Friday, December 30, 2011

Happy New Year

Please enjoy this arbitrary point in time that in a sociological sense we all agree to define and celebrate as the beginning of another sequence of 365 days. So, in this particular frivolous light, Happy New Year!

How to Live a “Good” Life...

  1. Get a skill.
  2. Hang with people who don’t put you down to bring themselves up.
  3. Don’t get to low on bad days…keep breathing…function get through it.
  4. Don’t get to high on great days…eventually you come back down.
  5. Appreciate what you have and don’t worry excessively about what you don’t have.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Declaration of Independence: An Informal Vernacular Annotation by David Sepe (7/4/10)

Today is the 4th of July. On this day in 1776 one of the “timeless documents” of the Enlightenment was bestowed upon the world. The key points of the Enlightenment (Thank you, John Locke), as well as in our Declaration of Independence, are as follows:

1. Nature has a Law to govern itself: REASON
2. Divine Right (Idea that one human can politically determine the outcome of another human life based on a belief that “God” chose them to rule over the many) was to be abolished.
3. Political Power is to be exercised with the “consent of the governed.”
4. Freedom, Rights, and Opportunities need to be protected, in writing.

When in the course of human events, (THINGS HAPPEN IN LIFE…THINGS CHANGE…WHAT I WANT TODAY MAY NOT BE WHAT I WANT TOMORROW…) it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, (AND SOMETIMES PEOPLE NEED TO SPLIT APART OR MOVE AWAY FROM OTHERS) and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, (TO BECOME WHO THEY WANT TO BE AND NOT LIVE A LIFE UNDER THE CONTROL OF ANOTHER OPINION…MUCH LIKE A CHILD WILL ONE DAY BE EQUAL TO THEIR PARENTS IN THAT THE CHILD WILL GROW INTO A 40 YEAR OLD AND SHOULD HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE DECISIONS FOR THEIR OWN FAMILIES) a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation (THE REASONABLE THING TO DO IS COME RIGHT OUT IN THE OPEN AND TELL THE OTHER ENTITY WHY THEY NEED TO CHANGE THE CURRENT ORDER OF THINGS).


That all men are created equal; (ALL MEN/HUMANS ARE EQUAL IN THE OPPORTUNITY TO DEVELOP INTO THE PERSON THEY WANT TO BECOME…THEY ARE NOT EQUAL IN OUTCOME…THIS THEORY IS FOUND IN NATURE, MUCH LIKE GRAVITY…WHEN YOU DROP A PEN OR AN APPLE FROM 3 FEET…THEY BOTH DROP TO THE GROUND AT THE SAME RATE…THE APPLE IS NOT GIVEN MORE OF AN ADVANTAGE DUE TO ITS GREATER SIZE) that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; (THAT SOURCE WHICH CREATED EXISTENCE PLACED WITHIN ALL HUMANS THE RIGHT TO OPPORTUNITIES) that among these are life, (THRIVE) liberty, (FREE TO CHOOSE THE OPPORTUNITIES THAT ALLOW FOR ONE TO THRIVE) and the pursuit of happiness (PROPERTY AND POSSESSIONS THAT ONE NEEDS TO THRIVE); that, to secure these rights (FREEDOMS AND OPPORTUNITIES), governments (LAW MAKING ENTITY…LAWS ARE MANMADE LIMITATIONS OF THE SCOPE OF A CITIZENS RIGHTS, FREEDOMS, AND OPPORTUNITES…LAWS ARE NOT FREEDOMS…FREEDOMS ARE FREEDOMS…OPPORTUNITIES ARE OPPORTUNITIES…FREEDOMS ARE FREEDOMS) are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed (POWER TO CREATE A LAW, OR A LIMITATION OF A FREEDOM, COMES FROM THE PEOPLE WHO ARE BEING “GOVERNED” BY THAT LAW…THE POWER TO ELECT REPRESENTATIVES WHO BECOME LAW MAKERS RESTS IN THE HANDS OF THE ELECTORATE); that whenever any form of government (LAW MAKING ENTITY) becomes destructive of these ends (LAWS THAT LIMIT CITIZENS OPPORTUNITIES), it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government (LAW MAKING ENTITY), laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness (WE GET THE GOVNERNMENT WE DESERVE). Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments (LAW MAKING ENTITY) long established should not be changed for light and transient causes (i.e. RAISING OR LOWERING TAXES DUE TO SOUND MONETARY AND FISCAL POLICIES); and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government (LAW MAKING ENTITY), and to provide new guards for their future security (WHEN GOVERNMENTS MAKE LAWS WHICH LIMIT FREEDOMS, RIGHTS, AND OPPORTUNITIES…IT’S UP TO THE PEOPLE TO ACT…WITHIN “LAWFUL” MEANS). Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies (WE TRIED BEING “COOL” ABOUT IT, BUT THE KING, AN ABSOLUTE LAW MAKER, NEVER LISTENED TO US…AND NOW WE HAVE TO “GO OFF,” DUE TO THE SIMPLE FACT THAT KING IS MAKING LAWS WHICH ARE RECKLESSLY AFFECTING OUR LIVES AND IF WE SIT AND DO NOTHING, OUR FREEDOMS WILL BE EXTINGUISHED); and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states (THE KING WON’T LISTEN TO US…HIS LAWMAKING PROCESS IS NOT “REASONABLE.” .” IT’S NOT BASED ON “SCIENTIFIC OBSERVATIONS” OF HUMAN NATURE. THE KING KEEPS TALKING ABOUT “GOD” SAYING HE’S IN CHARGE, YET I PRAY TO THE SAME “GOD” AND “GOD” NEVER MENTIONED ANYTHING TO ME ABOUT THE KING BEING THE ABSOLUTE “BOSS OF ME.”). To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighboring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to complete the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms (WE REALLY TRIED BEING COOL ABOUT THINGS): Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury (EVERYTIME THE KING RESPONDED IN AN IRRATIONAL MANNER BY STATING HE DID NOT EVEN HAVE TO LISTEN TO OUR PROBLEMS). A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people. (GOD DID NOT BLINDLY GIVE TO ANY ONE PERSON THE POWER TO DETERMINE THE OPPORTUNITEIS OF OTHERS)

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us (YOU CAN’T MAKE THE LAWS FOR US IF WE DON’T HAVE REPRESENTATIVES HELPING TO MAKE THE LAWS) . We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America (FIRST TIME THE “UNITED STATES OF AMERICA” WAS PUT IN PRINT, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved (THAT’S IT…WE’RE BROKEN UP); and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Monday, May 30, 2011

What is School?

One day I was once asked to answer these questions...

"Share your thoughts about the notion of schooling. Through the advent of the Internet, how has the notion of school changed? Consider the adaptations necessary for schools, teachers, and students. How do you imagine this will continue to change? After reflecting on these questions, write your own definition of "school."

A simple and superficial definition of "schooling" is that it is a process of developing a set of skills.

How has the Internet changed our notion of school? Well, the Internet has altered our senses as it relates to perceived limitations of various cognitive and physical functions in time and space, as it relates to the acquisition of data and information.

As an example, 20 years ago I would have had absolutely no clue as to how to find information about the basics of "militant Islam." I would assume that I would have had to get in my car and drive to various physical sites, where I would have to ask complete strangers in the hopes of finding someone that I could ask about "militant Islam."

So, time and space placed limitations on my abilities to acquire the information that I desired and deemed relevant to my specific needs.

Today, I would go to Google, Yahoo, or one of the multitudes of search engines, and type in "militant Islam" in the text field and select from a myriad of options. Time and space are no longer a hindrance to my desire to find and learn "data/information x" within a particular context.

As it relates to the question of how will schools, teachers, and students have to adapt, I find several interesting possibilities. However, even before discussing this cultural evolution, a more practical question to ask is "What's the purpose of school? What's worth learning" (Plato's Republic). However, I shall digress. At this point, I’ll offer a simple definition simply for the sake of this particular exercise…

School: A "place" where one develops skills to help live a good life.

Obviously there are numerous debates to be had as it relates to what skills one should acquire and develop. Also, as a good Socratic would question, who gets to define the simple meaning of the word "good?" Does the state, the individual, or the family get to define this particular word? Again, for the sake of this exercise, I would take the Socratic view that “good” is “…all words and deeds which lead to the betterment of an individual and others around them, or at least does no harm.” With all that having been said, let’s look at the nature of the education establishment within our current society, as it relates to the question of how schools will “adapt,” then make mention of the cultural evolution technology has wrought.

Since I would argue the perceived failings of the public school system is due to the backwards approach the education establishment has taken in its perceived importance to our society.

Again, of all the major professions within our society, the schools are always the most backwards and passive. In medicine, new research leads to new methods, which in turn lead to new expectations within our society. In law, new precedents lead to “new” or evolving societal expectations as it relates to reproductive rights, same-sex marriage, immigration status, etc. In the military, certain aspects of basic training are being revised due to the “new” or evolving fighting conditions within Iraq and Afghanistan. Again, this is leading to new expectations within our society of what a soldier, marine, airman, or seaman is.

However, in the United States public school system, there is this entrenched belief that the school system has all the answers and the students must submit or suffer according to what the school system believes should be important to society. In so doing, this leads to a disconnect at times, between the schools and the communities they are theoretically to serve.

In some communities “school” means different things. As an example, where I teach, my students are the sons and daughters, for the most part, of lower “middle-class” laborers. These are guys and girls who like auto shop, wood shop, and if we had it they would most likely excel at metal shop, electrical shop, and the other trades.

In fact, at our school we have a “construction team.” Its teacher, has been recognized by the state of California as one of the most innovative teachers in the state. The team consists of over one hundred students, who actually go out in the community, on their own time, willingly, and construct various “public works” projects around the community. Projects such as doing home repairs for lower income homeowners, pouring concrete at a private construction site, and building wheel-chair access ramps to those who need it around the community are just a few of the projects. In fact, there was some “build a dollhouse” competition, god knows where, and one of “our” students spent 6 months designing it, constructing it, and finally displaying it. I mean this thing was 6 feet tall and about 10 feet wide, it had two stories, it had electrical, and it had furniture. This thing was “tricked out.” He won first prize. He earned a $1,000 scholarship. Then someone purchased it from him for $2,500. He also failed my history class and two other “important” academic classes.

I talked to him about his plans for the future. He’s going to work for his uncle’s construction company. He figures he knows how to write his name, he knows not to stick his finger in the electrical outlets around his house or in public buildings, he knows to look both ways before crossing the street, he knows he’s not allowed to rob banks or commit murder, he can read and write simple sentences, he can count up to a trillion if he had to, he can do simple addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and does daily in wood shop (yes, he failed Algebra II). Yet, he’s been put on “academic probation” and threatened with being “kicked out” off the construction team if his grades don’t improve. Amazing!

He said if that happens he’ll drop out, get his GED, and go to work for his uncle.

The point of this is that for some the public schools are not working not because the teachers are bad (some are), the parents don’t care (some don’t), or the students don’t care (some don’t). The reason why there are issues within our society is that the school establishment doesn’t get it. The schools are there to serve the society. Just as the law, medical, and military establishments are designed to serve society. The schools should not make demands of the market that the market does not wish to meet.

So, before we start addressing how “technology” will lead to the evolution of a “new and improved” school system, let’s look at the issue of community relevance and the concept of the school reflecting and representing the needs of a particular community.

Now, how does the “technological” evolution of our society potentially impact our schools, future teachers, and students?

It’s simple, as the iPhone and Rock Band generation grow up, they will become the future teachers. An understanding of how data is acquired and how information is harvested from that data will naturally evolve, and a new “paradigm” of “what school is” will emerge. Nonetheless, I would argue that 25 years from today, or 100 years from today, the basic underlying foundation of "what school is," will be similar.

School: A "place" where one develops skills to help live a good life.

Why Do Students Give Apples to Teachers?

Well, there is no true origin of “why students give apples to teachers.” It’s more of a mythology of an image which has perpetuated itself upon us over the past century. It’s equal to images of the first Thanksgiving with perfectly clean Pilgrims and happy beaming “Indians” eating pies and sharing a peace-pipe. It’s not to say that the Pilgrims and certain Indian tribes didn’t get along, it’s just that an image which was painted 400 years later becomes the iconic image for that particular event. The point being, no one knows for sure how the first “Thanksgiving” went, but right or wrong, that’s the image most Americans have today. This perpetuated mythology also leads most Americans to believe that the wall carvings and art of ancient Egyptian have the Pharaohs “walking like Egyptians.” There are no carvings or wall paintings having them “walking like Egyptians.”

There are no records to indicate that students bringing apples to school teachers ever actually ever happened en masse. Again, it’s not to say that it didn’t happen. It’s just not recorded that every student brought an apple to every teacher.

Now, I’ve heard others hold fast to a belief that it all came about in the 19th century when most of America was rural and that apples were given to teachers as a kind act in the light of a teacher’s low wages. I’ve also heard that it was a way of a student to show a teacher their appreciation for their abilities by hoping that the gift of the apple would ward away sickness, thus insuring that the teacher would be in class and not absent due to illness. Lastly, there is a more cynical image of a student giving an apple to a teacher as a means of ingratiating themselves to the teacher in the hopes of a good grade.

In the present day when students or parents wish to show their appreciation for a teacher’s efforts small tokens are usually presented in the form of $5-20 gift cards, homemade perishables or crafts, etc.

Today, the act of a student giving a teacher an apple has essentially become a parody of itself.

President Ronald Reagan

Well, for what it's worth…President Ronald Reagan worked for America at that point in time in which he was direly needed. He lowered taxes, the economy seems that the individual knows more how to spend their money than the government does. Case in point, more "people of color (love that phrase)," moved up socio-economically than in any other previous decade since the Civil War. Also, Reagan's increased military-budget spending (based on increased tax revenue due to more people spending their money on various consumer goods that they wished to consume) led to R&D of something which will later be called "the Internet," not sure if that has helped society out (sarcasm intended). Reagan's increased military spending led to more aggressive advances in cellular technology, digital technology, as well as a host of medical advances from those "evil big phrama" companies. In this oversimplified explanation, this increased Reagan spending led to the Communist world spending money it did not have in an attempt to keep up on the "technology gap." Communism did not work due to it's failure to recognize human nature in the political and economic process. People do not wish to be equal in outcome, but equal in opportunity...Now was Reagan without his negatives...nope. However, society flourished as most boats raised economically as more people spent their money...

I'll leave you with this, President Obama want to spend 30 billion dollars to stimulate the economy...why not give back to the people, their contribution (taxes) to the state, I haven't run the numbers, but say each contributor gets $10,000. What would be the result? People buying what they's getting remodeled, cars being purchased, bills being paid off (which in turn would lead to future spending), etc...We the people would stimulate the economy...not the government...let the people choose what and how much of product "x" is to be supplied to the market? Bottom line of Reagan...give the people back their money and let them spend it...and reap the tax revenue at the state and federal level...Yes, I endorse this diatribe...

Happy Birthday...

Please enjoy this arbitrary point in time, and the beginning of another sequence of 365 days, that in a sociological sense we all agree to define and celebrate as the stage in which the gestation phase of your existence, and through the grace of nature’s design, was concluded. Consequently, due to many years of societal habituation, by way of peer-pressure, an array of ulterior-motives, or through the perceptive sense of true happiness or love, we choose to acknowledge the closing stages of your development within the reproductive female carbon-based host which led to the “birthing progression.” A course of action which allowed for the myriad of chemical, light, and mechanical sensory functions which comprise your being to be placed within this present and sustainable living environment. So, in this particular frivolous light, Happy Birthday!