The wisdom around us

Jul. 23rd, 2017 09:49 pm
[syndicated profile] restoringmayberry_feed

Posted by Brian Kaller

Sorry about the lack of posts; I've had some computer problems. 

If we want to learn from people in more traditional eras, we can do several things; we can read books and journals from that era, from before fossil fuels or electricity, before cars or internet, before everything became cheap and fast and thrown away. Some books from that era remain widely read; Mark Twain and Laura Ingalls Wilder from the USA, Jane Austen or Charles Dickens from England, and I would encourage readers to can go back farther in history to medieval writers or Ancient Greeks and Romans. We can also read historians who specialise in everyday life, or people today who still practice traditional crafts and write about it – I recommend John Seymour and Scott Savage, among others.

Many people today are forced by poverty to live simpler lives, as in the Third World, but their circumstances are often less healthy, literate or safe than those of 20thcentury Ireland. We in the West have too few first-person narratives from people who grew up in such poverty, and their cultures, climates and languages often pose a barrier to understanding.

We can talk to people closer to home who grew up with very little – say, people who grew up in trailer parks or slums – but again, they experienced a different kind of poverty. Most families I know in my native USA grew up with a lot of television, little freedom and the constant threat of violence; in many ways, they experienced the opposite of my Irish neighbours.

We can talk to people Western countries today who grew up living more simply than most Americans today – say, Amish, Mennonites or plain Quakers. Such groups, however, typically withdrew from the world because they have a rigid and insular culture, making them reluctant to share with outsiders and making their habits less relatable. I wasn’t just interested in sitting and watching television shows about people living simpler and more traditional lives; I wanted to learn how to do so myself.

We can talk to elderly Americans who remember the mid-20th century, and I have talked to quite a few over the years and learned a great deal. Their world, however, is not too unfamiliar; if you talk to a 70-year-old American, you are still talking to someone who grew up watching television and sitting in traffic.

That’s what makes my Irish neighbours so valuable; they are among the last Westerners on Earth, speaking English and now living in a familiar modern world -- to grow up in the pre-modern world, before electricity and modern media, before cars and modern devices. As late as the 1960s in Ireland, by contrast, fewer than one per cent of Irish owned a car, relying instead on feet and horses. As late as the 1970s many areas lacked electricity, meaning not just electric lights but radio and television.

Their lack of modern influences kept the culture parochial and traditional even into modern times; birth control was legalised only in 1978, and divorce only in 1995. My elderly neighbours grew up with different priorities from people today; they had skills, not career tracks, and lived not as individuals but as members of something greater. Their homes were filled with family members who pitched in with the work of getting food and water and warmth, and the ones who worked outside the home brought in the little money they needed for a few luxuries.

At gatherings they sang songs and told stories that were hundreds of years old, passed down like prayers from father to son, mother to daughter. They grew up knowing the histories of their cousins and neighbours, who were often the same people. When I ask them to remember a certain decade in their lives, they remember their childhood adventures and adult duties, the aging and passing of family, the passing down of traditions.  

Of course, the Ireland my neighbours talk about has mostly disappeared, replaced by a modern country not very different from the USA or Britain; drive along the major roads near our house and you sit in traffic jams, pass billboards and fast-food stops, see advertisements for Hollywood blockbusters, and hear wacky morning-zoo DJs on the radio. Cities are filled with young people constantly staring at little glowing rectangles, addicted to video-games or social media, increasingly dependent on touching a screen to get the basic needs of life. Raising a teenager here means talking about “sexting,” drugs, date rapes – the same uncomfortable parent-child discussions as you need to have anywhere these days. It’s difficult enough for older Americans who grew up with television and movies, albeit an older and gentler variety. Older Irish I talk to feel like they are living in a foreign country.

When I moved to rural Ireland 15 years ago, I admit, there was a lot to get used to. Ireland lies at the same latitude as southern Alaska, so the winter nights can be eighteen hours long, and the days quite dim. During the summer we have the opposite problem, and I have to cover the windows with tinfoil to get any sleep. It rains one day out of three – that’s the price you pay for the lush countryside – and even in summer it never gets very warm. 

Nonetheless, my family and I made a go of living here, building a house and garden and turning the land into a homestead. We grew some of our own food, kept chickens and bees, and learned as we went. I’d always loved traditional crafts, so I learned whatever I could about skills being kept alive by a few devoted aficionados. I tried my hand at blacksmithing, basketry, hedge-laying, natural building, bush-craft, leather-working, book-binding, brewing, pickling, cheese-making and wine-making, sometimes just dabbling, sometimes making it into a hobby.

I had to work in Dublin to pay the bills, which meant three hours a day on the bus and back each day. That meant devoting the few remaining waking hours each day to doing chores on the land, feeding possibly checking the bees, doing some traditional crafts, giving my daughter home-schooling lessons and having a writing career on the side.

Thankfully, I discovered that was much more feasible than you might imagine; a garden, animals and crafts can take up perhaps an hour or two a day, and you can learn a great deal while working around a regular life. It’s not being entirely self-sufficient or off the grid, in the manner of doomsday preppers or reality-television eccentrics, but I don’t need that kind of life, and you probably don’t either. Many people I know just want to be more self-reliant, or have fun learning skills, or to pollute less, or spend less money, or work with the land instead of against it – all things that go along with the old-fashioned skills I was learning.

Most of all, I talked with elderly people, and realised what a different world they had grown up in, and what an underappreciated resource they were. I struck up conversations with neighbours passing on the road, or having tea at their house, or sitting next to them on the long bus ride to Dublin, or visiting the local old folks’ home. Occasionally I asked them if I could sit down for formal interviews, and sat down with a camera and audio recorder.

I found that Irish radio had done occasional documentaries on traditional life, that school-children had collected the memories of their grandparents, that documentarians had filmed Irish villagers decades ago, and that historical societies and local experts had scrapbooks filled with the minutiae of day-to-day life. I listened to hundreds of hours of recordings and read thousands of pages of transcripts, collecting the details of their everyday lives.

Again, I’m not trying to romanticise their difficult lives, or claim that they didn’t have their own problems, or that the world hasn’t improved in certain ways – of course it has. I’m not saying that we could or should do exactly what they did, or that all traditional societies were as beneficial as the examples I use. Of course Ireland in the fifties was quite different from America in the 1950s, and from many other traditional times and places, and of course I’ll be cherry-picking good qualities from many times and places and ignoring the downsides of each era. There’s no perfect past that I’m demanding we emulate.

I am saying that certain peoples in history created societies that were healthy, educated, clean, happy – by their own testimony – and ran on little energy, generated little waste and needed little government. I want to look at how they did these things, and what we can learn from them.

"I Want To Remind You . . ."

Jul. 23rd, 2017 01:36 pm
[syndicated profile] teacher_tom_feed

Posted by Teacher Tom

When I first started teaching my own class of 3-5 year olds, I had this idea that the children should make their own rules. I'm sure I'm not the first to have had this idea, and I had probably heard about other classrooms that had done it, but when I set about turning this important project over to the children I only had a vague idea about how it would work. Indeed, I'd not really even thought about the process, nor the consequences: I just started with the idea that it was the right thing to do.

You see, I didn't want to spend my days bossing other people around, telling them "Don't hit," or "Don't run in the hallway." I didn't want to be forever chirping, "We don't hit our friends," or "We use walking feet indoors," statements that may have the virtue of sounding gentler, but are still commands (coupled with a kind of lie because, quite clearly "we" do hit and run or there would be no need to say anything). 

You can read here for a more step-by-step description of how we do it, but we start our year in an official state of anarchy. Typically within the first few days someone has complained, "She hit me!" or "He took that from me!" That is when I say, "It sounds like you don't like that. Does anyone like to be hit?" The answer is always a universal "no," so I respond, "Well then we all agree, no hitting. I'm going to write that down so we can all remember." Then I ceremoniously tear off a long sheet of butcher paper and hang it on the wall, writing "No hitting" with a Sharpie marker that I've been carrying in my back pocket expressly for this purpose. That usually opens the flood gates and we quickly compile a list of agreements about how we are going to treat one another, one that we will be adding to throughout the year. I'm trying really hard to refer to them as "agreements," but we continue to mostly call them as "rules."

The longer I've taught, the more I've come to see these agreements as one of the cornerstones of what we do together. As for me, instead of saying, "Don't hit!" I'm saying, "We all agreed, no hitting." It might sound like a difference without a distinction, but what you can't see without being there is how the children so often turn to look at that piece of butcher paper, this reminder of the sacred agreements they made with their friends. They can't read it, of course, but they know it's there, because they put in there themselves via my hand. Many stand looking at our list in a kind of reverence, which indeed deserves, because after all, what is more sacred than the agreements free people make with one another?

Many years ago my pal Henry was a two-year-old and he often found the noise and chaos of our full, robust classroom to be a bit overwhelming, so he spent many of his days huddled up with one of his favorite adults in a corner under our loft reading books. As a three-year-old, however, he began to take a strong interest in our agreements, partaking fully in the ongoing process. He had a passion for men in uniforms and frequently pretended to be a fire fighter or soldier. One day I spied him roaming the room with his hands over his head, rapidly flexing his fingers open and closed. I asked him what he was doing and he replied "I'm the police," with his hands representing the lights atop his squad car.

I asked, "Oh, are you giving out tickets?"

He looked at me blankly for a moment, then said, "No, I'm reminding kids when they break the rules." And sure enough, that's what he was doing, sidling up to his classmates to say, "I want to remind you, we all agreed, no pushing," and "I want to remind you, we all agreed, no taking things from other people," echoing the words he had heard me use. The difference was that when I do it, they tend to then look at the butcher paper, but when Henry did it, they looked right back at him, peer-to-peer, some of them even saying, "Thank you," but all of them reacting to his reminder by changing their behavior, reminded of their agreement.

As I watched him "police" the room, moving calmly from place to place I was moved by the thought that this is how he was making order from chaos; that this is how we were making order from chaos, our sacred agreements at the core of who we are.

Hey friends! I'm currently in Australia where I'm appearing in venues around the country. I'd love to meet you! A few of the events are sold out, but there is still room in others. If you're interested, click here for details about my "tour."

Also . . .

I've just published a book! If you are interested in ordering Teacher Tom's First Book, click here. Thank you!

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
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[syndicated profile] thebloggess_feed

Posted by thebloggess

So in the morning we leave for our road trip and you can follow it on instagram but before we left I had to post this video of Dorothy Barker so that I can watch it on repeat when I … Continue reading

Lesson #3243 - Want?

Jul. 22nd, 2017 10:30 am
[syndicated profile] survivingtheworld_feed

But either way, your friends are NO FRIENDS OF MINE, they do NOT DANCE, and thus, they are NO FRIENDS

(I am a terrible friend)

Lesson #3242 - Credibility

Jul. 21st, 2017 10:30 am
[syndicated profile] survivingtheworld_feed

I guess I made a comic a few years ago about a recipe for credibility and I'm pretty sure that this administration has gotten the recipe so horribly wrong that it's gotten absurd.

Chapter 63: Page 22

Jul. 21st, 2017 12:00 am
[syndicated profile] gunnerkrigg_feed
Cool beans.
I've started regularly posting small autobio strips to my Patreon page for Patrons only! Head over and take a look, or even consider supporting me and the comic if you want to take a little look behind the scenes.


Jul. 20th, 2017 11:37 pm
[syndicated profile] questionable_content_feed

Ads by Project Wonderful! Your ad could be here, right now.

Alice Grove is finished. I'm going to take some time to just do QC for a while and then start another side project sometime in the fall. Patreon subscribers will get sneak peeks, advance previews, and other stuff as it develops. Thank you for reading my comics.

[syndicated profile] girlswithslingshots_feed

New comic!

Today's News:

God bless Laeluu's coloring skills on that first panel, dang.">Here's the old strip! Sorry you're reading about Christmas in July! ;)

Is ADHD A Fraud?

Jul. 20th, 2017 12:42 pm
[syndicated profile] teacher_tom_feed

Posted by Teacher Tom

According to the American Psychiatric Association, 11 percent of American kids (over 6 million of them) have ADHD (attention deficit hyperactive disorder). I'm not a psychiatrist, but I know the symptoms (inattention, hyperactivity, impulsivity) and I can honestly say that of the hundreds of children that have passed my way over the past couple decades, I've never met one upon whom I would hang that label.

Now, I admit to be completely unqualified to make that diagnosis, but you would think that by now I would have run across at least one child who set off my alarm bells. Or perhaps there is something about our school that attracts non-ADHD kids, or maybe I'm looking right at the symptoms and just see normal behavior, or it could be that the folks performing the diagnoses are wrong more often than they are right.

Well-regarded Harvard psychologist Jerome Kegan tends to think that ADHD is largely a fraud foisted upon us by pharmaceutical companies seeking to move their merchandise. I certainly can see that: the profit motive, when applied to things like healthcare and education, endeavors that simply can't be measured by dollars and cents, tends to warp things. For instance, there is an entire industry of for-profit "education corporations" (e.g., Pearson) that make their money by providing education-ish products like high stakes standardized tests and test prep materials and other nonsense that have little to do with learning and everything to do with returning dividends to their investors. It doesn't take a cynic to see that for-profit pharmaceutical companies don't the same thing, not always (or even rarely) placing health outcomes ahead of their bottom line.

That said, I know there are good, loving parents out there who insist that not only has their child "suffered" from ADHD, but that drugs have saved them. And, of course, folks like Dr. Kegan, no matter how well regarded, and there are those who consider him a modern day Carl Jung, are in a small minority. After all, ADHD has been included in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) since 1968. If it's a complete fraud then it runs broad and deep.

So, the odds are against it being a total fraud, but I still have my question: why have I never seen it? I've spotted autism. I've identified sensory issues. I've even seen bi-polarity (although I wasn't quite sure what it was) but I've not once thought to myself, "That kid has ADHD." It may be for any of the reasons I've listed above, but I think the most likely explanation is that the behaviors that define it simply don't show up as a "problem" in a play-based curriculum, while inattentive, hyperactive, and impulsive children are a problem in traditional schools where adults determine what, how, and when a child should do things, where teachers are responsible for herding large groups of children through material that may or may not be interesting to them. Traditional schools emphasize paying attention, sitting still, and concentrating on one thing at a time and children who struggle with that simply show up as a problem. I mean, that's tough for any kid, let alone one with a highly energetic brain and body. In contrast, when we don't place those artificial expectations on kids, like in a play-based curriculum, the "problem" disappears.

No, I suspect that for the most part, ADHD is mental health disorder that largely only exists under certain, unnatural circumstances, namely in traditional schools or when adults try to make a living at a temperamentally unsuitable careers. Indeed, I figure that the thing we call ADHD might well be, as author Thom Hartmann argues, an important aspect of human evolution. Like so many things we call "disorders" in children it's time we started considering that we aren't looking at a problem with the kids, but rather a problem with us and what we unfairly, and perhaps even cruelly, expect of them.

Hey friends! I'm currently in Australia where I'm appearing in venues around the country. I'd love to meet you! A few of the events are sold out, but there is still room in others. If you're interested, click here for details about my "tour."

Also . . .

I've just published a book! If you are interested in ordering Teacher Tom's First Book, click here. Thank you!

I put a lot of time and effort into this blog. If you'd like to support me please consider a small contribution to the cause. Thank you!
Bookmark and Share
[syndicated profile] girlswithslingshots_feed

New comic!

Today's News:

Gabby's gonna learn even weirder words from jamie, but none of them will translate to English.">Here's the old one!


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