Who Decides Who Decides

It is difficult to decide which values to teach, but it is not nearly as difficult as knowing who decides who decides which values. Probably almost all of our ‘acculturating process’ actually represents the imposition of values; these values come from many potentially contradictory sources of reinforcement from various spheres of behavioral influence, be they home, school, other social institutions, peers, or elsewhere, but the student also possesses abilities to learn discrimination and therefore behave differently under different conditions. Many would say that ethically teachers are responsible for much of the student’s behavior and instilling within each child the selected best from the cultural heritage in order that, following school, the young adult will function productively. Most teachers decide that they truly want their students to be able to make decisions for themselves. If a teacher states precisely what power resides with the teacher and what decisions rest with the student, perhaps the student will continuously strive to earn more privileges rather than to feel sorry for him/herself by not being permitted to do something (Madsen & Madsen, 1998, p. 26).

Madsen, C. K. & Madsen, C. H. (1998). Teaching/Discipline: A Positive Approach For Educational Development. (4th ed.) Raleigh, NC: Contemporary Publishing Company of Raleigh, Inc.


Time, Attention, Socialization

“Animals are locked in a perpetual present. They can learn from recent events, but they are easily distracted by what is in front of their eyes. Slowly, over a great period of time, our ancestors overcame this basic animal weakness. By looking long enough at any object and refusing to be distracted – even for a few seconds – they could momentarily detach themselves from their immediate surroundings. In this way they could notice patterns, make generalizations, and think ahead. They had the mental distance to think and reflect, even on the smallest scale.

“Early humans evolved the ability to detach and think as their primary advantage in the struggle to avoid predators and find food. It’s connected them to a reality other animals could not access. Thinking on this level was the single greatest turning point in all of evolution – the emergence of the conscious, reasoning mind.

The second biological advantage is subtler, but equally powerful in its implications. All primates are essentially social creatures, but because of their vulnerability in open areas, our earliest ancestors had a much greater need for group cohesion. They depended on the group for vigilant observation of predators and the gathering of food. In general, early hominids had many more social interactions than other primates. Over the course of hundreds of thousands of years, this social intelligence became increasingly sophisticated, allowing these ancestors to cooperate with one another on a high level. And as with our understanding of the natural environment, this intelligence depended on deep attention and focus. Misreading the social signs in a tight-knit group could prove highly dangerous” (Greene, 2013, p. 7)

Greene, R. (2013). Mastery. Penguin Books: New York, NY.


Earth Day 2016: Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot

“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every ‘superstar,’ every ‘supreme leader,’ every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there–on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

“The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena… It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot

P.S. – Congratulations to James and Addison Kwasneski!


NCCIH Features MT for ASD

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) specifically featured Music Therapy (MT) to benefit individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in their April 2016 Clinical Digest: “The existing evidence base indicates that melatonin may be beneficial for sleep disorders associated with ASD. Music therapy may have a positive effect on social interaction, and communication and behavioral skills in those affected by ASDs. However, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether other complementary health approaches such as modified diets, supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids or vitamin B6, or chelation are efficacious for ASD symptoms” (NCCIH, 2016).

The e-newsletter compares the evidence-base, efficacy, and safety of common approaches to help those with ASD. Evidence for MT’s efficacy is attributed to the 2014 Cochrane review (Geretsegger, M., Elefant, C., Mössler, K.A., & Gold, C., 2014) “of 10 studies involving a total of 165 children with ASD found that music therapy was superior to “placebo” therapy or standard care for social interaction, non-verbal and verbal communication skills, initiating behavior, and social-emotional reciprocity. The review concluded that music therapy may help children with ASD to improve their skills in areas such as social interaction and communication, and may also contribute to increasing social adaptation skills in children with ASD and to promoting the quality of parent-child relationships” (NCCIH, 2016).

Geretsegger, M., Elefant, C., Mössler, K.A., & Gold, C. (2014). Music therapy for people with autism spectrum disorder. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, Issue 6. Art. No.: CD004381. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004381.pub3

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). (April 2016). Autism Spectrum Disorder and Complementary Health Approaches. Retrieved from https://nccih.nih.gov/health/providers/digest/autism-spectrum-disorder


High School

“Harold’s high school was structured like a brain. There was an executive function – in this case, the principal and the rest of the administrators – who operated under the illusion that they ran the school. But down below, amidst the lockers and in the hallways, the real work of the organism took place – exchange of notes, saliva, crushes, rejections, friendships, feuds, and gossip. There were about 1,000 students and therefore roughly 500,000 relationships, the real substance of high school life.

“The people in the executive suites believed that the school existed to fulfill some socially productive process of information transmission – usually involving science projects on poster boards. But in reality, of course, high school is to give young people a sense of where they fit into the social structure.” -David Brooks

Brooks, D. (2011). The social animal: The hidden sources of love, character, and achievement (p. 73). New York, NY: Random House, Inc.



“Nature draws us because it is in some way attuned to our feelings, so that it can reflect and intensify those we already feel or else awaken those which are dormant. Nature is like a great keyboard on which our highest sentiments are played out. We turn to it, as we might turn to music, to evoke and strengthen the best in us.” -Charles Taylor


What Life Expects From Us

“We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life – daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and right conduct.” -Viktor Frankl


“Best Learning Rhythm”

“Learning consists of taking things that are strange and unnatural, such as reading and algebra, and absorbing them so steadily that they become automatic. That frees up the conscious mind to work on new things. Alfred North Whitehead saw this learning process as a principle of progress: ‘Civilization advances by extending the number of operations which we can perform without thinking about them.’

Automaticity is achieved through repetition… It is far better to go over material for a little bit, repetitively, on five consecutive nights than it is to cram in one long session the night before an exam.

“Ms. Taylor wanted Harold to slip back into the best learning rhythm. A child in a playroom instinctively understands how to explore. She starts with Mom, and then ventures forth in search of new toys. She returns to Mom for security and then repeats her ventures forth. Then it’s back to Mom and out again to explore.

“The same principle applies to learning in high school and beyond. It is a process of what Richard Ogle, the author of Smart World, calls reach and reciprocity. Start with the core knowledge in the field, then venture out and learn something new. Then come back and reintegrate the new morsel with what you already know. Then venture out again. Then return. Back and forth. Again and again. As Ogle argues, too much reciprocity and you wind up in an insular rut. Too much reach and your efforts are scattershot and fruitless. Ms. Taylor wanted to slip Harold into this rhythm of expansion and integration.”

Brooks, D. (2011). The social animal: The hidden sources of love, character, and achievement (p. 87). New York, NY: Random House, Inc.



“Ms. Taylor was a big believer in the idea that creativity comes when two disparate fields crash in one mind, like two galaxies merging in space. She was a big believer in the notion that everybody should have two careers, two perspectives for looking at the world, each of which provided insights into the other. In her case, she was a teacher by day and, less successfully but not less important, a singer-songwriter by night.”

Brooks, D. (2011). The social animal: The hidden sources of love, character, and achievement (pp. 84-85). New York, NY: Random House, Inc.


Brené Brown: The Power of Vulnerability

To let ourselves be seen, deeply seen, vulnerably seen … to love with our whole hearts, even though there’s no guarantee — and that’s really hard, and I can tell you as a parent, that’s excruciatingly difficult — to practice gratitude and joy in those moments of terror, when we’re wondering, “Can I love you this much? Can I believe in this this passionately? Can I be this fierce about this?” just to be able to stop and, instead of catastrophizing what might happen, to say, “I’m just so grateful, because to feel this vulnerable means I’m alive.” And the last, which I think is probably the most important, is to believe that we’re enough.Because when we work from a place, I believe, that says, ‘I’m enough, then we stop screaming and start listening, we’re kinder and gentler to the people around us, and we’re kinder and gentler to ourselves.”