Insanity Is When You Do The Same Thing Over And Over, Expecting Different Results

I find High School depressing.
I found it that way when I was a student - and now that I'm a teacher, it is even more depressing.
I mean, I became a teacher by a strange route. I never intended to be a high school teacher. Nope, I was going to be an Engineer. I was going to design aircraft and computers, and maybe - spacecraft.
But...I needed money to go to school, and I took the standard American Route - a stint in the military, the GI Bill, and I was going to College after that.
I hit the real world, and found things that just were not what I learned in school. Heh.
A Lot of my military career was spent in places where I spent a lot of my time protecting helpless people from the scum that oppressed them. No, that's not jingo propaganda; it is the truth as I saw it. (Shrug) Believe it -or not. I could care less. That is SO not what I came to discuss.
I wound up staying in, and moving up, and resolved to leave when it stopped being fun. That came in April 2003, in a place called Baghdad.
I disagreed with the policy recommendations of the high ranking suits sent out from Washington. I disagreed violently, because they were letting their ideology blind them to the realities of the situation.
"When ambushed and outnumbered, there is no shame in retreat." - Sun Tzu
I got told to either retire, or there would be - "consequences". Yeah, "consequences” - I'd thought that was something out of stupid Hollywood movies, until it happened to me.
I retired, and came back to the US. I took the Troops-to-Teachers option, and put my engineering Degree, and my Master's in management, to work trying to teach inner city kids to get ahead in the world.
Just as I'd once spent time getting food, and medicine and shelter and safety to the refugees and homeless in so much of the Third World, I wanted to come home and do the same thing for my own people.
I look back on this and think "what a freaking naïf I was."
You see, I'm an Engineer. I see problems, I look at conditions, resources, and I want to solve the problem, the best way I know how.
Stuff like ideology, and philosophy, if it has no bearing on the solution, I want to ignore it as so much socio-political horse manure. Unless, of course, socio-political horse manure is part of the problem....and I totally resent it when that happens.
Because, you see, I look at American Education - as an Engineer? -  and I see a totally, absolutely patched up, plastered up, Rube Goldberg machine that would disgust the sensibilities of just about anybody that took an objective look at it.
But sometimes, I think I'm the only one that can see it.
Let me try to explain this. Are you Left-handed - or know anybody left handed? Ever see a left handed person forced to write with their right hand?
It does not work. It can cause aphasia, stuttering, mental trauma, all sorts of problems. It is well documented.
Now, let's extend this. It is pretty well documented, humans learn by multiple channels. Only 20% of the American population has Text based learning as their primary data channel, but those 20% have 95% of the college degrees and something like 75% of the income.
Now, this whole "fight on Poverty", "Race to the Top" and "No Child Left Behind" is built on the premise that if all the poor kids are taught to read, then they go to college, get degrees, make good money, everything's is sunbeams and rainbows, right?
It totally IGNORES the fairly well documented fact that - primary data channel learning - appears to be "hard-wired" into the human brain, much as handedness is. No amount of education and "discipline" can do much to change it - and more than training and discipline will change a "lefty" to a right handed person.
Now, an education program that emphasizes the using primary data channels that children have - audio, visual, kinesthetic - would be a good idea. And NOW, more than any other time in human history, we have the technology available to make that education available to the masses.
I mean - as an AIR FORCE technical instructor - we used this approach ALL THE TIME. We KNEW our trainees came to us traumatized by school books. So we use a lot of pictures, video and hands-on, because, hey, it works, you know?
And - time after time - I personally saw boys and girls come to us, who had just barely passed high school - but they had the aptitudes, and they got through the Military Technical School Programs, and went on to successful lives.
Not because it was the MILITARY - but because we were using a training system that worked.
It wasn't the discipline, or the uniforms, per se, that's just the stuff the outsider notices. That is, I'm convinced, external focusing tools at best - and not even truly necessary to the process. Helpful, maybe, but not essential. It is the addition of the audio, visual and kinesthetic components that leads to educational success, in my opinion.
But - I come to the civilian educational system. Know what?
When stuff doesn't work in the civilian educational system, you know how they solve the problem? Change the statistics.
Oh, they do that in the military, too, and in the business world. But I have NEVER seen them wiggle data and pick numbers, anywhere, the way I have observed in public education.
And - it's cultural.
Who runs Education in the US?
The folks who are text based learners.
Who makes the tests?
The text based learners.
How is your academic skill evaluated?
In terms of your text based learning skills.
If you are not a text based learner - well, you are made to feel deficient.
And instead of trying to reach out and educate the folks who are not primarily text based learners, they are trying to emphasize text based learners.
And when the non-text based learners abandon the schools, they sigh, blame it on the "lack of teaching skills" and increase the amount of text-based education time.
What I SEE happening, what I am observing in the system is a "Race to the Bottom", a "Generation Left Behind", children traumatized into feeling stupid and useless and hopeless.
But - I guess - it is time for me to move on. I don't have tenure, and I have been told that, due to cutbacks, and my student's poor performance, I will need to find new employment after next month.
Doan mean nothing.
I mean, yes, losing my job - that personally sucks. But - I did 28 years in the military. Suckage is not an unfamiliar state of existence. "Embrace the suck"
I'm going to probably sell my house at a loss, move on, job prospects look like snot - nobody wants to hire a 56 year old engineer with medical issues. I personally am expecting to fall several rungs down the economic ladder.
Doan mean nothing. - Every breath I've drawn since 1975 has been a gift, the way I see it. An inch left, and the bullet that left splinters in my face would have killed me.
No, What bothers me - really bothers me - is that I see an group of American Children - and by logical extension - thousands, probably millions - traumatized and endangered, their lives coarsened and traumatized by a bunch of well-meaning bureaucrats that prattle happy words but do not bother to come down to the classrooms and look - really look - at what their policies, their ideological fixations - are doing.
But...I feel like I'm spitting in the wind. I have this bad habit of reading the signs, looking at stuff, and telling my bosses what I think is going on. And when they don't like what I tell them, I wind up needing a new job.
And when - the bad thing I predicted does happen - they hate me even worse.
So - thanks for reading this far. I needed to say this, somewhere, and not just over a beer. (Especially since I gave up drinking)
angusmcfarland angusmcfarland
51-55, M
3 Responses May 20, 2012

I hear you. I've lived in almost every "bad part of Oakland". In every one I've become friends with local kids and for every one or two I was able to do something solidly good for, another one or two got shot or started a relationship with the legal system that will eat years if not the rest of their lives. Granted, that doesn't compare with mass graves, but it's such a crying waste when within walking distance other young people are getting everything they need to participate in the world . . <br />
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Nope- my blood mother was Native too. (I was adopted at birth. I loved my adopted father but I've never felt that 'family' bond thing.) I just figured the gorilla would seem like something that would turn you off if "the philosophy" had already been summarized so ineptly. My apologies. I think the Wiki article does about as much justice to the concepts as a Cliff's Notes summary would do for 'Dune'. But maybe I'm just biased - Ishmael & the following books have influenced more people to see through this culture's assumptions than I would have thought a book could do. <br />
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As far as limiting reproduction, I meant reducing the human population by not creating them to begin with instead of killing the ones who are already living. Clearly, neither approach will be effective if it's forced. The most reliable way of attaining voluntarily lower birth rates has been to give women more options- basically to raise their standard of living until they're in a position where they control their own reproductive choices *and* can afford to care about the implications. <br />
Which I'd like to believe translates to something besides "We're doomed", but I don't really see a way for that to happen faster than we're breeding and polluting our way into a global limited-resource survival mode. <br />
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I think it was in "My Ishmael" (a better-written book than the first, as far as writing goes IMO) that something was said to the effect of; Recycling, political regulation, etc.- they're all just planting sticks in the river. They may have some tiny effect but to change the course of the river will take a change in the way humanity views itself in relation to the world. <br />
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Figuring out how to stop bad things from happening ...I don't think it works like that. Bad things that repeatedly arise from a way of being will continue to arise, for the same reasons. I don't have THE answer. I don't even think I know how to get the answer. All I am doing is making things better in ways I can accomplish, and staying aware, because when I've seen something being done a better way it's immediately recognizable and that way becomes 'my' way without any need to decide. I think you've done the same. It's a human trait- to be good at adapting. That leaves room for evolution. Maybe we won't make the jump 'til some unknown critical point is reached or recognized. Evolution has always been hard on individuals. From an individual point of view it's grotesquely wasteful & harsh, but it is functional overall. <br />
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I don't focus on it, but I do wonder if we've gone too far out of balance to continue as a species. Self-absorption is not evolutionarily favored.

Thanks, hrts, I just read the plot synopsis of "Ishmael" on wiki - it sounds interesting, although it is a philosophy - or I should, the philosophy described in the Wiki article, sounds like a philosophy I have a lot of problems with.<br />
I'll see if the library has it.<br />
The idea that "human should starve and die at the whims of the Gods" is repugnant to me. Nothing noble about famine or disease - maybe because I've lived with it, and fought against it. I notice most of the philosophers that talk about the "nobility of the natural condition" do I from a warm and comfortable room. Not this scarred old junkyard dog. I like being warm, and having food, and not getting sick. <br />
But we're talking about teaching. Why the HELL can't we teach kids the things they need to survive and thrive in the world, not irrelevant horse apples like Jane Austen or Shakespeare in the original text? Teach them about modern Chinese Culture, don't stop at the Song empire, fer pity's sake! <br />
And - the philosphy of "Ishmael" is interesting, but I teach - taught - at an Inner City School. These Students don't have the luxury of time to consider existential philosophy. They need to learn something - skills - that pay off quickly. <br />
For example, I used to teach a Welfare-to-Work Computer skills class. I had a fellow, a drug dealer, just out of jail, high school dropout, he liked my teaching style, got interested in computers, took my advanced course in databa<x>ses, moved on and out. Ran into him a few weeks ago. He told me, "I got into dealing drugs because $200 a day seemed like big money. Now I make $1000 a day, easy, and it's ALL LEGAL. Why didn't somebody like you teach me this stuff in high School?"<br />
And all I can do is shake my head.

Mmm, I'll have to read the Wiki article, cause that's nothing like what I got out of the book! Sustainability is more about avoiding starvation than our current approach to agriculture is, it just recognizes that humans have to limit their own reproduction if they don't want it limited by larger forces.

Existential Philosophy is the last thing I would call 'Ishmael'. It relates to teaching in that it makes it really clear why you're not allowed to teach functional skills.

Seriously- screw Wiki, give it a shot. If you can get past the concept of a psychic gorilla you'll find a lot of useful reality.

And- it may be that we see the world from different perspectives. I would bet that my world-view is incredibly different from yours. Hell, it's different than 99.9999% recursive of the world.
Just your last comment about a "psychic gorilla" being hard to believe...actually, when I saw "Ishmael" - that was the *easiest* part to believe. But...if I told you about what happened in Rwanda - well, I'm not sure if I was hallucination, or battle-stress, or...but let's just say, having a psychic conversation with a gorilla? I don't have ANY trouble buying that concept. None at all. Except that the one I think I was chatting with, sounded like an Oxford Professor.
Then again - I'm a Native American. Talking with a Spirit Guide, is not such a strange idea for me. I'm guess you're of a European Heritage, so that's why that sounds strange to you.
But "limiting reproduction" is such a nice-nice term. How does that happen in real life? I hate to tell you, but, in my experience, it's ethnic-cleansing, and mass graves - I've seen those and pulled the bodies out, in places like Bosnia, and Kosovo and Rwanda and Sierra Leone and other places - or it is Famine and starvation and bodies in the streets.
I suppose - my students tell me - "You are the realest teacher I know" - many that don't like me personally, come to my class because they know I tell them truth as I saw it, not just stuff I read in a book, or saw in a class - and I show them how to find things for themselves, and evaluate data to find truth.
I consider myself - on one hand, an academic. I was reading Kant and Nietsche, when I was in my teens. I like my science. I was a classic geek in high school - honor roll, National Honor society, and we built a a 10 watt Ruby Laser and a Rocket that hit 3000 feet in our senior year - 1974.
but, at the same time, I'm one of Orwell's "Rough Men" - I have stood many a night watch on the edge of civilization, peering into the darkness for the enemy.
At times, that was a Thornbush kraal on the Savannah north of Lake Kivalu. Sometimes it was razor wire and minefields and a howling blizzard near a village with two many consonants and not enough vowels in Bosnia. For awhile, it was watching a radar screen for inbound ballistic missile racks.
My fondest dream - were i to hit the lottery - would be to be a professional student, and bury myself in the library stacks.
But - re-reading what you wrote - I suppose we DO agree. But - here's the thing - my students, they live in an ugly, brutal life. Many of their teachers come from an impossibly nice, seemingly unattainable lifestyle with irrelevant advice.
Sorry, but I look at these kids and well - try this comparison. We have 800 students at my school. That is the same as an Infantry Battalion, last year, we lost six kids to violence. That is about the same as the US Army is losing was losing in IRAQ in 2004.
THINK about it.
For my students, they are safer to be soldiers in a combat zone, then to stay at home in "peacetime"...How messed up is that?

and i walk around my school - as an Officer, I was trained to look for external symptoms of stress - to know when my troops were having psychological symptoms, so i could send them for counseling before their problems turned into full-blown disasters.
Well, I can see dozens, hundreds of students, exhibiting the symptoms of combat stress, walking the halls of my school. same symptoms - jerky eye movements, outbursts, crying jags, mood swings, thumb sucking, sleep problems - even when I adjust for the fact that these are teens, and subtract the normal problems I would see at a suburban school - I still see a ton of psychologically hurting people.
I CANNOT get this message across to anybody.
i am merely shouting into the wind, no matter how often I say it.

You're not the only one who can see it. You're not the only one who cares about it. Get your hands on a book called 'Ishmael', author- Daniel Quinn. <br />
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I promise you, it's worth it. <br />
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P.S. Please tell me what you think after you read it?

Sorry - still haven't made it to the library - it is final exams here this week - but I am unemployed, starting Friday. In amongst job hunting, I promise to hit the library and check the book out.
And - Oakland - seen it. I get the Concept. "Planting Sticks in the river" - good metaphor. So many humans are like that - self absorbed, not seeing the big picture - like the Cadillac Escalade I saw yesterday, with Anti-Bush, Anti-War and Co-Exist Bumper stickers - the logical inconsistency between driving that vehicle and holding those beliefs would be inconceivable - and yet I have met people that are like that.
People can prattle on about things like "honor" and "country" and "religion" - but they fight and die for resources, for money, for power. That is one of those simple truths I like to teach - that some people get all irate about.
Google "Walter Mead" and "Jacksonian" - he has an excellent essay on American Political Thought - it is incredibly accurate...if you have ever wondered why American Wars are fought like they are - or why American Politics seem so screwed up - look at his essay...After you read it, realize, I am a Jacksonian.
It is why, I had no problem with going to Desert Storm or OIF. Those kids in Oakland? - mostly Jacksonians. The people who run the Country, run the US State Department? - Jeffersonians? Not bad people, really, just head-in-the-sky dreamers....which leave the rest of us to clean up the mess.

Interesting article! I'm about halfway through it, but I stopped to come here and comment on one of the things mentioned at the beginning- American targeting of civilians. I've always wondered why that didn't make a bigger ripple here. As far as I can tell, we'd always seen ourselves as the good guys because (even though it wasn't always that clear-cut), our soldiers fought other soldiers. Then in WWII, we fire bombed Dresden and took out two Japanese cities.
Without getting into the military or moral costs/benefits of having done so, it strikes me as odd that it didn't register as a significant difference in direction.

I'm probably going to end up falling under the Jacksonian label, even though I like Thomas Jefferson much more than Andrew Jackson.

Mostly I think "effectiveness" matters more than any named ideology, insofar as whatever you believed at a distance should take second place to what you find when you get there. I have very little tolerance for discussions about (any) policy by people whose opinions are formed without 1) firsthand involvement in the issue, and 2) a willingness to understand the other side.

It's been my experience that people usually make the best decision they can see at the time. Writing them or their decisions off as 'evil' isn't helpful unless you're prepared to kill them all, or enforce your denial of their humanity through continued superior firepower. I guess what all that comes down to is that I think negotiating a mutually acceptable solution is preferable to imposing one. (And yes, I'm aware that time-window is often past by the time troops arrive.)

P.S. Religion throws a monkey wrench into everything. When you have people who believe that there's a higher authority than anything they'd otherwise take into consideration... and that the wishes of this higher authority have to be interpreted through ancient writings from people living in a very different time... you get people who don't respond to reason.

Religion? - as life goes on, I really don't see religion as much of a force as I used to.Religion is the rationalization, the excuse, the way people cloak their rational and self-serving petty interests in a veil of "respectability". But...most people, especiall Americans - will drop a religion that isn't going the same way THEY want to go.

Or more likely, drop the parts of the religion that don't support going the way they want to go, while keeping the useful parts so that they can get away with more than they could without the religion as an excuse.
(Sorry about the convoluted sentence structure.)

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