Humanity and the actions at UC Davis

I don’t even really know where to start on this. I used to blog politically here a lot more back in 2007 but have tried to refrain from that for several reasons now. This, however, has struck such a nerve in me that I have to say something.

Police Pepper Spray Peaceful Protestors

First, if you live under a rock (or another country) and don’t know about the incident of police brutality on the UC Davis campus, then read this and watch the videos if you can stomach them. I almost didn’t. I couldn’t get through the whole thing without working myself into such anger that I had to leave the room. It’s hard to watch. It’s hard to believe something like this would happen in our day.

Why? Maybe I live in a bubble. The Occupy movement here in Austin has been dramatically more civil than in other parts of the nation. While there have been a few arrests, there’s been little to no drama, and the APD has been supportive of the safety of the protestors to the extent that they willingly stop downtown traffic to allow the protestors to parade through the streets. I think this is a direct reflection of the education system in Austin and the high acceptance and tolerance levels in our liberal Texan city. We’re lucky. Some folks, like the students and faculty at UC Davis, are not. The police man who pepper sprayed the young and old who sat on the sidewalk with their arms linked in peaceful protest did nothing but prove that peace and solidarity and the strength of community can and will win out over violence.

It makes me despair in the future of humanity, but gives me hope that there are people out there who will give their all to preserve peace.

The Despicable Actions of the Administration

This arcticle by UC Davis professor Bob Ostertag is the best article I’ve read so far about the protest and why it and the actions of the administration were so horrendous. He mentions to the health and safety hazards of pepper spray and how, days after the brutal attack, there are several students who are still sick and burned from the chemicals.

“As with chili peppers, some people tolerate pepper spray well, while others have extreme reactions. It is not known why this is the case. As a result, if a doctor sees pepper spray used in a prison, he or she is required to file a written report. And regulations prohibit the use of pepper spray on inmates in all circumstances other than the immediate threat of violence. If a prisoner is seated, by definition the use of pepper spray is prohibited. Any prison guard who used pepper spray on a seated prisoner would face immediate disciplinary review for the use of excessive force. Even in the case of a prison riot in which inmates use extreme violence, once a prisoner sits down he or she is not considered to be an imminent threat. And if prison guards go into a situation where the use of pepper spray is considered likely, they are required to have medical personnel nearby to treat the victims of the chemical agent.

Apparently, in the state of California felons incarcerated for violent crimes have rights that students at public universities do not.”

Thank you

The Shadow was Only a Small & Passing Thing

When using your VOICE becomes a crime so heinous it “forces” officers to use violence on children, my faith in humanity dwindles. My heart breaks. And at the same time, my spirit is uplifted by the community of people, young and old, who refuse to give in, who link arms and raise their voices louder, and who, no matter how many times they are beaten and burned and kicked, refuse to act in kind and instead remain peaceful and connected in their solidarity and beliefs. They remind me that there is still beauty and hope left in humanity and they are the ones that will save us in the end. Thank you to those old souls who know the importance of never giving up for what you believe in.

My Educational Philosophy.

This is my Credo.

I have a number of memories of my experiences outside. I have seen wolves in the wild, I have been close enough to a wild black bear to touch, I have slept on a beach under the stars and let the waves lull me to sleep. I know what it’s like to dance in a cornfield and howl at wolves and have them howl back. I have played with wild fawns while their mother watched with no worry, and I remember what it’s like to hold a spider in the palm of my hand for the first time without fear. Most of my twenty-one years of living has been spent out of doors, and I can only hope to pass down what I have learned and experienced with others.

It wasn’t until I came to Northland that I discovered you could actually major in something called Outdoor Education. To me, outdoor education is experienced-based education. It is a field of education that is very hands-on about the natural world. L.B. Sharp said, “That which ought and can best be learned inside the classroom should be learned there; and that which can best be learned through direct experience outside the classroom, dealing directly with native materials and life situations, should there be learned.” That is outdoor education. It is a combination of this experiential learning, adventure education, and environmental concerns. It’s not all about canoeing, hiking, or mountain climbing. Outdoor education is about finding a connection with nature, a deeper relationship, and working with others to see the beauty in the world around us and to protect it. It combines such skills as leadership and teamwork, survival skills and problem solving, and uses this to create a sense of spirituality and growth within a person. It is up to that person to take that and share with others.

I believe that an effective educator is able to do this, to learn all this and create that connection, and than successfully share that knowledge with the world. My own style works best with children. I find that the most beautiful things are the simplest. Jim Henson said, “Life is simple,” and I agree with that. Children, I find, respond to this philosophy well. The life cycle of a monarch butterfly may seem complex, but put in the correct terms, to a child it can be the simplest idea. Watching even a small insect grow and live is beautiful – and the people that I have experienced to understand this best have been the kids I’ve worked with, not the adults. Kids can teach kids as well. Maria Montessori was a firm believer that older children should teach younger children and that kids should learn at their own pace. Her philosophy has helped shape my own: watch kids! They know a lot more than we think they do. I hope to help this by instilling this sense of wonder within children at such an early age that, as they grow, they will want to share it with others and the cycle will continue and spread. It is their role to learn and live and share. It is as simple as that.

By sharing knowledge and spreading awareness, the broader community will want to take part. I was talking to Sarah Lerohl, the school-programming director at the Hartley Nature Center, and she said that the reason they had adults come to the Center, was because their children wanted to come. The adults usually ended up coming back because they became as interested as their children. So by teaching kids, it will not only get passed down generations, but passed up them as well. And the more people who know and learn, the more the community will become involved. I have heard of communities who have gotten together, and through active contributions and development, created more parks and more green spaces for kids to play in. The amount of power a community has is often grossly underestimated.

I am very much a naturalist. I find pleasure in places, in learning about the features of the landscape and what creatures and plants reside in that area. I was drawn very much to Northern Wisconsin. When I was younger, we would take trips up here and I decided at an early age that I wanted to live up here. But it isn’t just this area; I find wonder in nature wherever I go, and I think too many people pass by something beautiful and never see it. I see my role as an educator as being someone who can point out this beauty to people and to show them how to see it every day and care for it. I want to create a deeper connection between people and the earth. I think too often people forget the feeling of dirt between their toes or the sound of the wind through the trees. I think schoolteachers forget that there is much more outside the classroom and that children need to touch and interact with their environment to really learn. Not all kids are the same and each learns in a different way and I feel that in this field, it is easier to see the personalities of children come out when given a more active role.

I believe in the power of nature. I believe that given a nudge, children will find a relationship with this great big world that’s much deeper than the one many share with their video games. Children need nature; this thought is amplified in Richard Louv’s book Last Child in the Woods, a book that reflects my own thoughts on nature in detail. Children are not getting into the woods enough; they need it. And by getting them outside, they will want to spend more time there.

I believe I can make this world better by simply showing off all its wonderful details: its smallest spiders to its biggest trees. I believe that children have something within their minds that allow them to easily understand things that adults have problems figuring out. I think that’s what makes them so important: we aren’t just teaching them, they are teaching us as well. I want to work with children on showing the rest of humanity that the world around is full of awe and wonder. Everyone and everything is connected; we just have to recognize this and realize that we really are apart of something beautiful.