Thursday, October 25, 2012

Your destinations affect the quality of your journey through life. Invest in travel which exposes you to new cultures; not just scenic overlooks and entertainment.

The valued gained from overseas travel to diverse cultures and places is a hard expense/investment for many to measure and justify.  As a result, countless American's each year, stick to "the basics". Simply choosing to travel or drive to domestic destination. Those that they are either already familiar with; or which seem to offer the best value; the best "bang for their buck".

In starting to plan our spring vacation to Europe and/or Asia this year; I'm reminded just how often the destination not only serves as a new place to visit, but also a new way of seeing life.  I am forced to make such mutual considerations, given the impact traveling has had in my own life thus far.  Not only the way in which we often measure our successes and failures, but also the way we view it's potential and the course in which it holds.

Also, keep in mind we are just one week away in this country, from selecting who will be or remain the President for the next 4 years. (and many feel their opinion and view on such things, is vital to the future and success of this country.) So many thoughts are therefore directed at how we come to choose such leaders and what motivated these choices.  I thought I might also draw that connection when discussing these befits of non-domestic travel.

Oddly enough, I have to admit; that as time and travel have come to pass in my adult life; the traveling itself has definitely had a bigger impact on the way in which I view life, both here and around the world. Much more than the simple passage of time.  So as I and others around me have aged, I have also witnessed, both; the narrowing views of the exclusively domestic travelers I'm surrounded by; as well as, the broadening affects on views and greater understanding of those who have made efforts to vacation abroad over the course of their lives.

As the saying goes, "Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness." But even more than this, it allows a person to start re-examining how or why they became a person who sees the world with such a narrow, limited perspective.

     ...excuse me, while I digress once more on the topic of our pending election...
Within this heated political climate, and especially one which reveals so many of the conservatively constricted; perhaps at times destitute opinions, we are surrounded by here in the south; I have also found it very telling, when the most narrow, constricted, confused opinions I hear, are 9.9 times out of 10, sourced from voters who have indeed, NEVER ventured away from the shores of North America.
(For this matter, very few have traveled beyond a 5 state region! With perhaps the exception of some rare, individual destination flight or cruise taken to or from California, Florida, New York, Alaska, a Caribbean Island or elsewhere; on an apparent, "once in a lifetime" venture; spent primarily within a hotel, ship, beach front or on a mountain. In other words: seek to tour an entirely new culture, not just a single destination.)
     ...sorry for that...
The beauty and humility which can come from seeing ancient cultures which possessed lifestyles far beyond the comfort and luxuries of our own; or sharing a dinner with some of the nicest people you've never met, who all originate from a place, society and culture you have no connection with; can be an utterly wonderful experience! The type, movies, plays and books are written to share; but are easily yours to have.

Such profound reviews as those offered when traveling to different ways of life, can not only allow someone to overcome unfounded fears; moreover, it helps them respect and discover the abundant possibilities which surround them, even while they are at home. Thereby drastically expanding those daily choices and views; which were previously well outside the reach of more limited exposures to life and subsequent thinking.

Imagine, realizing once again, that you are not too old to grow and learn. Imagine the pride you would feel, discovering you were a broader, more open; a more understanding person this year than the last. Imagine, not being trapped within the confines of mindsets gleaned from only one mall, one neighborhood, one church, one cause, one family, one mind. Imagine the real world...

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventures. Ones we can all grow from if only we strive to view them with our eyes open. Whether you're day-dreaming, teaching your children, having a conversation with your friends and family, or voting; doing so with a closed, limited view of the world, is not only cheating yourself from experiencing a more capable life, full of wisdom; it is also cheating those around you of a more fulfilling, richer experience as they share their life with you.

Don't cheat yourself... Learn to think outside the confines of your own mind, the borders of the small world you currently live in. Don't just count on a book, the TV, a movie theater, a James Bond film or a Disney World trip to tease you with what life can actually be, smell, taste, sound and feel like when it is not trapped inside one person's typical realm of living and limited travel.

Find out why God didn't make you the smartest person on the planet. Find out what real beauty can look like, find out what new taste can inspire. Find out what you're missing...

Then learn to vote, share and live as if you don't have all the answers; or even the slightest knowledge of the real world. Become excited by that possibility, by that fact! Not scared of it, while clinging firmly to the desire to avoid any other truths or examples.

If you can't let go of your own personal limits in reasoning and considering of others unlike yourself, you'll end your life completely restricted by a white knuckled grip on ignorance and partial views. The types of limits which will never offer perspectives benefiting you or your loved ones on a level representative of your real potential. And that would be a shame for all of us.

In the future, book travel which reveals a new life, not just a new destination. Discover new cultures as well as new sights. Allow the most entertaining aspect of travel to be the positive difference it creates in your own future, and the lives of those you effect.

(My own written Facebook profile, represents just a small portion of my personally expanded views gained from traveling beyond our shores. It can also be read in the following blog: )

10/16/2013 Update:
“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime.”
― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fear is an effective bait for conservative positions. Our children deserve better!

Definitely the very sensible position you would hope more of us would have, and take, for our students; which is what makes the GOP's stance of eliminating methods for encouraging critical thinking from our Texas Public Schools so utterly devastating. As if our school system isn't already backwards and devastated enough as the 27th worse ranked in the nation.  :-(
(Further exacerbated by the fact the U.S. is already ranked 28th in the world!)

To summarize the GOP's position within the formal 2012 Platform, they recently published back in August; it states (and I'm paraphrasing):
"Critical thinking skills can serve as nothing more than a "behavior modification"; having the potential of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs."  The fear the GOP then further encourage parents to consider and adopt, is the idea that a student who is encouraged to "challenge their current fixed beliefs", will then become a student which will ultimately wish to "undermine parental authority."

Fear, is always such a wonderful bait for conservative positions, isn't it?  Sad...  :-(  So ironic, to encourage parents to, "fear the undermining of parental authority"; in order to encourage the blind allegiance of those who are susceptible to such fears, as they seek comfort through conformity and party loyalty.  Offer them fear of their own children's advancement and ability to think with critical pragmatism, so you can in turn corral those who have lost the very same ability by believing such nonsense.  So poor kids, never had a chance.

My first thought when I read the GOP 2012 published Platform was; how in the world would ANYONE feel it is healthy to encourage a young, student to simply conform to their own current level of "fixed beliefs"?!  I mean we're talking about a growing, living, young, students. Isn't the whole point, to encourage them to see who they might become; versus stagnating, right where they are or where they can be held back to conform to be.  Very sad.  Very telling of our countries decline in education and worldwide competitiveness. Shameful...

We must find inspirations and hope from speakers like Sir Ken Robinson:
In order to cope with the current disastrous leadership we are witnessing within our own political landsacape, which forces us towards "conservative" positions, at a time when radical changes are so desperately needed. (RSAnimate Productions are always enjoyable to watch as well: (Same speaker, different speech.) )

Regardless of how some choose to sugar coat the GOP's current 2012 Platform of the State's 2013 goals for our school's curriculum; (or how some attempt to more narrowly point to curriculum's associated with Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) & Outcome-Based Education (OBE)); the discouragement to teach skills related to establishing knowledge, comprehension & application; represents one of the scariest versions of continuing to limit our countries potential by forever limiting our students thought processes and/or ability to learn and think for themselves.

Many GOP supporters of such limiting "traditional" teaching methods, will simply tell you there is no modern mechanism for empirically measuring a students performance when they are offered any form of objective learning skills; therefore we must stick to age old  methods focused on rote learning and memorization.  Such as the dependency on flash cards and word memorization and spelling exercises in order to teach a language  versus any newer approaches of "Whole Language" instructive techniques focus on meaning and strategy instruction. The list goes one as to the nature of limits presented and maintained in every subject of elementary and secondary education.

You can read the platforms full report, in it's entirety, for yourself at the following link:  (Go to page 12, the section on "Knowledge-Based Education")
In contrast here is the Democratic Platform: