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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The danger of indifference and compromise



I love history but that love really developed after I got out of high school. In high school, I had to memorize WAY too much and it sucked all of the joy out of history for me.

Rote memorization and the rise of Hitler?

My thoughts of rigid discipline of rote memorization pull me hauntingly towards a series of novels I've been reading lately. This particular set of novels are historical fiction and begin in Germany just during the beginning of Hitler's rise and the first one has just concluded as Austria fell without a word.

This first novel has haunted me. Because Hitler's rise to power was largely escalated by an "appeasement" policy where most nations and people took the attitude of "I don't care what happens to the helpless in Germany, as long as war doesn't come to my doorstep."

Don't get me wrong, many great men and women (Dietrich Bonhoffer comes to mind) did stand up against the wrong of the Reich and paid for it with their lives. However, France's only chance to prevent the German invasion occurred when Germany took the Rhineland.

Hitler himself said:

"The forty-eight hours after the march into the Rhineland were the most nerve-racking in my life. If the French had then marched into the Rhineland we would have had to withdraw with our tails between our legs, for the military resources at our disposal would have been wholly inadequate for even a moderate resistance"
England could have prevented rubble in their streets if they had cared when German bullied Austria into a surrender / annexation. The blitzkrieg was made possible by the blitzretreat of those who should have cared enough to sacrifice themselves to prevent encroaching darkness. (And eventually, it was those who sacrificed themselves who brought the Holocaust to an end.)

We cannot control the times but only how we spend our time

We cannot control the times that we live in. We cannot control much. But you and I have control over one thing -- ourselves.

And as we are faced with principle -- the things we believe in and know to be true, we must stand up. The time is short.

And the most horrifying retreats are made one step at a time.

I am quite sick of hearing people throw up their hands in hopelessness about "the kids of today." When I was a child, I heard adults saying those same words.

I see it as generational excuse that "it is too hard" to do the right thing.

I disagree, I think it is too hard to undo too many decisions to not do the right thing. (How's that for a double negative.)

The lost art of respectful disagreement

I have my beliefs that I hold dear-- very dear. But underlying every belief of who I am is the importance of diversity and the importance of being able and willing to disagree with manners and nobility.

What bothers me most about the country I love dearly and the world that I want to make a better place is that I see that both sides -- both right and left have begun the slow roasting ostracism of those who are not cut out of the very same cloth that they are.

These people want teachers to keep their mouths shut and not blog and to standardize everything. Yes, we must be professional. Yes, we need to have some form of testing. But, my goodness, diversity is a beautiful thing! So is creativity!

No monochromatic world!

We don't plant monochromatic flowers next to a monochromatic house -- the human eye loves color and diversity. Beauty is something fleeting but it is different for all of us.

God forbid the wrinkle in time, Big Brother -like grey uniformity of all being standard.

I am concerned. We must be able to work with others without stereotype and with an open mind.

The fact that the scientific community seems to be unable to tolerate differing viewpoints whether it is global warming or the discussion concerning a divine entity bothers me. If a theory is a theory, it is disputable by definition and in fact must be disputed to keep the democracy alive. So now, theorists want to claim theories are fact, when in fact, they are still theories.

The crawly, itchy chillbumps of recognition

I'm not lashing out at any topic in particular, but at the crawly, itchy chillbumps I got as I turned the pages of historical fiction ...

as people stayed quiet, hoping that the problems wouldn't come their way. As they lived in denial, people in Vienna ate strudel and went to concerts up until the moment the country fell.

First Jews in Germany hoped that they could just live their lives and not be arrested, then Austria, then Poland, then France, then further and further. Friends of Jews denied them in the hopes that they could retain their own position and exert influence to help. There is no influence gained in compromising the beliefs that make you. Those who compromised, did little in the end to save the millions cooked in ovens of evil.

We risk repeating history when we hide it from the young

Perhaps it is all wrapped up together. My history teacher who buried the realities of what happened in World War II under some vague dates that I had to memorize and still do not remember. Overstandardization that seems to be robbing the very life out of so many schools. Kids who aren't taught the meaning of what happened and allowed to feel the pain of humanity wearing the blindfold of the pursuit of comfort while a terrible dictator rises to power.

People who say, "I'm just going to live through this and not say anything because I'm so close to retirement" or "I can't do anything about it so I'll be quiet" or "It's not worth the hassle to stand up for what's right" or worst of all "There is no hope, I can't change anything and I'll just get in trouble."

We need more people willing to respectfully, wisely stand up for their beliefs.

Dangerous times

Yes, we live in dangerous uncertain times. Our schools are seemingly more violent than ever. However, there is a big difference between separation of church and state and separation of state and morality.

Yes, I think technology is important.

But goodness, the most important thing in the classroom is the teacher!

And teachers are afraid.

It bothers me greatly!

I am getting more e-mails lately than ever and I have to wonder if it is because teachers are afraid to publicly air their concerns and questions.

Now, before you go shake your finger at one political party or another, I would equally lecture both sides.

My background working for a bi-partisan senator

Perhaps I am greatly colored by my time spent in Washington, DC working for Senator Sam Nunn. He was a great statesman. Although he was a Democrat, he honestly, equally worked with both political parties. I often heard in his office to make sure that we knew what HE believed before responding to anyone because he looked at issues and not necessarily at his party. In fact, I think he left the US Senate (where he spent 24 years) because of where he saw things going.

We need to work together

We need to teach students to work with people different from themselves. We need to be able to work with people different from ourselves.

I relish the opportunity to have meaningful discussions with those who challenge what I think. But I hold true to the fact that we have a right and privilege to disagree.

It is an even greater privilege when we can disagree with integrity and mutual respect.

There are far too many Jerry Springer-like confrontations that are a shame on the human race.

I encourage them to disagree

This is why I challenge my students to disagree with me. I often make statements to get them to respond and defend their position. Sometimes I take the opposite viewpoint not necessarily because it is mine but rather because I want them to see the opposite viewpoint. I want to teach them to disagree effectively, with kindness, without interrupting one another.

I want them to know how to think and debate effectively as we discuss the ethical issues intertwined with technology and ever aspect of our society.

For within the ability to disagree with respect and stand up for the beliefs that make you who you are, are the kernels of greatness.

We cannot help the times in which we live, but we can help the life we live in these times.

I blog because I want to make a difference.

I am just a teacher. I'm a country girl who loves my family and my God more than anything else. But I also believe I'm put in this world to make a difference and to share what I learn with others.

I will not be selfish -- I will share.

I will not be afraid -- I will speak my convictions with humility and with the knowledge that I will be wrong sometimes in a very public forum and will have to admit my own humanity.

I will do my best -- I will work hard to be accurate even when it means admission of being wrong and with the belief that there will always be a job for people who are like me.

I will keep perspective -- Technorati is flawed and popularity contests are a waste of time. Yes, it is nice to feel validated but my greatest validation comes from doing a good job in my classroom and at home with my family.

My Dad has always said,
"Never believe your own press."

Face it, most people don't really know what a blog is. IF they do, they think it is for people who don't have enough to keep themselves busy. (That is what my mom says.) People who become proud become pretty useless.

There is a difference in confidence in your ability and thinking you're the center of the universe. I'm part of a larger picture and few if anyone read every word of my blog. But I am part of a positive change, I think.

I will enjoy this -- blogging isn't a chore. Blogging is fun! Meeting other educators with a passion to be their best is fun! Yes, things are tough sometimes (especially right now during term paper season) but life is too short to look like you spend your spare time sucking on lemons!

I will be true to my beliefs - The most important part of my day is the first thirty minutes where I read my Bible and pray. That is where I honestly believe I tap into supernatural wisdom. However, as true and real as I know it is, I also believe just as strongly in human choice. For it is the fact that I am allowed a choice that I do have the first thirty minutes of my day. People should have a right to spend the moments of their day as they choose, as long as it does not break the law!

Do not be indifferent
Perhaps the most difficult attitude I have to learn to tolerate is that of indifference and lack of empathy.

I think indifference is a learned attitude for truly, most kids come into this world very inquisitive and very opinionated.

I just want to encourage you as teachers, administrators, and those who care --

don't just "bellyache" DO what you can to make a difference in your corner of the universe. You may retire in May, but that is no excuse to sit back and not speak when something needs to be said. When the child has been labeled, when someone needs a loving hand, when a person needs mercy or when they need tough love.

Teachers could make a million dollars a year and not be paid enough. If you're in it for the money -- get out! You can make more money selling copiers.

Teachers could have 9 months off a year and still not get enough rest. If you're in it for the hours -- get out! The hours are a lot longer than they look if you're a good teacher because you live and breath it (and some of you blog at midnight like I'm doing tonight.)

Teaching is the most noble calling on earth.

So be noble.
Act noble.
Live noble.
Care.
Do what is right.
Period.

For the most horrendous retreats in history were taken one step at a time.

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