Tuesday, March 27, 2001

For Unifying Conceit in Knowledge: Obvious and Formative Fundamentals

Our director of education has made the statement that "teachers" are not
professionals because they do not have an oath to which they swear by, nor
do they have a "patron philosopher" to adulate , nor some cool slogan in
Latin that explains who are what we do. Teachers are unlike doctors who have
taken an oath to "do no harm". Or lawyers who have take an oath "to uphold
the law". (Yeah, like that happens on a regular basis!) But the conflict
here is that teachers do not have an oath connecting their profession to
some obscure presence of mythology. (Of course when pressed I explained that
"Nurse" take an "oath" and therefore must be "professionals" but somehow
they do not fit into the professional schema of my director's dissertation.)

Needless to say, teachers are hard spent to prove that they are worthy
professionals. But then let us look upon their manner: most teachers I know
do not dress professionally, no as a matter of fact since the "freedom" wrought
on us by the Boomer generation the desire for professionalism is almost looked
upon as a "disease" a sickness of the corporate hierarchy. It has become
standard dress to wear jeans and slacks and sports shirts to work. Now I
enjoy a good "sports" shirt or "camp" shirt and wear them often, ok, all
the time when I am not working. But with my students I want to give them
a sense of direction a sense of self-esteem by modeling that "Yes Billy,
anybody can grow up to be successful" because that IS the American Dream
after all: success.

How we define that success is a whole different can of worms. By dressing
down so that we may look more "casual" comfortable "hip" or "in" (read: younger
) we have also brought down the respect of a world who no longer looks upon
us as "authorities in our fields". Ah yes the a-word. But why is "authority"
when used in this context wrong? Authority does not mean I get to push you
around. That is what "respect" now means. Authority simply states that one
is knowledgeable on a subject, enough so that others may come to them for
instruction, guidance, or acceptance.

And is that not the role of teachers? We are the guiding force, the instructors,
the people who accept you without judgement

I believe that anyone can become a teacher but not everyone can teach. And
when I hear statements like: 'the best teachers aren't teachers', 'teachers
are over-educated and over-rated' it gets my whirly gig spinning. Because
on many levels I agree with these statements and I state that not all teachers
are good teachers, hell half the teachers aren't even teachers. But we did
this to ourselves and now that we are in the camp and lumped together with
the pities and the fighters a change has to take place. Not everyone can
teach but not all good teachers need be teachers - it would be nice however
if we could get the two together.

The teacher profession has fallen to laziness, sloth, greed, and shoddiness.
We walk about wondering why we aren't respected nor treated well like other
"professions" and then there are some that would say that we are not even
a profession!

But we do have a "patron philosopher of mythical proportions" (he's Greek
too!) that exemplifies all that is great and decent about our profession
and that is Aristotle: the greatest teacher of them all. (I know some would
say it was Jesus but Jesus had simple lessons like: 'love one another' and
we his students have been failing that test miserably for thousands of years).
Aristotle in simple words: "teaching is the highest form of understanding."

And there we have it: a Greek philosopher, an "oath" and as for those cool
words to live by?

I propose these: For Unifying Conceit in
Knowledge: Obvious and Formative Fundamentals

Tuesday, March 20, 2001


I want to teach mishistory. In the current issue of
 there is an article about the
Mercator projection map and the
projection map
and how the western Eurocentric viewpoint has skewed students
for generations. (And for those lucky few who were paying attention: this
same argument was presented on an episode of "The West Wing" albeit with
not a very favorable view, still it was broadcast on national TV - maybe
our kids will learn something!) This skewing is based on how we see the world,.
our perceptions, perspectives our "hidden curriculum". This article does
a great job exposing the hidden curriculum between the differences of the
Mercator projection (starting somewhere about Germany as the center most
point East to West as well as North and South.) The Peters' projection focuses
more on the equator but still leaves the "projection" misshapen.

But, alas, what is good about this article is that it talks about the hidden
curriculum, that information we present without realizing that we are presenting
it. The misguided "modeling" of fallacy. And nothing gets me riled and ranting
like the teaching of fallacy as truth, fundamental doctrine as the "standard".

I have a "squeeze" ball, you know one of those things you are supposed to
squeeze when you are angry. Mine happens to be a model of the earth. I like
this because it is soft and flexible and does not hurt when I toss it at
my students. I do this to get them to rethink their perspectives. I toss
them the "earth" and then ask them quite loudly and publicly: "Which is the
top of the ball?" Invariably they will spin the earth until the North Pole
or Arctic Ocean is on top and say "This is." I then toss them a plain red
squeeze ball and again ask them which part is the top of the ball. Here they
look at me and grin like I'm trying to pull something over on them and they
say "Mr. K this is a ball it doesn't have a top."

I then ask them to compare the two balls they have n their hands and have
them explain to me why one has a top and the other does not. This usually
leads into mass confusion where my students grab up their pitchforks and
shovels and try to route me out of the village.

I bring this up because of Western advancement and the Eurocentric view the
Arctic Ocean (according to the standardized Mercator projection map) is at
the top of the world. And therefore the Antarctic (which quite literally
means NOT the Arctic) Ocean is at the bottom of the world.

Why is this important? Please think for a moment: in America everything UP
is good. When we are happy we are "up" when we are sad, depressed, we are
"down". For those Christians notice they "climb up" to Heaven and fall "down"
to hell. Western civilization has associated UP with everything good and
positive and DOWN with everything bad and negative.

Try this simple experiment: ask your students to describe what they think
a typical city in North America is like. Then ask them what they think a
typical city is like in Central America, South America. If my assumptions
are correct most of the answers for the non-USA countries will be something
akin to grass huts or adobe shelters or something similar where everybody
either rides a donkey or an old school bus. But (again I am looking at a
generalization of students) they will not talk about skyscrapers, factories,
suburban homes and late model Acuras, Fords, or Volkswagens.

Why is this? Well many reasons but one is the misconception, the myth we
propagate every time we point at a map on the wall. We (good ol' USA) are
better because we are UP. We are ABOVE, all of the other countries, and therefore
we are civilized and important.

I have this map on my wall (it was designed by Lovell Johns, LTD of
Oxford, England).

On mine I have written the words "The World as Mr. K Sees It" because I am
trying to make a point. However, the map itself should tell you a lot. What
is even more educational is that MapQuest sells another in the exact same
colors and design but in the more traditional viewpoint.

The point? The point is awareness, awareness of everything in its own
perspective. I do not think that a child in Chile needs to believe that they
live at the bottom of the world, or (while it IS embraced as a badge of honor)
do we need to refer to people who live down under something? Just our simple
act of explaining the Gulf War Crisis or how when we point to where the soldiers
that were accidentally killed this week in Kuwait by friendly fire is a modeling
of how superior we are because "hey, we drew the map!"

I am reminded of that adage: 'history is written by the winners' - since
this is a fundamental truth I want to teach mishistory.

Friday, March 09, 2001

Ch Ch Ch ch changes -- remain the same

Change. Change is good, change is a welcome addition to a stagnant pool of
resources. "Life" as Dennis Miller put it "is like riding the bus, it requires
change." But "change" is a misnomer; a fallacy when we discuss the education
process and needs of our children. I was discussing this during one of our
'in-house' 'in-services'. Our goal was to put into simple and understanding
words the philosophy of our school. The words that careened about the room
all dealt with "changing" the behaviors of our children. "Our goal is to
modify the positive/negative behaviors…" and etc. This disheartens me:
being in a room of professional Special Education teachers who are practicing
"experts" in the field and the believe that we are "changing" behaviors in
these students.

Let me backtrack a bit: I teach in a school designed to educate youths with
Emotional/Behavior and other Learning Disabilities. All of us here are educated
and trained to do so. And here then lies the problem: we cannot "change"
the behaviors of these children and to believe we can is doing them a disservice.
But if a "school filled with Special Educators" believes in this myth - then
what does that say about the rest of us teachers?

More history: a hundred years ago or so a researcher played with the concept
of trying to discover what behavior was. This guy we remember as Pavlov noticed
that when he rang a bell at feeding time that his dogs would salivate whether
there was food or not. This was a conditioned response mechanism for behavior
modification. This and a few decades of research later developed into a theory
that we could modify the behavior sequencing of an organism by training it
"salivate" during a conditioned response. We discovered this technique by
researching on animals, mainly rats. We discovered that these animals could
be conditioned to respond in certain manners to a point of incredible
significance. It almost appeared that man modified the behaviors of these

The theories abound and evolve on this pretext. But here is a misconception
that has followed along. We "treat" animals and then claim that we can transfer
these modification techniques to people and treat them as well.


"BUT" I say. It is a well known and often proved fact that animals when
"treated" may "act" in accordance with their "natural" instinctive behaviors
and "go against" their treatment.
"BUT" You say "People are not animals we have a higher consciousness
…blah blah blah" and therefore they will not go against their treatment.
Because people are inherently superior than animals…

This is "Western" thought: the concept that people have "consciousness" superior
to all other of earth's creatures. This simple "fundamentalism" has wrought
more evil and misapplication of thought than any other singular entity. For
if we believe as many other cultures do that humans are an integral part
of a greater "force" or consciousness we can then understand that we "may"
salivate when you ring the bell but then again we may not. Keeping this in
mind, that we are not of superior consciousness, we can then understand more
readily that our students with emotional or behavioral learning disabilities
cannot be "changed" nor "modified". More likely than not, they cannot adapt

What WE need to do is teach them to be aware of themselves and how their
behaviors fit in the social fabric of their chosen society. We need to teach
them the strategies to deal with their own difficulties in order for them
to function in society. Did we change them? Is this modifying their behavior?
Will they turn and bite the hand that fed their minds?

I was told I was "arguing" semantics. But this is not semantics: semantics
is the difference between adapt-change-modify. As Behavior Specialists dealing
with Behavior Management (notice it does not say Behavior Changers in the
professional literature) we must remember that it is the management of behavior
that we are teaching and not an end all cure or change of bad habits. Because
yes, habits we can change, but behaviors we cannot.

It is with "knowing" our own limitations that we begin to know ourselves.