Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Lessons from a dog

This is Wigley Jack, enjoying a sunny, warm spot perched atop a tree stump in our backyard, just this past weekend. He is now eleven years old, and has had a multitude of health problems over the past year, the most serious of which was dental surgery in June to remove eleven teeth (there's that same number again!). We have just found out he has kidney stones or a tumor or something like that, and have made the difficult decision to stop xrays, tests and procedures, and let him enjoy his final days, weeks or months. We feel this is the kindest thing, and also the only choice considering our tight budget. We have spent about $3,000 above normal vet expenses this year, and just can't afford any more.

I've been reflecting on life with Wigley, who has been a stalwart friend through good times and is what dogs can teach you ...
1. Dogs greet each day the same, with a certain amount of enthusiasm. They don't know if they are going on a vet visit or a special, extra long walk with treats at the end. They never stress about the future, beyond the next meal or arrival home of family members.
2. Dogs love unconditionally - they don't keep a tally of grievances in their heads. They forgive almost anything, and move on from that moment.
3. Dogs love the simple things - a good bowl of kibble, a stroll around the neighborhood, a roll in some soft grass, chasing a squirrel from the bird feeder.
4. Dogs, even an active Jack Russell in this case, will lay uncomplaining by your side when you are sick or recovering from surgery, and never whine because you can't do anything "fun."
5. Dogs make you feel better when you are down, without requiring an explanation from you.
6. Dogs teach you not to be a compulsive house cleaner - what's a little hair, dirt, slobber, throwup among buddies?
7. Dogs trust...I mean REALLY a way most humans can't.

Have you told the dog in your life how much you love him/her today?:)

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Clones- No light at the end of this tunnel

I just saw a thought-provoking, stylish movie (think 2001 A Space Odyssey meets Matrix) about the use of human clones, called Moon. In the movie, clones of one man were used for three years at time, one after the other, to oversee a mining operation on the moon. Each clone thought at the end of three years he was heading home to a young wife, who had actually already died of old age. Even though they were clones, each varied in temperament a bit, and finally one clone started to figure the situation out, and due to an error by the computer, another clone was activated before the other had died, and together the two clones work to send one of them back to Earth.

In an odd way this sort of parallels an education issue that has been on my mind. We are so focused on creating an educational system solely based on test scores that we are simply working to create "Stepford" children, later adults, or "clones" to enter the work force. What about creativity and individuality? Wasn't the success of our country based on the efforts of some to "buck" the system? I am substitute teaching at different schools in our city, and right now I am spending a lot of time at a private school that educates students who learn differently. Some students have ADD, ADHD, anxiety disorders, OCD, or some degree of autism. A fellow teacher I used to work with asked me if I thought that such diagnoses were on the rise. Yes, I do agree. The question is: is it because we want to "weed out" those who don't fit our test factory school system, or is it due to environmental/modern life issues, or both?
I believe there will be no light at the end of this educational tunnel, unless we set aside our testing data and graphs!