[wisehat] Wise Hat News #17

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  • Date: Mon, 09 Apr 2007 23:42:23 +0900

Wise Hat News #17
8 April 2007

The online version is available at:

1. A Pig And A Poke
2. Hamming it Up
3. Scratching At Democracy
4. What's New?
5. In A Pig's Eye
6. Administrivia


## It's so much easier to pray for a bore than to go and see one. ##

A pig is a large animal with four legs. Among other things a poke is an old word for a bag. According to the Chinese Zodiac this is the year of the pig. As for the bag, my usual one is to go on about democracy. It's been the best part of ten months since the last newsletter and I seriously began to wonder whether there would ever be another. A combination of having little new to say and no new way to say it. But like a bad penny some thoughts keep turning up and I guess it behooves me to write them down. Yes, that was a bad pun. Just hope they don't get worse.



## What we call Man's power over Nature turns out to be a power exercised by some men over other men with Nature as its instrument. ##

In the last newsletter I wrote that I was going to focus more on my actual experiences and less on philosophising and pontification. But that was before I read about dolphin sweaters and dying bees. It seems that the US Navy is planning to deploy bottlenose dolphins that come from warm and temperate seas in the freezing waters of the Puget Sound. A group called Knitters For Dolphins is doing just that - making them sweaters [1]. Meanwhile, something called colony collapse disorder has obliterated over 60% of the bees in the United States and German beekeepers are worried about a similar fate. There is a fear that genetically modified crops are the cause [2].

I think there is an underlying problem that connects both stories. It is lack of genuine democracy. We are hearing a lot in the news today about the dangers of Climate Change. Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth won an Oscar. What Gore fails to mention is who got us into the mess in the first place. As labour organiser and songwriter, Utah Philips, put it:

“The earth is not dying. It is being killed, and the people killing it have names and addresses.”

(please read the excellent review of Gore's fantamentary by Catherine Austin Fitts from which the quote was lifted). [3]

Modern society is much more an oligarchy than a democracy. The war in Iraq offers a simple example. How many countries would have supported the United States if ordinary people had a genuine say in what their countries did? Certainly Britain would not have propped up the invasion. Likewise if politician's were required to send members of their own families to the front lines there would be very few of them, if any.

The big problem with human affairs as they are organised at the moment is that too many decisions are made by the few over the many. There is a disproportionate power relationship. Genuine democracy would allow people to exercise power for themselves and over themselves. And that goes for students as well.


## The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts. ##

I think I've mentioned it before, but one of the reasons I ended up working in the private sector and setting up a school is so that I could choose who I worked with. Or more specifically, so that the people I work with could choose to work with me.

An undemocratic school is little more than an internment camp. How can teaching children who are forced to be in the classroom be ethically acceptable? It's nonsensical to claim that children don't or can't know any better - if that were the case then no democratic schools would be able to operate. In fact, even children as young as four or five are capable of chairing meetings and making decisions for themselves.

The article Democratic School Governance by Jerry Mintz describes a way of running a school democratically [4]. Increasingly, I'm interested in making actual lessons democratic. I have various reasons for this.

A school to which students come once a week is very different from a school which children attend every day. The lesson is much more of a focal point and if it isn't democratic what really can be? Also, if I can make the idea of democratic lessons work then perhaps children may begin to wonder why all their lessons aren't democratic. If we truly want a democratic society then that means practising meaningful choice-making whenever possible. Democracy should be more than a smattering of votes spread thinly through our working lives. As food nourishes the body so democracy should nourish the community and society. It should be a daily activity like eating or exercise.

I also wonder if lessons are more democratic whether children will actually become more focused, more engaged and actually learn more. This is my hope but it remains to be seen.

Tomorrow sees the first lessons of the new school year. Not being one for controlled experiments I'm going into the process with gay abandon. My idea is to construct each class by offering Activity Cards. These are essentially pictures of the proposed activities. Children can look at the pictures and select the ones they want. Thus the lesson will be an exercise in democratic collaboration - at least that's the theory. We'll see how it goes in practise.

Why the cards? Why not simply ask the children what they would like to do? I've tried this idea in the past and it never really worked. Too much choice can be mind-numbing and usually results in no choice being made at all. By using the cards I can mix up old activities with new activities and I can do so without needing to explain anything. Choosing the cards is an activity in itself. The whole lesson can hopefully become a kind of democratic game. Watch this space?

## Reason is the natural order of truth; but imagination is the organ of meaning. ##


## Nothing is yet in its true form. ##

The site is long due for a complete overhaul. In the meantime here are the pages that have been added since last time:

Beyond Competition - Brief Workshop Notes from JALT national 2006

Brainwave - A technique used to interrupt one activity with another

Catch! - A simple ball game focusing on "don't"

Don't Move! - A variation of Grandmother's Footsteps

Emancipation Now - More Workshop Notes from JALT national 2006

Fast Food Tag! - A team tag game about food

Mosquito - An active game focusing on parts of the body

Nose Nose Nose - A simple chant and game for young children

Not Scary! - A kamishibai story about a monster

Parrot Flag - An important anchor for repetition


## You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream. ##

Little and Often is my new idea for this newsletter. Well little and more often, anyway. Time will tell if this is more than a pile of pork pies.


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Comments, questions, submissions and suggestions are welcome. Please contact Chris:

## We all want progress, but if you're on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive. ##

(Quotes this issue by C. S. Lewis)


[1] Ludicrous Dolphin Plan Shows We Are Scared Silly

[2] Are GM Crops Killing Bees?

[3] The Source of Hopelessness: A Review of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth

[4] Democratic School Governance

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