Always looking for the lesson… And so, what I learned from the Pope yesterday.

“No justification whatsoever for lack of housing”— Pope Francis

Symbolism is such a powerful force in education and in life. Now Imagine the spiritual discipline, fortitude, and the foresight to teach a powerful lesson to the “powerful”. A rejection and an acceptance, to be able to reject lunch with the legislative captains of an ineffective and inept government; and instead share a meal with the homeless; the victims of that same ineffective and inept government. Why celebrate with these politicians who make so much noise, and produce so little positive results on behalf of those who are the most in need in our nation. Not daring to “speak” for the Pope; but my imagination and interpretation of his decision is this:

Why should I celebrate and eat with you folks, when in the very capital, of the richest and most powerful nation on earth, and in the shadow of the capital, in the very center of your collective and individual powers; why on earth are people homeless, and why are they eating in a non-governmental St. Maria’s Meals program sponsored by catholic charities, instead of eating in their homes?

And my final take-away-lesson is this: I am sure that the feelings of the congressional legislative leaders were “hurt”; but as witnessed by Dr. King in his letter from his Birmingham jail cell; if in an unjust society you are not making the powerful leaders uncomfortable, and even causing them to perhaps have hurt feelings, then you are in solidarity and agreement with them, and against truth and justice. It is not enough to only “speak truth to power”; we must also act in truth on behalf of those who are the victims of unprincipled power.


LYNCHBURG, Va. – Senator Bernie Sanders took his message of confronting inequality to unfamiliar ground on Monday at Liberty University, a leading evangelical Christian college, where he sought to build what he called “common ground” with students, beginning with the foundations of Christianity itself: the Bible.”—NY Times 9/14/15

The Gospel truth (The truth of the good news as ordained by God) of Bernie delivered bravely to the “evangelical Christians”. These days how often do we see the opposite, those candidates who cynically, shamelessly and disrespectfully, play to the most base and unintelligent instincts of an audience. They scream to the lowest IQ number in racially cloaked anthems: “I am going to ‘un-Obama this’, and I will ‘de-Obama that’, ‘dismiss-Obama’ and all the while make sure that I ‘dis-Obama’’. They fail to say (and of course the audience is not interested) what will they do in the way of making the country just, better and right, not just angry, bitter and white. And so the rest of the candidate field is probably not prepared or willing to ask a Christian audience, to act, well like Christians!

But at Liberty College can they: “Handle the truth?” The “Religious-Right” have so wrongly mixed, joined and sealed their religious beliefs to an economic and political philosophy that suggest that the most rich, the most intolerant, the most selfish, the racially exclusive are favored by God.

They love (so they say) children, only as long as they are in the womb. If they were true advocates of the “family”; then why allow so many in the society to have their family structure destroyed by poor education, poverty and unemployment. And I think it is safe to say that prison definitely breaks up a family, why then would evangelical’s not be in the forefront of prison reform; and more important disrupting the prison to pipeline designed for the poor of our nation. They lack both the passion and compassion that is represented in the symbol of the Cross. Their sacred symbol and salvation is sought instead, in the dollar sign.
If these people were true evangelist, their message would sound, and make clear to all who witness them, that to be Christ-Like, is to care about the least, the left out, the neglected, exploited, the oppressed; being a Christian means to serve as a beacon of hope, in a world driven by cynical materialism and craven indifference.

And the reason for the great public suspicion, the growing crowd of skeptics, the truth demanding agnostic doubters, the persisting sense of contradiction and hypocrisy: Even the “unchurched” casual reader of the New Testament sections of the Bible, will find it very difficult to make a connection between what these people do and say, and Christ. No, these are idol worshipers of the worse kind, and their idol is their own egos, sitting ironically, on the altar of a crass and cursed system of social Darwinism. And just like their right-wing “fire-breathing” counterparts in Islam, they discredit, rather than bring credit to their religion.

In education, sometimes I guess we should be grateful for even the smallest steps forward…

“Alabama will require students to learn about evolution, climate change”

“Alabama is updating its science standards to require that students understand evolution and learn about climate change.
Educators say the new rules don’t require that students in the Bible Belt state believe in evolution or accept the idea that climate is changing globally.
But students will be required to understand the theory of evolution starting next year. And teachers will address climate change, which wasn’t a focus in the state’s previous, decade-old standards.
The state school board approved the new standards unanimously Thursday.
Director Steve Ricks of the Alabama Math, Science and Technology Initiative says the new guidelines show the state is serious about teaching science.
The statewide course of study only sets minimum standards. Local school officials will still make curriculum decisions…”— The Associated Press 9/13/15

Educators Truly Inspire Thy Own Self! & (“to thy own self be true”*, to the calling of the craft)

A Facebook post from the past (I actually forgot I sent this); and thank you so much for this reminder, my very Nice-Niece Anna Maria,

Anna Maria Ingraham:

“I come from a family of educators (teachers, professors, and superintendents). Found this gem in my FB memories from 3 years ago. For all of my fellow teachers as we enter our first weeks of school…”

“Anna, I always have this strange idea whenever I see any person doing something great. I imagine that behind, under and over stands a series of great teachers. Most people cannot fully appreciate the tremendous sense of reverence, responsibility and respect that one feels when facing a group of young people for whom your efforts can positively change the trajectory of their lives for good, and forever. We can’t even share with them our doubts and fears about our ability to perform this great work. A first-year teacher recently expressed to me her fears of not doing a “good job,” I told her: “two things, first that feeling is a great and normal feeling when your work involves transforming the world for the better through people. Second, guess what, get prepared, for that feeling will never leave as long as you do this work. The humility of a calling is the asking: “why send me, after all my shortcomings are….…” And here enters faith that serves as a great motivator and shield when the conditions of the world seem to be so much against our capacity to succeed. Both teaching and faith require courage, neither in my view are “rational choices” in this world; however, for many they are the best rational choices in a world that in the name of rationality disregards’ the majority of its children. Too many of our young people come to school every day in defiance of obstacles and challenges that would destroy those who were born with every support structure in place for their: “I made it alone success story” . I was motivated as a principal to stand at the door and thank students for just coming to school, on that day. I knew that for many of them, it was a daily struggle to clear all the obstacles either at home or in the streets to get to school, on that day. It may not have been their intention, but their presence ignited and sustained my faith.
For you, and all teachers have a great year!
Uncle Michael A. Johnson”

I was so honored to hear that one school administrator is utilizing my letter to my niece in his opening staff conference meeting; the work of a professional educator is so hard and draining (as it should be!) That professional educators need as many encouraging words, from as many people as possible (have you contacted a former teacher or school administrator and thanked them?) Even from an Uncle’s letter to his wonderful teacher niece!

And, I also learn something from re-reading this post; at times we educators need to read and reflect on our own words, for our own self-generated inspiration. It is more often than not, a profession where you must be your own best cheerleader to survive sane. The great hypocrisy, the great contradiction, and the great shame of our nation is to watch those who would denigrate, degrade and dismiss the work of teachers; while speaking, writing and employing the very skills gifted to them by teachers…

*“This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Farewell, my blessing season this in thee!”

Take this quiz and strike a blow against ignorance!

“Miami Police Officer Lydia Marquez’s Facebook Plea: ‘Everyone’s Life Matters”

Ok, I can’t take it anymore, and the it being ignorance! Know that ignorance in itself is not necessarily evil (It could just be not knowing, unaware, etc.); and I truly believe that Ms. Marquez is a good person and means to do some good with her statement.
But, as educators one of our ultimate job descriptions is to defeat ignorance; as I believe it to be a primary source of most of the problems we face in the world. Yes, I tend to see most things in life, in the context of education. The other day, a former student Nicole Lucas ask for three words that would improve the state of Black America? My answer: More-Better-Education! Once, someone inquired of me in frustration: “Do you believe that there is any problem in the world that can’t be fixed through education?” My answer: “Nope!”

And so I have come to the conclusion that some folks just can’t conceptually wrap their brains around the intellectually challenging and complex phrase: “Black Lives Matter” (which is a little different from just casually dismissing people as being: “racist”). Since I am one of those who does not believe in the “inherent evil” of standardized assessments, because when utilized properly they can both teach and tell us a great deal (And I am happy that my doctor, lawyer, dentist, accountant, and the pilots from my latest airplane flight, had to take them!) And so how about this quiz as a “Lesson Starter”:

If someone says: “In the US there should be equal pay for men and women”; this statement most likely means the following. Choose one:

(a) We should start paying men less money than women for the same work and job titles.

(b) We don’t care if a man is receiving an unfair wage in a particular work situation/position.

(c) Only women should set the salary levels in the nation. (Be careful here ladies, this would be considered a tempting distractor in psychometrics :-)

(d) Men and women should receive the same salaries when they work in the same job titles; and do the same type of work.

Extra Credit Question: “What is the author of this quote trying to convey with this statement; and how does it connect to the question of our quiz?”

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”—F. Scott Fitzgerald