Vanilla Ice meets Shalom!!!!

Above, right: Rob Van Winkle, aka: Vanilla Ice. Above, left: Shalom

For those of you who've been asking, my middelest-daughter, Shalom, is doing fine. She's been on sabbatical, sorta-kinda. Getting away from her mom, dad, and ("annoying," said with a petulant whine) siblings here at home in Arkansas, having a wonderful time in Florida, being a little sister to my grown-up daughter, Patty, and her soulmate Greg.

As the picture above (taken 04-23-02 at Dania MX near Ft. Lauderdale) shows, a lot of Shalom's life right now revolves around motocross... and having fun!!!

And the winner is....

Suzy Parker's entry in  Gozark's "Hobo Stew Cook-off" had all the judges ooohing and aaahing at Saturday's "Picnic in the Park."

Parker, shown at right adding a goodly measure of her "secret ingredient" (which Parker insisted "is only water") to the winning concoction, said she was proud that her entry faired so well. "You know," she smiled, "this is the first time I've done something like this."

Currently guesting at a friend's home near Greers Ferry while waiting for her deal on a Stone County home to close, Parker said that the main ingredients in her recipe were carrots, potatoes, onions, beef, a few bullion cubes and, of course, "water."

CLICK HERE to read the rest of the story!!!

Pick your paradigm...


We want change… but we don’t want it.

That is, we want to do things “our own way” and we don’t want the way “we” do things to change.

We just want “them” to do things differently.

In fact, we really don’t want anybody to have to change (er… ah, well… except for them). We just want “things” to change, right?

We want to earn more money, have a nicer home, get a better job…

Find the perfect spouse (or not), have wonderful children (or not), ride in a limo around the world while wearing a Rolex (or not).

We want the Earth to be an environmentally friendly place, thriving with healthy human activity alive with creative vitality and perpetually striving as a society to claim an ever higher ground of cultural prosperity, making every Mother and Father and Son and Daughter proud. Right?

I mean, that is what it’s all about, isn’t it? Bottom line, end of the day, with all said and done… what else is left?

And most importantly, we want to do it “our” way. The way that is “right” and “best” and “good for everyone involved.”

Don’t we?

We have all the answers, know all the questions and, having been there and done that a googol of times,  we know (because we know that we know) that everything would just be simply wonderful if “the world” (and all the people therein, most especially “the bad guys”) would just get over it and do things “our way” because, after all, our way is simply “the best.”

And what is “the best”? Heck, that’s easy: We want the bloodlust to end in the Middle East… and everywhere. We want the world to be free of terrorism and atrocity. We want there to never be another school shooting, abduction or gang rape. And we want drug abuse and all the illicit criminal activity stemming there from to end.

And we want this change to be absolute. We wanna mandate it and penalize everyone who doesn’t see things our way because we know the “right way” to make this happen. We know, by merit of whatever virtue we claim, “the way” that ALL things must be done.

Yet do we realize that by and through our promulgated policies, rules and regulations, edicts, mandates, resolutions, legislations, media-blitzes, advertising campaigns, TV news, front page editorials (including this one), church pulpits, committees, campaigns, agencies, inter-office memos, official acts and professional vices, that what we’re actually vying for is “control”?

Hierarchal, dictatorial, authoritarian, arrogant, self-absorbed, vengeful, arbitrary and capricious, because we know that if the (rest of the) world would simply get with our particular (prejudicial) paradigm, well… Then everything would turn out “right.”

We want control and we want it now. We want it “yesterday.” We want our children, and families, and neighbors and friends and everyone everywhere to “be safe” -- just so long as we can take “the bad guys,” (whomever they are -- and they are who we say they are), completely out of the equation.

We crave control so desperately we can almost taste it, would love to taste it… if only we could get this bad taste of things being “out of control” out of our mouths.

And “we” -- no matter who we are: “good guys” or “bad guys,” Christian, Muslim, Jew, Agnostic, Atheist, Anarchist, Antagonist, Democrat, Republican, Pacifist, Scientist, Store Clerk, CEO, Medicine Man, White Witch, Governess or Thief -- we know that our way to attain this magnificent goal is “the good way,” “the right way,” “the perfect way” and “absolutely the truth.”

“Trust us.”

"Ordained by powers far greater than our own,” some of us dare to intimate.

"Daddy knows best."

And so the battle for control wages on.

We go on missions.

Military, covert, overt, black-ops, reconnaissance and anti-terroristic; Holy Wars of slaughter, demoralization and devastation, laying waste to an ever growing hundreds of millions of men, women and children in the namesake of freedom, liberty, justice, honor, diplomacy, integrity, respect and truth.

We've been doing it for millennia. We know all the "how tos" by rote.

And the battlegrounds now are everywhere, from public education and healthcare to social justice and individual integrity, all are under siege.

Right along with Israel and Palestine.

“Against-ness” propaganda strangles our quintessential ideals about liberty, dignity, tolerance, respect, propriety, justice, and reverence for human life.

Yet we know, absolutely, the righteousness of this action. I mean heck, we’ve been told – for thousands of years – that it is the ONLY “right” thing to do. We re-enact melodramas about it, this “struggle of good versus evil.” We see it all the time, right there on TV, in headlines on the 6 o’clock news.

And thus we weight the scale of public opinion by an exponential of 10 to the “anti-” side of life.

Because as we watch we say to ourselves how sad it is that “things are never going to change.” That the outcome is “simply out of our hands.” There is “nothing we can do.” That all of this atrocity must, somehow, be “meant to be.” Preordained at best or, at worst the contrivance of a malevolent conspiracy with tentacles powerful enough to strangle the globe.

So we salve our conscience with the tradition that “ours is not to reason why, ours is to do… or else.”

Or else we will completely loose control and everything will be a mess.

But wait a minute… Look around and tell me truly: Doesn’t it seem like that is exactly where things are at?

And doesn’t it, if we really do take the time and invest the energy necessary to reason our way through our self-created socio-political landscape, make much more sense to understand that the change which we seek must come from each of us, else all of us are doomed.

Doomed to an ever-increasing atmosphere of claustrophobic, myopic, bull-headed, ego-aggrandizing, greed-hungry “power struggle.” Don’t we know that there’s only one way for this to stop?

Let’s, for example, make it our choice to “stop associating” with “children who don’t mix well with others.” We won’t go to their parties, do their bidding, buy their new product, or play their games anymore.

We'll just stop.

And I don’t mean that we should just walk away when we see that some folks are bullying others. But if we’re gonna fight, let’s fight for the fundamental freedoms all of us deserve by living our lives to the tune of harmony and peace.

Whether it’s in the office, on the homefront, or with our national foreign affairs, let’s draw the line and stick to it. Let’s take a stand for “Liberty and Justice for All.”

All. You know. That means “everyone.”

And let’s mean those words from the heart. Let’s make it “real” in every action we personally endeavor and in every piece of legislation on our books.

If it ain't good for "everyone" then it's of no good to anyone. All day, every day, every moment, our whole life. Period.

Lead, follow, or get out of the way, let’s think about what WE (in the first person pronoun sense) can do to eliminate the problem:

For starters, we can stop adding fuel to the fire. Then we can put our foot down, abstain from “trying” to control the acts of others and get down to the business of collaboratively co-creating a cooperative, egalitarian, altruistic, happy, forward moving, productive, invigorating and meaningful life.

To do this, we simply “choose” to be “the change” we wish to see in the world. We “live and let live.” And we seize every opportunity to enjoy these fruits of our labors..

And if others fail to see the wisdom of our methodology, well… as far as I personally am concerned, they can go to hell. But they’ll do it without my assistance. Without the added energy of my anger or wrath.

Without benefit of me “fighting against them,” because it’s a paltry trap and a deceptively intoxicating diversion: To believe that my best work, my life-long mission, my personal calling to the throne of whatever glory I seek could ever be found in the activity of making sure that somebody else is “doing things right.”

So if others don’t wanna join my Peace Parade, I’m not gonna punch their face off. I’m just gonna shift into second gear and go around.

Onward and upward with unanimity forever. That’s my choice and I’m choosing it. Sticking to it for better or worse. Trusting that, as more and more of choose to explore this mode of operation, all the rest of us will get a clue and, as an act of their own unique, individual, and God-given free will, jump in to find out that life lived from this particular paradigm is regal, elegant, and fabulously fine.

"Speak Up Arkansas"
On Thursday, April 4, I attended the “Speak Up Arkansas” forum on policy development for public education in our state. What I saw there mixed my emotions, raised my critical ire and left me feeling hopeful. I’ll start with what I didn’t like:

I saw a group of people who are living life from a whole different paradigm. They were (from my perspective) free-flowing a kind of "inverse/opposite doublespeak" behavior, and were completely oblivious to the act of doing this.

I mean here we were, a group of 20+ teachers and school administrators (with pure “parental/citizen” participation near zero) and, after watching a 10 minute video, before we broke into discussion groups, the first thing we did was get instruction from the facilitator on how to "be nice." She even had a big flip chart with the principles of being nice outlined and numbered thereon:

  • Only one person speaks at a time.

  • Treat each other with respect.

  • All ideas are "good" ideas.

  • No name calling.

  • Be kind.

And I'm not dissing the way she did this. Her presentation of the instruction was smooth and poised. She was an obvious master of the subject. But excuse me for noticing: Doesn't this amount to doing kindergarten remediation? Wasn't this supposed to be a "gathering of intelligent, mature, responsible adults." Aren't we supposed to be conducting ourselves this way all the time?

Yet these folks with whom we're doing this kindergarten remediation are "in charge" of many, many, many children’s education. Frankly, this frightens me.

Then we divided into four small groups and each group -- according to the published agenda  -- was supposed to follow a particular process. First we were to elect from our number three representatives: a Discussion Leader, a Recorder, and a Timekeeper. And this point was so important that the facilitator actually gave us verbal directions.

Factually, our group never did this. We kinda hemmed and hawed about it, but we never had a genuine discussion on the subject. And the people who quasi-reluctantly/pseudo-agressively stepped forward  to take on these appointed roles, wearing a put-upon mantle of martyrdom, did (in my opinion), a meager and half-hearted job.

And I certainly could have been more assertive here. I could have, maybe, mustered the stamina to maneuver, commandeer and manipulate a more instrumental role in this engagement, claiming a baton of control for myself. But ya see, to my mind the very act of doing this would be an act of playing a game that I -- and a whole lot of other folks -- want stopped.

It is the old "vying to establish hierarchy" thing, wearing a "nice" smile, and at the most subtle level  our group meeting ran rampant with it,

It was not glorious to behold.

Anyway, after conducting our election we were supposed to introduce ourselves. I did this, right up front, and without the blessing of having a written agenda to follow. It's just common courtesy. I learned it at my mommy's knee. However no one else in my group ever did this.

Then we were to take "about 10 minutes" to discuss several questions:

  • What was school like for you?

  • What did you like and dislike?

  • What do you want our public schools to do to educate our children?

And we were supposed to write down ALL our "good ideas," ultimately ending up with a prioritized list.

When I first saw the agenda after our group session was finished (and, IMHO, had accomplished next to nothing "real" in the direction of "meaningful change") I was quite impressed with the well thought through format. I could see how the people who put the agenda together were really giving it their best shot at instituting a forum for open dialog, collaborative re-invention, and the co-creation of proactive change.

But my experience of the small group session where this democratized consensual process was to unfold did not resonate with these egalitarian graces. Somehow, our group never reviewed the published agenda and I'm at a loss to understand this.

That is, I do know why "I" did not go over the agenda. I didn't have one. In fact, as I’ve already noted, I didn’t even know until after our group meeting was over that an agenda did actually exist. And, to be fair here, this was partly my fault because usually, anytime I attend any sort of meeting the first thing I do is ask for a copy of the agenda. I didn’t this time, so “bad” on me. However, there was ample blame to share.

There were four other people in that room with me, but not one of them got out an agenda. And I have become aware, after doing a bit of follow-up research, that these fine folks must have had an agenda in-hand. But in spite of this, I had no idea  that our strategy session had been assigned a specific “lesson plan” and, obviously, no one else gave a damn. Bad on them.

Thus our discussion dove right into the topics nearest and dearest to my fellow participants hearts. The thing that will make education better, my team mates said, is to increase teacher salaries, mandate salary parity state wide, get rid of “bad” teachers, give the schools more and better resources, hire more aids so the teachers have less work, do a lot more testing (especially of 3- and 4-year-olds), do away with homeschooling, and somehow find a "legal way" to "force" parents to "get more involved" with their children's upbringing and "make them participate with public schools.”

Wow, I thought, how profoundly we disagree.

Thus I suggested that we (as a society) could perhaps enable parents to be more actively engaged with their own children and with education as a whole by looking at the system I've heard is in place in Canada, where every family with a child under the age of 12 is eligible (and strongly encouraged) to designate one of its adult members as "the homemaker" and thus receive a governmental stipend to better enable him or her to forsake "outside employment" in the interest of doing this very real and totally full-time work.  Well...

When I suggested this, several of my companions quickly voiced the opinion that "this is way out of the scope of this meeting."

Yeah, right. What I wanted to say was "Y'all just want the parents to 'do more' so y'all can 'do less' and then you get a raise in pay for helping to promulgate this self-aggrandizing and socially detrimental bullshit."

But I didn't say it. I was nice. I kept my mouth shut and they dissed the "all ideas are good ideas" right out of my mouth. Thus my suggestion never made it onto paper and that kinda gave me the creeps.

Respectfully I pressed on, suggesting that public education could, perhaps, take a look at the successful models of "smorgasbord" education, taking the form of private academies, which are springing up all across the USA.

Mainly an outgrowth of the academic needs recognized by the homeschooling masses (and there are masses of homeschoolers now), these “community learning facilities” employ a university style format, allowing traditional K-12 students (and anyone else who wishes) to sign-up for only those classes they are interested to pursue, giving them and their parents a choice about "who" they do their learning from, and enabling this to happen without categorizing learners by supposed "grade level," "grade point average," "tested IQ," or "student age."

Nope... that idea never made it on the list either. And to be fair, I must say that these fine folks did all emphatically assure me that this idea was there, only it came under the heading of the standard definition of "curriculum" which, as I could plainly see, was already on the list.

In their assurance of this and the way they voiced it, I knew that this idea had immediately been delegated to their covert "NOT a good idea" list.

Undaunted (though sadly grieved), I made a third suggestion: Given the phenomenal possibilities afforded by communications technology today, maybe we could be looking at a complete "de-centralization" of the school system buy putting greater emphasis on developing learning systems to carry educational programs state-wide, right into the homes of all learners.

Nope, they said. And one gentleman was indignant. "That only gives them (and he spat the word "them" as one would vilify "the enemy") a better chance to drop out."

And I must say that my compatriots' concern over the dropout rate was laudable. In fact, when it came time for us to "vote" on the list of various "good ideas" and prioritize our "top three," my team buddies all went to great lengths to explain very patiently to me how my support for "teachers to teach students HOW to learn" (rather than requiring children to memorize endless streams of data by rote) was an (invisible) sub-topic under the "Reduce Dropouts" point they had clearly marked on our group's priority chart.

And besides, they said, in order for teachers to teach "learning" and work to equip each child with a "thinking skills tool belt," the teachers would all have to be "re-trained." It would be "new subject matter" for them to master, which would take a whole lot of work, a very long time, a huge amount of effort and would simply be asking too much of all these wonderfully qualified and highly educated professionals.

What I wanted to say was: Wait a minute... you mean we've gotta treach the teachers "how to learn"? We've gotta give them a course in "thinking" (aka: logic, reason, comparative analysis, how to do research, how to ask meaningful and intelligent questions, stuff like that) before they can be prepared to teach our children these essential critical thinking and fundamental learning skills?

I wanted to ask: Is this accurately classified as "re-training" or is it more correctly defined as just another need for remedial work?

But I didn't say this because I knew it would start a war of words in our little 2-hour community and I profoundly detest war in any scope. It never has and never will accomplish any measure of productive, healthy, invigorating, and peaceful prosperity for anyone. War destroys, and I'm a builder. Thus I kept my mouth shut.

Yet it terrifies me that the opinion of these very folks will heavily influence the laws governing public education in the state of Arkansas. This possibility is driving me nuts, thus to salve my conscience I have penned this editorial and done what I hope is "my part" to stimulate further, ongoing, and vital dialog about the shaping of public policy for education in Arkansas.

In summary of which I want to stress that in spite of my opinion about certain vital segments of the meeting, I did come away from the gathering feeling hopeful. This was partly due to the way the overall program was organized and orchestrated (kudos to Don, Vonda, Jackie and all the Speak Up Arkansas folks) and partly because, during the culmination of the meeting, when all the small groups shared their priorities with the large group as a whole, I noticed that some of the strategies dismissed by my group-buddies had, in fact, made it onto the priority lists of other groups.

Seeing this, I felt relieved -- but also wondering  about my karma a bit. Reflecting, sorta-kinda, on how the "division by random lots" had ended me up with such a dogmatic collective, I decided that what I'd learned many moons ago from Mr. Wizard’s TV Science Show must be true... polar opposites attract.

Anyway, to get involved with this vital conversation about policy development for public education in Arkansas, contact Diane Vibhakar, Arkansas School Board Association,, 1-800-482-1212, and chat with her about setting up a Study Circle in your neighborhood, soon.

In reverence and homage to the Great Spirit emanating the ceremonies and rituals of  Easter, Passover, and so much more...  Remember Woomera (click here).

The jig is up....

I've become increasingly concerned over the state of education... not just here in Arkansas, but everywhere today. And, at least among the crowd I hang out with, I don't know of a person who doesn't feel the same.

Of course my interest is selfish... with my own kids at the focal point. And though I am absolutely confident about the quality, value, and significance of the education they are receiving (Well, duh! We're homeschoolers.), I am deeply troubled over what I see the system doing to s-o-o-o-o-o many other children and, as an outgrowth of that, to society as a whole.

Thus, my egocentric motivation.

I mean after all, I am a member of society. It don't go nowhere without me... or, for better or worse, I don't go nowhere without it. And I'm feeling like we -- as in "society" -- are draggin' along this HUGE load of excess baggage that has accumulated since, er... well, the dawn of time.

Because let's face it, ladies and gents, the times they are a changin', and in fact, have changed. And our present system of education (and it is *the system* -- not *the people* that I have truck with) is outdated, outmoded, incapacitated, lacking fluidity, and just basically shot.

Or perhaps, better put, it oughta be.

It's like an old model T Ford trying to keep pace on an Interstate highway, carrying our whole family and all our kin. Bag and baggage. Lock, stock and barrel..

It's a task that just cannot be done.

And it has absolutely nothing at all to do with the megahertz of our current CPU or the baud rate accessible to our modem.

And neither is *money* the problem. Not really. Not at all. Unless we're stone cold broke (which, sad to say, some of us really are), we manage to find the funds to do just about whatever we dern well please. You know I'm telling the truth.

But  our collective social *attitude* about money is a problem. A big problem. And it is a problem we can do something about.

We can change it by changing the system that created it. And we've gotta change it because, if we fail, we are all, quite literally (IMHO) doomed.

Doomed to suffer the consequences of an ever increasing, perpetually growing, all consuming drudgery that sucks the joy of living from our body and our soul. Permeating not just  our educational system but more nearly every nook and cranny of our lives, stealing valuable time from all of us and robbing our children of their youth.

This attitude is the self-same-one that deprives our children of a *real* education by mandating protocols that require "teaching to the test." It pilfers tons of precious resources in the namesake of "regulatory paperwork." And it impedes our collective ability to create for ourselves and those we love a meaningful life worthy to enjoy.

It's gotta stop, I tell you. It's gotta change.

And coming up is a gargantuan opportunity for you --- DO YOU HEAR ME, I SAID YOU!!! --- to get off your basket full of excuses and actually do something to make a difference. Because right here, in the Great State of Arkansas, we're gonna have a state-wide town meeting on this subject next Thursday, April 4.

Got that marked on your calendar? Good. Now write down the time. It's from 6 to 8 pm at a location near you -- and I'm NOT pulling your leg.

From 6pm to 8pm on Thursday April 4 (and you know I think something's important when I break that intolerant journalist rule about refraining from rhetorical redundancy) there is a meeting happening in a community building near you. To see a list, just click here.

And I'm begging you (and I don't beg often so get a good look at it now as it may never happen again), please attend this meeting. Bring with you a long list of questions, an open mind, the heartfelt desire to work together and "re-make *the system*" so that we all may grow to experience the quality of education that each and everyone of us deserves.

Finally and once more risking redundancy, click here for list of locations near you and then surf that site for complete information about the organizers and purpose of this historic opportunity.

Then, as soon as you've marked the date on your calendar and learned what the meeting is about, educate yourself about the ways and means of education by visiting the links below:

This first one goes to the online introduction to the book Creating Learning Communities (also available in hard copy) and does an excellent job of overviewing the educational system and its objectives from inception right through today: click here.

The next link takes you to an article (scheduled for publication in September) which was posted to an  education-focused board for comment. It does a phenomenal job of looking at the impact that the digital age has had on the education system, noting pitfalls and perks and also hinting at strategies for compounding improvements: click here.

The third link goes to another entry on the same list and contains the text of an article that just appeared in the Washington Post describing one of the directions homeschooling efforts have taken in that community which, it seems to me, the public education system could take a few lessons from: click here.

Sincerely, I hope these links prove useful. Might be good to raise some of the points made in
these various documents to the Blue Ribbon Committee on April 4!!!

(And remember, if you seek to find a story or information that previously appeared on Gozarks front page, visit our Archives!)

Christine Weiss

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