How America Will Stay Free


tugofwarIt’s almost the end of academic marking period #1. It’s also the autumnal equinox. Blessed season! You know me; I work in cycles and as with any harvest season, it’s time to harvest a few thoughts about school as a place to learn in the 21st century. To back up a bit…

In the early years of common schooling, the challenge was to efficiently assimilate the flood of new Americans that washed ashore just before the industrial revolution. The American revolution’s Liberty Tree evidenced its bedrock-deep, widespread root system by bearing the fruit of a society based on essential morality and goodness.

The point of schooling back then was to develop a population that would accept as the norm cooperation with (obedience to) a just and benevolent (paternalistic) government, industry, thrift, kindness and all those virtues thought to characterize a “good citizen” of a republic. Contrast that with post revolutionary thinking about a society headed by a monarchy (prince-priest) with the wind of an outrageously wealthy aristocracy supporting it.  John Adams put it, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other”. Benjamin Franklin said, “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters”. We get educated, then, to remain good and therefore remain free.

As the nation’s social “tasks”/issues came and went, school reforms movements have followed suit. School became the orange rag knotted over the mud-hole pulled back and forth by various thought systems and interest groups.  When I was doing the work for the masters in education, teaching children to read using “phonics” was a cardinal sin. Phonics was the way the “backwards religious right” taught kids to read. As a child growing up in the 50’s and early 60’s, phonics was touted as the best way (right and only way) to teach children to read. I informed a professor I would not be in class one session so that I could attended a Christian women’s conference on the very day everyone else chose their subject for a paper. The next session, I got my subject: the only one left–phonics. There was a noticiable chill towards me in that class for weeks. It’s not nice to be branded the “class evangelical Christian”.

As a result of the “tug of war” school became more and more insular to the place where school today is another planet. It “protected itself” from threat as any organism would by adjusting externally through “education fad-of-the year” antics, but dragged its feet internally. So, the classroom walked 20 years behind business and society.

That is one of the reasons new graduates complain about their “lack of readiness”to join industry as employees and their employers complain about the”lack of quality applicants” as if it were a “quality control” issue. New grads simply have not been living on the same planet as their employers.

However, school is now poised to enter a revolution itself as it lets go of the industrial model…

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We Pause in September To Remember


theyallfalldownIt was a normal beginning of another school day in East Brunswick, New Jersey. Then, suddenly, a breathless silence fell like the stifling pause just before a thunderstorm. Strange rumblings followed by abnormal tremors began. The school administrative office advised teachers to hold students in classrooms and follow afternoon pickup order. What?! I just got here! The bell hasn’t rung for first period yet.

I had not seen a TV screen or heard a radio since I left my home half an hour away. I purposely begin my days in silence. Then, another tremor: a second announcement to “keep calm” and the sound of weeping in the hallways. It was not until I got back home did I finally understand what had happened–one of the USA’s darkest days.

My mentor lost her father when the towers fell that day. His final cell-phone call had come to her minutes before he perished. My husband lost a cousin. I lost a potential coworker and friend because shortly after that dark day, she and her entire family left the country fearing violent repercussions aimed at any person from the middle east. I let her sunflowered bulletin board stay up until Thanksgiving. Floundering in my job without her friendship and my mentor’s professional guidance, my first semester at the job became my last.

I am not quite sure even after 15 years that there is not still a little sop of anger and resentment swirling around the bottom of that stewpot called September 11, 2001. I can’t tell anyone to go ahead, take a a peace of bread and clean it out because it might still ruin a few stomachs. There remains a strange feeling in the bottom of my colon that backs me away from finishing my portion of that stew. Until that day we as a nation can call the pot “finished”, I pray for heaven’s most tender mercies and hope that the passage of a little more time will make this day sweeter. May we all be finished with it one day.

Survive the day,

Victoree

 

Industrial Myth #3:College Teaches All


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2016…S.O.S. (Same Old Stuff)

SURPRIZE!

SOME OF THE MOST VALUABLE STUFF IS NEVER TAUGHT IN SCHOOL.

There is still much emotionally charged discussion about exactly what role education is supposed to play in a society like the USA. Period. Some say college is for training certain youth for their professions. If true, what about the sizable number of college grads who never go anywhere near what they majored in. Again, another group of grads gets into the “chosen profession” only to find out they are a match made in hell.

It was that way with me and classroom teaching. Originally trained as an elementary school teacher–6 years of study and tears–I went off to bag my first teaching job after graduation. In my neighborhood, teaching was a respected profession so smart young women went to normal school. After my first career in Journalism fizzled out, I went to “plan B”.

unemployed-grad

confused graduate

Three failed classrooms later, I agreed with a teacher mentor in one school and a professor that perhaps my decision was not well thought out. I became depressed when they told me I would not be a very good traditional teacher(I was going to become one of those infamous “bad teachers” politicians have spun into legend). Had I wasted all that time and the government’s money? I did all that research so this would not happen to me!)  Then, I struck upon the idea that just maybe all the exploratory intelligence I had collected on my personality and my passions through professional and casual testing was not totally wrong. Yes, there I do have a teaching streak, but not one colored for the traditional classroom setting.

The knowledge I gained about myself; having a seeking spirit; a hunger to learn: these are things school hardly acknowledges exists at all, but very essential to the life of professionals. I’m through with the angst part, but if you want more of a view of the inside of what it is like to be twenty and in the throes of acquiring wisdom about your self and your profession; questioning everything you ever learned or thought to be real, please take a look over at All Groan Up with Paul Angone on You Tube.

Industrial Myth 1: Career Fail Is Bad Luck


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Good morning, campers!

Today we will start our talk about Industrial Mythology. These are the tales we tell ourselves about working, originally dutifully passed down from generation to generation. Oh, the injustices laid at the door of Fortuna! (an image of the Roman goddess of luck, Fortuna, appears for you)  As if life was a thing that simply happens to people!

Here’s the truth: If you let life blow you around like a piece of driftwood, it will do just that. Yes, you will end up on some beach somewhere.

As a kid, I believed that somehow the winds of Fortune would magically blow me toward my “dream job”.  I believed in the myth of the “career ladder”. Just “start somewhere” and climb up from the bottom. This belief was the driver. All I did was unquestioningly follow lock-step grade to grade winning A after A and B after B. I was an excellent student. I got to the honor society, but I was totally unprepared for life after high school graduation (so, I went to college). By becoming life’s flotsam I handed my fate gift wrapped to the winds. Then, I complained to myself and commiserated with everybody who would listen about how “Life didn’t turn out the way I imagined it” and how all my teachers lied to me about “how things should be”.

The emotional reward was a seething sense of resentment against school which goaded my sense of “righteousness” into high gear. Feeling superior. Nothing like it in the world…The amazing thing is how many people in 2016, in the early 21st century still hang on to this tattered old medieval belief that a human being’s life is in somebody/something else’s control. This is straight out of that basic “crap-app” package that the “social factory”(the culture) installs into maturing mental operating systems (you).By merely “drifting” through life with fingers crossed you are handing your powers to decide what happens to you to Fortune’s tides. Next time, we’ll talk about how to “hack” Luck and make that driftwood into a surfboard.

 

The Ego And Ali


muhammad_ali_quoteMuhammad Ali is gone and now the world has a hole in it. When I was a child my mom and several other adults in  my neighborhood disliked this man who declared, “I am the greatest!” Back then, Nice Colored People never took on the “way things were” barefaced like Cassius Clay did. Then, he disrupted proper social order and changed his name to Muhammad Ali! Surely, he and that Rev. King in Georgia were going to get all of us in trouble in America. Women never talked back to their fathers and husbands either. That was sin in the skin! Until my early teens, I parroted my elders’ 1950’s ideas about race, color and gender as if they were my own. But they were not my own.

You see, being an introspective, wallflower of a girl, I believed that only men had “egos” which had to be dutifully tended like orchids by all the women in their lives–wives, sisters, girlfriends or whatever you were to the man. Oh, yes. Women were a “whatever”. Standing above and apart, I, the Princess Morally Puritan Purest of all, certainly did not have this “ego” that if in any way was insulted, would ruin me for life or something like in “Gremlins”.

Then, one day, click! I looked at the boxer; I listened to the boxer and I began to look closely at the so-called ancient wisdom about who I could never be or do. It seemed there was always some reason I could not succeed based on something I was born with:my skin was too dark; my hair was too kinky; my torso was too short; my feet were too flat; on and on.Then, to top it all off, I was born female. Doomed! Doomed forever to live chained to a man whose ego I had to stoke like a fireman on a steam engine.

Thanks to Mohammad Ali I re-examined all my hand-me-down beliefs and got abundantly clear about exactly what I did believe about race, gender roles, and most of all about my Self. Mirror, mirror on the wall; who has one of the biggest egoes of all? It was an ugly truth that began my journey of soul growth.

I do not agree with all Muhammad Ali’s ideas, but I certainly thank him for helping many of us de-mythologize our beliefs and de-colonize our minds. May you rest in peace, my brother. Salaam.

The One Skill New Grads Will Use Most


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My English teacher told me in high school that I probably would not make a living at all as a poet, though pithy words on paper sprang like a primal spring  out of me. That was the day I purposed to go into journalism, the left-sided sister of poetry. All I knew in my heart of hearts was that words on paper was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. How was I going to get it done? What I did not know was what I did not know. The one skill everybody will use after formal classroom days are done is seeking: mining sources for information on which to base the decisions we make in life.

Upon graduating from high school, unlike Malia Obama, I went straight into university intending to grow my embryonic career through acquiring the explicit skills necessary to become a professional writer. I considered Columbia Journalism School because the place is literally enmeshed in the publishing industry. Back then, before I knew anything about networking, I had an inkling that whatever profession you wanted to be into, it was a good idea to be where its denizens were rife. I was a quiet, dreamy soul who thought I was channeling Ida B. Wells. I had no idea what becoming a professional journalist meant in real terms except from television and radio. I had no idea what people like Barbara Walters suffered as a woman in journalism. Back then, blacks in journalism were almost unheard of. I had serious knowledge gaps and I had to fill them myself.

The nearest and dearest do not always make the best sources of information. Nobody warned me away or opposed my burying myself in researching best journalism schools on the east coast. Nobody I ever heard of in my neighborhood ever escaped “the ‘hood”to become anything other than homemakers, teachers or preachers. Education and the gospel ministry were good, solid professions. Broadway, The Washington Post and NBC were not. My Sunday school teacher told me point blank that the theatrical stage was not a good career choice for a Christian young lady. My high school guidance counselors never suspected that the newspapers and broadcasting was behind all that “looking it up”. They probably just figured I was just being my personality test-perfect bookish self. Perhaps they were thinking to recommend to my parents that I be  submitted to therapy to treat my introversion.

Did I go to journalism school? Yes, but not to Columbia. One of the reasons for this “fail” was not having information enough to make a strong case before my parents.

New professionals; dearest readers, information rules.One of the skills any new grad will use most often after formal classroom is  this: where and how to access and extract needed information from the mounds of information dug up. You will use this information to make the billions of little decisions every day such as where to work, political affiliation, diet, personal style, and how to create a life.

 

 

Your Story Is You


The personal story forms

The personal story forms

Your story is you. The tale you tell yourself about yourself–fact AND fiction–becomes more and more you every time you tell it. The brain scarfs it up, converts it into chemical and electrical signals, and BANG! The story becomes organic memory which acts like a software driver. It is as much you as the meal just digested is right now. The Story is in every cell in every system of the body…and…and…and…

YOU CAN SHED IT LIKE HAIR.

Sure! Hair follicles naturally ditch hundreds of hairs every month. We now know from brain research that intelligence is not a set thing: people become more intelligent as they live. We know that human beings learn, grow and change throughout their entire lifespan. We know that a brain used regularly is a brain that stays alive. We already understand that the intention of human muscle is movement. Muscles, unlike machines that become less with use, become better and stronger with use. So it is with our brains. The richer our thought life; the more learning we do; the richer the branching (growth) of the nervous system in our brains becomes.

When we switch to a new personal story, the old, original story fades. The old story grows weak, become less real and eventually will be shed for lack of retelling. The new story replaces it and grows stronger upon the conscious decision to stamp it over the old one through retelling it at every opportunity. I have discovered two methods of stamping out and displacing old, worn-out stories: positive affirmations and vivid visualizations. Look at this from Mind Valley, a favorite website of mine, on the subject of creative visualization. Registration will enable you to enjoy more of its personal growth content should you want to explore more.

The stories we create and accept as real about ourselves are reinforced by retelling and the brain automatically makes sure it sticks.