Sometimes you just know, ya know?

After a stressful evening surrounding the notification of a minor financial setback (letter from the IRS- ahem), I was informed of something rather hurtful- albeit true.
Something I knew but kept trying to convince myself wasn’t really true, because it would be easier for everyone if it wasn’t.

But it is true and that sucks.

There are things in this world we can change and we can control, and then there are things we cannot. We cannot change who we are, but we can control ourselves. We cannot change others, but we can influence them. Sometimes it doesn’t matter because the reality of the situation is what it is.
I overheard someone once say they hate when people use the expression, “it is what it is.” This didn’t sit well with me because it is acknowledgement and acceptance of reality, whether you like it or not.

So today, instead of my usual optimism and productive offerings I sit quietly and reflect on my situation. The best thing I can do is take time to make the right choices, because after all, my choices affect everyone else in my life.

Planting Trees Is Good For The Soul

When we went to get pumpkins with our children, we decided to visit a nursery. Since we wanted to add trees to our landscape, and they were buy one get on 1/2 off, we purchased eight 5 quart trees. They sat in our backyard, sheltered against the fence for a week, until we figured out exactly where we wanted to plant them.

Since it was raining yesterday, I got to play in the mud! Anyone who thinks they know me, should also know that I love to play in the dirt. Mud is just wet dirt, so I love it too. What a fun project it was. We got to work together and put something natural in the earth that will grow and we can enjoy as long as we live in our home. I must say, my husband and I make a great team (most of the time). He let me master the soil composition ratios, depths, and locations of each tree. While he graciously dug, and did most of the hardest manual labor. I love my ox. Even though he does the brunt of it, I don’t get off easy at all. Oh no way. He expects me lift, dig, haul, and put in whatever I am capable of doing. My physical strength will just never measure up to his, no matter how determined I am.

Working with our hands and bodies is healthy, it provokes a sense of ownership to the work we are performing. Although we were both very sore afterwards, it was immediately rewarding. Now when I look out my kitchen window I see the trees I planted with my husband, and I get to watch them grow everyday.  Did I mention how it was also good for our marriage? We had to work together, cooperation is key in a marriage. We managed to problem solve and think long-term together.

No matter how stressed we can get at times, it is good for the soul to work towards something you can enjoy everyday.

IDEC 2013 Afterthoughts

I attended the IDEC 2013 (International Democratic Education Conference) http://www.idec2013.org/ specifically to participate in a workshop involving Jefferson County Open School http://www.jeffcoopen.org/. First I must say, the word “Democratic” does not mean the opposite of “Republican”. Of course the word itself has political implications, meaning every individual has a say, and political meaning the organization of people. In this context, however, we are speaking of education. This translates to mean, every person in the educational community has a say, intending to include the student.

I learned a lot about the changes that are taking place in education across the world, there were many attendees from Korea, inklings from Europe, China, and other parts of the US. I am sure there were attendees from other countries that I did not get the pleasure of meeting.

Some countries are on the verge of breaking, or at least trying to break free of oppressive governments, or oppressive ways of life that are taking a stronghold on their culture and future. These educators are working to make changes from within the educational institutions to empower the individual, and create the necessary paradigm shifts within their societies using education as a powerful tool. The northern European countries I encountered seemed as though they are not trying to break free from governmental control of education so much as they are seeking to further perpetuate the individual spirit and enlighten the mind through alternative methods, possibly creating a more self-aware learner. A learner that chooses what they learn and is aware of their interests by having the freedom of pursuit.

The individuals I met from the US were from a variety of different backgrounds. Some were not educators but worked with at-risk youth and this conference helped spur ideas for them to approach alternative methods of reaching out. Many were homeschoolers, or worked with/for organizations knitted to homeschoolers. Many were affiliated with organizations that are involved in education one way or another, but are not schools themselves, and the hybrids always exist.

There were certainly, and always will be the bulls#!%%3rs too. The sellers. The ones who don’t really have a contribution but want to be known, or want to profit from the event. I came across a couple but it was not overwhelming. Thank goodness for that.

I found out about a program in my area called Innovation Labs. The website is www.redefineschool.com, and I poked around a little before writing this. I just might have to get in touch and see what I can do to help the educational community in my school district.

And then there is AERO. The Alternative Education Resource Organization, which can be visited via http://www.educationrevolution.org/. This is a great network of alternative education resources, if you are interested in the alternatives in your area, or perhaps just in your interest it might be worth taking a gander.

In the end I can say there is a lot of movement within the realm of reforming education, and there has been for quite some time. It seems to be the conflict, however, that an alternative system only works for a small group of people. When you have a lot of students to manage, the oversight has to be systematic. And yes, the drawback is the uniformity of education, but the advantage is cohesiveness and coherency. I think what many educators who are involved in Democratic Education are pushing to change is the way we view our understanding of how the system should function.
The afternoon workshop I chose to attend was titled “Intersection of Formal and Informal Education”. There was some controversy as to whether there is even a difference, and the underlying assumption among all the participants (at least it seemed this way) was that an “Informal” education was better or more important in some way. Sometimes these things go unspoken, but are present and unquestioned.

In my Philosophical studies I have come to realize one very important thing about life, and I remind people of this on a regular basis. There is idealism- what things ought to be like, and there is realism- how things are. We can strive for the ideal but the realism sets in when we accept that there are practical limitations.

In the case of education, we have the application of “Democratic” education as the practical limitation. This means for each educator how to facilitate and manage, and oversee, and guide, and mentor a large body of individual needs. Every educator would be spread so thin the quality of their work would necessarily be undermined. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day. The systems (or un”systematic” systems) that are present and successful in alternative education tend to be of the smaller student:teacher ratio, and of the smaller subset of the population.

One person being interviewed said it all in one word: money.

Until our educational systems are seen as relevant enough to warrant enough of our collective contributions, there will not be enough individualized attention in education. We will have systems in place that are best suited to address the more basic needs of every student, even if the approach is rigorous and boring. As my educator friend said to me, “how does 2 teachers take 80 students on a weeklong backpacking trip?” My answer, now clear to me, “you don’t.. we do”.

That is the key. Education is not something someone else does for us. It is something we all do together, and for each other. Education is not something that happens in a building, or on a chalkboard. I mean, it can happen there too, but real learning comes from everywhere and anywhere. We have to not only open our eyes, but our minds too. We all learn in many different places, of course. I think it is important to recognize when we are learning, and how we are learning so we can strengthen and perpetuate our methods to be most effective.

Don’t Assume Another Intends to Offend

Conflict is inevitable when there are multiple different interests at play.
The best thing we can do is try to look beyond the current persuasion and think kindly of others.

How often does something happen and your first instinct is that the other person sucks. It can be something so trivial as being cut off in line at the store; or a passing comment made by a stranger, leaving a bad taste in your mouth. Maybe, just maybe, you don’t understand their situation as clearly as you think. There might be some very justifiable explanation for their actions, something you can’t even think of- maybe because your mind is clouded from your own busy day. It could be a bigger deal, like working with an uncooperative neighbor to pay for a fence, something that consumes hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars. Are they really just trying to get the best out of you? Resource sharing is a consistent conflict, we all want to make sure we have enough for our own personal security.

We can’t live our lives taking things so personal, assuming another person intends to offend us. How miserable to think poorly of others on a regular basis. To judge them as if they are judging you poorly. We will never fully understand other humans, only ourselves. It is up to us to assume there is no offense intended, unless of course, they make it clear that is the intent (which is not the topic here).

People get offended easily and it is much easier to blame someone else. Take ownership, be the better person, and try to understand where they are coming from. We have to each reach further than half way across the aisle to cooperate fully, leaving some wiggle room for those who aren’t quite there yet.

Be the example by choosing to see others, and their intentions, positively.

Help Wanted: Better People

After careful deliberation this is what I have come to understand.

The World Needs Better People.

Who is the World?

It’s everyone!

Who is everyone?

It’s you and I.

What is a better person?

It’s you and I choosing better actions.

When?

Now. Oh, and tomorrow, and for the rest of our lives.

Why?

Things can only get better for all of us!

Where?

Everywhere you go.

How?

Consider everything you do. Then try your hardest to make the best choice.

The last time I checked, there is only ONE EARTH for us to live on. International communities are realizing that the only way to function is to maintain some sort of unity. We must all work together. The only way to do this is to consider one another, and those unspoken for, and make the right choices every time we can. We can’t let money override our values. We can’t let those with the biggest voices have the power unless we know in our hearts and minds that they are working and speaking on behalf of the rest of the communities. We can’t be persuaded to view the world in a way that seems unfit just because someone influences us to think that everyone else thinks this way too. This is TYRANNY OF THE MAJORITY gone wrong and we will not tolerate it.

We all have brains, use them!
We all have hearts, use them!
We all have strength, use it!

Create the world as it ought to be
This is a goal of my lifelong education.
If I do it, will you?

Power of the Positive

I went to a fast-serve lunch with my family recently. While we were there, I pleasantly engaged in conversation with (almost) every person who contacted me. It made our meal more relaxed, and every single person said some version of, “have a nice day”. When you leave, and you reflect on the time you just spent, was it positive? Every person can do this, all the time. We just have to try.

I guess you could say I am an extrovert. Finding a common way to connect with strangers isn’t always difficult, but I have many years of professional experience engaging in conversation with strangers. Until recently I just looked at it as part of my personality.

There is a new incentive at work now.

Part of my mission is to create the world that ought to be.

I have young children and would like for the world to be a better place than it is now. I have an obligation to work towards making it that way, can’t expect everyone else to do it for us. I am a member of society, so as a form of participation I try to coerce others to be more positive and look at things in a way that is beneficial to all. If my “gift” is being able to engage with strangers (aka the public), and perhaps I can influence their way of looking at the world, even if just for a moment, even if just a tiny little eensy weensy bit.

There is a subtle method, though. You can’t just go up to everyone and be like “The world is great and so are you! Let’s all just be great people together!” People will think you are crazy and avoid you, at least people like my husband. He “hates most people”, supposedly, but it’s really that he is just tired of the bs. So he clicks “off” in his brain when it comes to others, reminding me why we are married. I am his buffer to the world. I am the middleman that gets things done efficiently, and with a smile, so he doesn’t have to deal with others.

Best trick- Make them laugh. You have to find some common thread that you can identify with, and turn it on it’s head. Once they laugh, it’s like putty. You can work with it and turn it into something it might not have been without your influence.

There are so many people in the world like my husband. Positive people can take that attitude or mentality or whatever you want to call it and turn it around. We can get inside and make the necessary changes, kind of like little elf helpers. The best part is, they don’t even know you are doing it. It just happens. All it takes is the right comment, at the right time, to influence their thinking in a direction that is beneficial to all.

Can we all identify with one person, one person who needs us to make their day a little better, without them even knowing?

Hickenlooper Tightening Belt on COGCC

Today it was a good day. I found out our Governor, John Hickenlooper, who is known for his business savvy, just issued an executive order tightening the reigns on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. See, the problem has been a conflict of interest in the mission of the agency. They are supposed to develop mineral rights, while also enforcing regulations that protect public health and environment. Let’s just put it this way, after months of in-depth research, I decided the agency is more focused on developing mineral rights than they are with protecting anything (other than the industry). Looking at the members of the board, they are all pro-industry. This means nobody cares about the public health and environment, they just do what is necessary to stay under the radar and make some serious money.

People are sick of it.
Enough people have stood up and made a stink that the COGCC is now being held responsible for their favoritism of industry. Even more amazing is that pro-money Hickenlooper is backing the public on this one, maybe that’s also a good business (ahem political) move.

The COGCC is instructed to review and adjust their regulatory framework, especially fines. Here are a couple of my favorite (emphasized by me) sections:

“The COGCC must structure these adjustments so as to hold the oil and gas industry to the highest operating standards in the nation for protection of public health, safety, and welfare, including the environment and wildlife resources.”

My favorite is item (6) of the penalty rules they are ordered to construct: “Make certain that any economic incentives for noncompliance with the Act and its regulations are eliminated.”

This is the biggest problem I think. There are rules, sure, of course there have always been rules. The agency doesn’t always (nor usually) enforce the rules, let’s just say they are a little “understaffed”. The amount of wells being drilled compared to the amount of people working in the agency who monitor or enforce regulations, sincerely reflects the agencies priorities. They say they can’t keep up, but on the same token, if they enforced the rules and imposed the penalties and fines accordingly, they would have more funding for staff to enforce regulations. If half the staff shifted to monitoring, rather than, I don’t know, say, approving new permits… The COGCC would be a completely different environment.

On a side note, but a very serious issue to be clear on. Mineral rights are separate from land rights. One person can own the surface, another “person” can own the minerals beneath it. Mineral rights trump land rights. This means the person who owns the mineral rights has to be allowed access to fully develop their right. In other words, if someone owns the mineral rights below your property they can pull permits with the COGCC to develop them whether or not you cooperate. Your land must be restored to it’s original condition to the best of their ability, but also “within reason”.

Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado

This topic is a dicey one, eh? Should we line the state coffers now for future rehab programs? Perhaps the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program might need a little review, this was in my 5th and 6th grade public school curriculum.

Interestingly enough, I am not overly concerned about  my children’s future when it comes to this particular law. The negative effects will reveal themselves, if there are any. To be clear, people are already addicted to pharmaceutical drugs and marijuana might be a better choice. Consider it a step in the right direction.

The fear is it will only make drug abuse more common, prevalent, and overwhelming. If we give our kids a good head on their shoulders, hopefully they will make the right choices when they are given the chance. It’s all about creating the kind of leaders the world needs to be a better place.

Regulate the driving laws if you want to make a positive change. Not just for marijuana levels though, for all drugs. All prescriptions that recommend against driving should have some control measures. Should we place a ridiculous fine for driving while under the influence of anything mind altering, we already pick on alcohol like it is poison- oh wait, it is poison.

Driving is not a right, it is a privilege. Don’t forget folks, you can take your kids license away too. We have veto power because we are responsible for their actions until they are adults.

My most concerning worry is my kids (or myself) will be killed in a car accident by someone under the influence of something. This is far more likely, right?

Let’s get some perspective from others on why this is a good or bad move for Colorado.

The consensus of philosophers

This is interesting, and the comments ad the end made by the author are funny. I always wondered if my professors believed all the stuff we studied, or which ones were playing devil’s advocate in light of the general consensus among the student body. They critical analysis offered by philosophical undertakings does present a generally atheistic overview. Probably one of philosophies biggest questions is whether or not there is some sort of omni-presence.

Why Evolution Is True

Over at his website, Sean Carroll has called my attention to a paper by David Bourget and David J. Chalmers called “What do philosophers believe?” (free download here, reference below). I must admit I’ve only scanned the paper, but the interesting results (highlighted by Sean) reflect whether or not the philosophers agree with various viewpoints and claims.

The survey population is this:

Instead, we chose as a target group all regular faculty members in 99 leading departments of philosophy. These include the 86 Ph.D.-granting departments in Englishspeaking countries rated 1.9 or above in the Philosophical Gourmet Report. They also include ten departments in non-English-speaking countries (all from continental Europe) and three non-Ph-D.-granting departments. These thirteen departments were chosen in consultation with the editor of the Gourmet Report and a number of other philosophers, on the grounds of their having strength in analytic philosophy comparable to the other 86 departments. The overall list included 62…

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