsolete.

I don’t think it’s practical to say, “We want what we’ve been getting, but cheaper and better.” That’s not going to happen, and I’m not sure we want it to, anyway.

We need school to produce something different, and the only way for that to happen is for us to ask new questions and make new demands on every element of the educational system we’ve built. Whenever teachers, administrators, or board members respond with an answer that refers to a world before the rules changed, they must stop and start their answer again.

No, we do not need you to create compliance.

No, we do not need you to cause memorization.

And no, we do not need you to teach students to embrace the status quo.

Anything a school does to advance those three agenda items is not just a waste of money, but actually works against what we do need. The real shortage we face is dreams, and the wherewithal and the will to make them come true.

No tweaks. A revolution.

Unfortunately there’s been too little honest conversation and too little democracy in the development of the Common Core. We see consultants and corporate entrepreneurs where there should be parents and teachers, and more high-stakes testing where there should be none. Until that changes, it will be hard to distinguish the “next big thing” from the last one.

Whatever positive role standards might play in truly collaborative conversations about what our schools should teach and children should learn has been repeatedly undermined by bad process, suspect political agendas, and commercial interests.

Transparency in the traditional school might destroy it. If we told the truth about the irrelevance of various courses, about the relative quality of some teachers,

about the power of choice and free speech—could the school as we know it survive?

What happens when the connection revolution collides with the school?

Unlike just about every other institution and product line in our economy, transparency is missing from education. Students are lied to and so are parents. At some point, teenagers realize that most of school is a game, but the system never acknowledges it. In search of power, control and independence, administrators hide information from teachers, and vice versa.

Because school was invented to control students and give power to the state, it’s not surprising that the relationships are fraught with mistrust.

The very texture of the traditional school matches the organization and culture of the industrial economy. The bottom of the pyramid stores the students, with teachers (middle managers) following instructions from their bosses.

Changing school doesn’t involve sharpening the pencil we’ve already got. School reform cannot succeed if it focuses on getting schools to do a better job of what we previously asked them to do. We don’t need more of what schools produce when they’re working as designed. The challenge, then, is to change the very output of the school before we start spending even more time and money improving the performance of the school.

The simple way to make something different is to go about it in a whole new way. In other words, doing what we’re doing now and hoping we’ll get some- thing else as an outcome is nuts.

What’s the point of testing someone’s ability to cram for a test if we’re never going to have to cram for anything ever again? If I can find the answer in three seconds online, the skill of memorizing a fact for twelve hours (and then forget- ting it) is not only useless, it’s insane.

In a crowded market, it’s no surprise that people will choose someone who appears to offer more in return for our time and money. So admissions officers look for the talented, as do the people who do the hiring for corporations. Spotting the elite, the charismatic, and the obviously gifted might be a smart short-term strategy, but it punishes the rest of us, and society as a whole.

The opportunity for widespread education and skills improvement is far bigger than it has ever been before. When we can deliver lectures and lessons digitally, at scale, for virtually free, the only thing holding us back is the status quo (and our belief in the permanence of status).

School serves a real function when it activates a passion for lifelong learning, not when it establishes permanent boundaries for an elite class.

If the new goal of school is to create something different from what we have now, and if new technologies and new connections are changing the way school can deliver its lessons, it’s time for a change.

Here are a dozen ways school can be rethought:

• Homework during the day, lectures at night

• Open book, open note, all the time

• Access to any course, anywhere in the world

• Precise, focused instruction instead of mass, generalized instruction The end of multiple-choice exams

• Experience instead of test scores as a measure of achievement The end of compliance as an outcome

• Cooperation instead of isolation

• Amplification of outlying students, teachers, and ideas Transformation of the role of the teacher

• Lifelong learning, earlier work

• Death of the nearly famous college

In an open-book/open-note environment, the ability to synthesize complex ideas and to invent new concepts is far more useful than drill and practice. It might be harder (at first) to write tests, and it might be harder to grade them, but the goal of school isn’t to make the educational-industrial complex easy to run; it’s to create a better generation of workers and citizens.

The best tactic available to every taxpayer and parent and concerned teacher is to relentlessly ask questions, not settling for the status quo.

“Is this class/lecture/program/task/test/policy designed to help our students do the old thing a little more efficiently, or are we opening a new door to enable our students to do something that’s new and different?”

Parents were raised to have a dream for their kids—we want our kids to be happy, adjusted, and successful. We want them to live meaningful lives, to contribute and to find stability as they avoid pain.

School is at its best when it gives students the expectation that they will not only dream big, but dream dreams that they can work on every day until they accomplish them—not because they were chosen by a black-box process, but because they worked hard enough to reach them.

What do you think?

Live and Learn. We All Do.

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Filed under: Culture, Economics Tagged: Common Core, Common Core State Standards Initiative, Council of Chief State School Officers, education, George W. Bush, Howard Markel, Khan Academy, National Center for Education Statistics, National Governors Association, No Child Left Behind Act, Obama, seth godin, Standardized tests, Ted Talks, United States

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