The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter


Monday, May 05, 2008

Leaving Des Moines


Sitting in my hotel room in Des Moines, waiting for my airport ride. Had a great weekend. Got to have a few conversations about things that really matter to me, and that makes a good con...

##

I must be closer to a breakthrough somewhere in my life than I thought--I can feel my nafs (a Sufi term roughly equivalent to kinks in my wiring) heating up. I can also see where T and I have some matching, complementary weaknesses that we will have to work through if we're going to operate cleanly on the next level of our career goals--I can see how we each have a tendency to isolate ourselves from each other slightly. We can go a day working in the same house and barely interact, if we're busy enough. That will not do. We both deserve better.

##

I'm luring Larry Niven onto Buzzword. We'd reached a stall with the fourth Dream Park book, but we may have found an exciting way through it. I'll say more later, but right now I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

##

A number of you had worked with the Five Tibetans. Is there anyone who was out of shape who worked their way to twenty-one repetitions? What was your experience? How about someone who was already in shape? I'd love to hear it, because I'm listening to what Mushtaq has been doing with his students, and he's getting tremendous results. I'm leaning toward including them in the Seven Secrets (Gawd! What am I going to have to omit?) because if I tell people they can make a real, concrete change in their fitness in about an hour a week, I need to do more than supply hyperlinks to the info. I need to actually lay out one such program. The Tibetans are the best I've seen at combining the following advantages:

1) with slight modifications, anyone can do them.

2) They take no equipment

3) They take little time

4) They take little space

5) You can learn them from a book or video

6) They cover a wide range of basic health/fitness needs.


Now in truth, they were never designed or taught specifically for fitness--they clearly have to do with joint and endocrine health. But it is possible to tart 'em up to make them tougher, once you've reached 21 reps. Anyway...does anyone have an experience on the matter to share?
##
The weekend box office for Iron Man was over 200 Million dollars worldwide, on a movie that cost 130 million. That's 3 1/2 days, folks. THAT'S why I'm willing to toil in the Hollywood vineyard (well, at least part of it.) IF I can get through the studio development process successfully, and create a profitable film, it might be possible to make enough money to last a lifetime (at the rate I spend it). That's worth the gamble. Artists have a very hard time living a middle-class lifestyle--unless they're married to non-artists who take mundane jobs to help balance out the cash flow. Generally, they are mostly poor as churchmice...with a few wealthy ones. Guess which one I'd prefer to be, all things being equal?
#
Got into a conversation with a group of fen about what they saw as the sorry state of our education system. My thoughts, of course, go immediately to "all right, what would even a THEORETICAL fix be, quite separate from the question of political implementation. And that, to me, should start with the question: what should the end result of a 12-year public school education be? To my surprise, a clear definition was not forthcoming. More "umms" and "ahhhs" than answers. My definition is incomplete, but would include the following:
"By graduation, every student should be basically capable of replacing an average member of his parent's generation in terms of earning enough money to support him/herself and a family, and being culturally savvy enough to be an honest, voting citizen."
Whatever else should be aspired to, any system that does not seek to replicate itself is dead in a generation. Anyway, those are my partial thoughts on the subject. Yours?

I'm

23 comments:

Anonymous said...

My personal experience was that I did go from 3 Tibetans a day (the starting level recommended in your Five Minute Miracle video) to 21 a day. Doing this, I found:

1. At 3/day, you can do decent movements no matter how out-of-shape you are. Increment upward weekly and one day you can do 21 easily that would have once totally overtaxed your body's skills.

2. Even though the exercises themselves aren't a workout, they help enormously in encouraging both control of one's food intake and in making one motivated to do other exercises. I think the Tibetans did this by greatly enhancing my awareness of my own body, in a way that made it feel just wrong to be overweight or sedentary.

3. They're not bad as an aid to physical coordination and overall body wellness, either. Better bodily dexterity and absolutely no things like backache are nice side effects.

4. I've had a number of my friends and family ask me how I got into visibly better shape, and I've told them all about this stuff. Despite the obvious proof that what I'm doing works (I lost a lot of weight three years ago, and have kept it off since then), and despite the fact that these exercises are easy-peasy to start, I've had no luck getting anybody to try it themselves. I suspect the reason is that these exercises do work, but that the idea of having one's life change this way is subconsciously really threatening: it means becoming massively more conscious of their own bodily existence, and dealing with whatever pain they've stored away there.

5. It makes a vast difference to learn to look at bodies -- one's own, or other people's -- as reflecting their inner psyches. After you develop that faculty, "normal" life in America never feels the same again. There's a lot of people out there who are significantly overweight to seriously obese. In the past I sort of ignored them. Now I can't -- and I can't help noticing the discord between their conscious beliefs and what their bodies are saying about their inner lives. Yike...


--Erich Schwarz

Ewan said...

We'd reached a stall with the fourth Dream Park book, but we may have found an exciting way through it

Second best news I have heard this year :-).

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised at a lot of confusion about the goals of the first twelve years of education at this time. The marine recruiting motto "Be all that you can be" should be our education motto, but its not.We try to make some people what they can't be and we hold back others all in the name of equality. Way back when the differences in ability and bent were recognized. Many students prepared themselves for the future by taking a high school path that led to a trade after high school. Now everybody prepares for college whether it suits them or not. Many finish at least two years of college and still are unprepared for gainful employment. Meanwhile much less is being done to educate the brightest to fully utilize their capabilities. I will always remember sitting in one of my high school classes and listening to my teacher dissatisfied with the results of a test berate the class with the statement that we were the brightest of our fellow students and the future of our country and that we owed it to the country to do a better job of applying ourselves. I cannot imagine a teacher today making such a statement.

Marty S

AF1 said...

Steve, can you talk a little about what Mushtaq has noticed in his students, as a result of the 5 Tibetans?

Just curious.

thrrrnbush said...

I agree with your succinct comment about being able to function as an adult member of the society, working, voting etc. But since I have one, I'd like to share a more detailed answer. Right now I am dealing with children under nine years of age and I'm a believer in late academics. At this age I am encouraging them to follow their own curiosities and passions. I had an elementary school librarian who told us at the start of every year that it doesn't matter what you know, only what you know how to find out. I am teaching them how to find out. I am working on matters of character; honesty and personal responsibility. I am instructing their whole being not just their minds.

Around the age of nine I plan to build more academic structure on this foundation. I will teach them how to read for pleasure and how to read for information, and that for me at least there is a huge difference in how to do these things well. Right now they only know how to read for words, it's a foundation, but they have no grasp yet of where it can take them. I will teach them to set goals, to manage their time, and I will try to instill in them a sense of giving back consciously and continually. I want them to understand failure as a natural part of the learning process and that the alternative is stagnation. I want to teach them to get up again and again, but to be more flexible than stubborn in their persistence (I'm still trying to teach myself that one, but I value the lesson highly) They will know how to write a resume and cover letter, how to present themselves in a job interview, how to balance a checkbook, how to manage their own credit ratings and the basics of running a household (including, but not limited to: cooking, cleaning and very basic carpentry, plumbing and electrical, regardless of gender). They will know how to drive a vehicle and how to check the fluid levels, tire pressure et cetera. They will have a familiarity with whatever base level facts are considered the norm when they come of age (i.e. the stuff on a GED or CHSPE). They will understand history as so much more than names and dates and maps, but rather as a living breathing thing carried in the chests of each ensuing generation spreading silently like ripples on a pond. They will understand that science is supposed to be about asking questions sincerely, and not about proving the opinions of privileged benefactors. They will understand that facts can be distorted, that statistics lie and that salespeople are always selling something.

Like I said my kids are young now so some of the details are fuzzy, and likely to change before they "graduate." When they think they know where they are going there will be heaps of stuff specific to those goals that I can't imagine now. Having chosen to homeschool my children I am sure that I think about educational outcome more than I would if we'd gone another route. But for now this is what I want out of their first eighteen or so years..

mjholt said...

The question: what should the end result of a 12-year public school education be?

I have given this some thought and here is my list:

1. Able to do recognize and discuss the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution with first 10 amendments, plus five of the next seventeen.

2. To be able to do arithmetic, and apply it to everyday situations such as making change, buying food, computing your cell phone bill, etc.

3. Ability to read/speak/write/spell in English.

4. Ability to read/speak/sign in another language other than English.

5. Know as much about the USA as someone taking the citizenship test.

6. Ability to cook, fix basic household items, and build something.

7. Ability or at least knowledge of physical games, exercise, and self-defense.

8. Basic logic.

9. Computer literacy.

10. How to apply for a job.

11. How to know when you have actually accomplished something or when you are being dissed (denied the accomplishment) or being BS'd (given credit where none is due).

12. The ability to find the answer on the internet, from another person, or from a book no matter who you are or where you are.

When I graduated from HS 40 years ago, I could do 1-4 and 6-8. I was most of the way there on 5 and 12, and lost on 9-11. I learned 10 and 11 the hard way. I think that 11 is the hardest, but all of us come out of the womb want to survive, and knowing where we stand in the world is a key element of survival.

Anonymous said...

I strongly disagree with your entire premise about education, Steve. Before you can decide what to teach, you need to have
an environment in which learning can flourish. The best way to do this is to have kids in the class who've been raised to value learning by their parents and by being able to easily move disruptive students out of the classroom. If these conditions existed, teaching and learning would become much easier. Being able to identify and reward excellent teachers and single out and fire bad teachers and administrators would also help improve education tremendously.

Marco

Anonymous said...

Woo new Dream Park book! Woo!
Bruce Purcell

Janet said...

I'd like to comment on the benefits of learning the 5 Tibetans and integrating them into ones life. I'm Mushtaq's student and it was one of the first things he taught me something less than two years ago.

I will say it's the most impactful physical discipline I've ever learned, with results either subtle or dramatic in nearly every aspect of myself, i.e. physical, emotional, mental, spiritual & sexual.

My body has gained in strength & flexibility. By heightening my body awareness, these exercises helped me learn proper breathing overall, and to be breathed by movements. An abundance of energy to go through my rather busy schedule has also been a benefit.

Then there are the more subtle benefits I've experienced which I'm convinced are also connected to this practice. I quit smoking at the same time I first learned the 5 T's and I'm certain the practice supported my confrontation with this addiction, as well as the others which immediately presented as soon as cigarettes were gone.

The intense process of spiritual awakening I've been undergoing has also been supported by the energy gain provided by the practice of the 5 Tibetans. Over time, I came to realize that I could be deep in my "stuff", but that if I would just take the 15 minutes to do them, something would shift for me and I would get "re-set" emotionally. This in turn opened up channels for greater flow of spiritual and life force energy.

We seem to have a small local epicenter of impact that keeps growing. I'd been doing the exercise for about 6 months when my friends began to ask me about what was going on, what was different. So we decided to offer a group teaching. Mushtaq and I organized a 3 hour class to teach about 15 people a year ago. We've had enough interest to teach 6 sessions in a year, including one to a few dedicated souls who've learned the second level. People who actually commit to doing the 5 Tibetans find it makes a difference. Period.

I would agree with nearly everything you said, except that from what I've been able to tell, the resources to learn proper breathing and the subtle nuances of the transitions between exercises, are not yet available in book or video format. From my experience, there's great value in group setting as people can learn by watching each other and benefit from the questions which come in groups.

If you have only 15 minutes a day to devote to your overall well-being, my opinion is that there's no better bang for the buck than the 5 Tibetans.

Dan Moran said...

The lack of good trade schools is a problem; the fact that the modern school system attempts to program kids for college is not. Like every other public institution 50 years ago, the school systems were racist, sexist, and classist -- now schools assume that every child is capable of learning and going to college. Sometimes they're wrong ... but it's better than the alternative, where wise, kindly teachers separated out the wheat from the chaff ... and were about as accurate as a coin toss.

Say what you like about the evils of standardized testing, if a dumb bad kid does well at them, no ignorant, well-intentioned teacher (or evil, badly intentioned teacher) can screw with that. That's worth a lot. God bless the upward mobility of American society. I'd be driving a truck without it.

Dan Moran said...

The school system prior to college should teach children how to learn basic survival skills. Beyond that it should identify, by transparent and fair methods, children who are competent to continue their educations at a higher level, and insure that they have the tools to do so.

Rob said...

It was great meeting you this weekend, Steven. I enjoyed all of your panels I was able to attend.

The first thing that needs to be done before anything else can happen is to triple the education budget. And skew the proceeds toward schools that are in poor areas. Growing up in Chicago, I was able to see the insane disparity between rich neighborhood schools and poor schools. As a practical matter, I think something to shoot for is some kind of state parity where every school has roughly the same amount of resources to draw upon.

What should be taught? Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic are a good start. But the world has gotten so complex that it's not enough anymore. If I had my druthers:

1. Critical thinking. Teach them the basic tools to think about what they are being told and the confidence to question whatever doesn't sound right.

2. Teach them about their bodies. Sex ed isn't about morality, it's about biology. Give them the tools to make an informed decision about if, when, and where they engage in natural behaviors.

3. Teach them about getting by in the world. I used to be one of those people who couldn't manage my money. No one in my family knew how, so no one taught me. It took a lot of effort and wasted money to figure it out. My life could have been a lot less stressful if someone had taught me how to handle my money.

4. The opportunity to learn as many different things as they want.

Lynn Gazis-Sax said...

how to balance a checkbook, how to manage their own credit ratings

This is one place where old school pre-Title IX junior high home economics classes suffered, IMO, from traditional gender role splits. Lots about cooking and not so much about checkbook balancing, budgeting, etc. If the whole point of home economics is to teach practical skills that the kids will need to run a household as adults, practical money skills would seem one of the most important things. More important than sewing, which, though it's a fine creative outlet as a craft, isn't something people do much any more as a necessity, beyond sewing buttons on.

I suspect I may be part of the last generation in this country to learn how to darn socks (though that I learned at home, not in home ec). Nobody I know seems to actually do this any more.

Doug G. said...

I worked my way through the Tibetans from 3 to 21 reps per day, and continued them for over a year (though I subsequently fell off the rails, and need now to work back into them again). I started from a fairly out of shape (and definitely overweight) point, and was pushing myself pretty hard in a walking program that eventually worked up to a two mile circuit. A few of my observations . . .

1) I don't remember any especially extrodinary results, though they were helpful in building level of physical health. Probably their greatest benefit to me came in fending off back problems by building my core structural strength.

2) The key point for me in improving my core strength was concentrating on working the 5MM/Be Breathed contraction of my abdominal cage. I didn't really realize the importance of this until I eventually replaced the Tibetans with Sonnon's joint-mobility programs (first Warrior Wellness, then Intu-Flow when it came out). They are wonderful programs, but in following them, I concentrated on the overall body movements and allowed myself to become more passive on the breathing side of the equation. It was some months before I realized that in discontinuing a focus on the core contractions, I lost a lot of tone and strength in my ab structure, and the back twinges came back.

3) I did encounter some frustrations with the Tibetans. Either due to my obesity, or a lack of strength in some required muscle group, there are certain movements I cannot do. It wasn't so much that there were things I couldn't do at the start that frustrated me, but rather that even after a year of doing the substitute moves for the exercise, I never got to a point where I could do the 'standard' version.

For instance, I'm thinking of the 4th Tibetan, where you start from a sitting position, place your hands on the floor at your sides, then lift your hips up to the sky until you are in an upward facing arch of sorts. To begin with, when I'm sitting, my palms won't reach the floor. But even using yoga bricks to make up the difference, I still can't even begin that movement of lofting my pelvis up. The best I can do is lift my butt off the floor a fraction, and hang there.

Steve's 5MM presentation of the Tibetans does supply substitute moves, in this case a pelvic tilt starting from a prone position. However, the replacement didn't seem to work me towards acquiring whatever strength I was missing in order to do the original version, so my inability to work towards the 'regulation' version frustrated me somewhat. I suspect there may be some sort of supplemental exercise I need to do to tone up whatever bit is interfering with me performing the original version.

Doug Gordon

Anonymous said...

"'By graduation, every student should be basically capable of replacing an average member of his parent's generation in terms of earning enough money to support him/herself and a family, and being culturally savvy enough to be an honest, voting citizen.'"

Would that mean someone who's 18 today functioning at the level of an average 18-year-old a generation ago, or functioning at the level of an average member of his or her parents' generation today?

If the former, yeah that works. :)

If the latter, it doesn't take into account all the additional training and experience average members of his or her parents' generation have gained since they were 18. :/

"The lack of good trade schools is a problem; the fact that the modern school system attempts to program kids for college is not. Like every other public institution 50 years ago, the school systems were racist, sexist, and classist -- now schools assume that every child is capable of learning and going to college. Sometimes they're wrong ... but it's better than the alternative, where wise, kindly teachers separated out the wheat from the chaff ... and were about as accurate as a coin toss."

Yeah. My school district had both a public college-prep high school and shared a public vocational high school with some other districts, but which one a kid attended in 9th grade was a choice parents/guardians made (usually consulting the kid) when the kid was in 8th grade.

Anonymous said...

I think a related issue is what is the provenance of the school and what is the provenance of the parents. Sex education is one area that is controversial, but what about other areas. Is ethics and ethical behavior a proper subject. Also at what age should some of these topics be addressed if they are to be addressed at all. Recently the news covered an incident about a teacher who refused to pledge allegiance to the flag. This demonstrates that teachers often have strong beliefs about controversial issues and have little compunction about influencing students toward their beliefs. These beliefs may differ significantly from the parents beliefs. When, if ever, does the school have a right/duty to deal in areas of belief?

Marty S

Anonymous said...

I was just on Yahoo and in their news they had a video on a preschool for gifted kids that required an IQ test of kids under 5. Any thoughts on that?

Marty S

Anonymous said...

"I can also see where T and I have some matching, complementary weaknesses that we will have to work through if we're going to operate cleanly on the next level of our career goals--I can see how we each have a tendency to isolate ourselves from each other slightly. We can go a day working in the same house and barely interact, if we're busy enough. That will not do. We both deserve better."

WHOA

Don't look at the limited interaction as something bad -- what is it you feel you are missing out on? After all, you are secure in the knowlege that after such a stretch you will end up in the same bed (so to speak)

Look at it this way -- what if (God forbid) one of you was suddenly gone? The ability -- and occasional practice -- of solitary production will make survival after-the-fact far more managable.

I'm not suggesting every time, either. Just don't look at alonetime as bad. Embrace the Self.

JoAnne

thrrrnbush said...

When, if ever, does the school have a right/duty to deal in areas of belief?

I think the school has the duty to provide a safe and respectful environment for a variety of beliefs. If a teacher or a student doesn't want to participate in the pledge of allegiance I think that that is well within their rights. Being disruptive of those who choose to say the pledge is not. It infringes on their right to a safe and respectful environment for their beliefs.

Sex Ed was handled satisfactorily when I was in school. They covered the biological basics, suggested abstinence, but taught about alternatives and gave parents the option of having their children sit it out in the library if they preferred to have them go off to college thinking they'd been delivered by a stork. Personally, between my mother's determination that I not repeat the folly of her youth and a well-worn copy of "Our Bodies, Ourselves" I think I could've taught the health classes I took. When I was eleven I wanted to be a midwife, so I really learned the human reproductive thing forwards and backwards before I had any personal interest in kissing boys.

So I guess my opinion comes down to the controversial issues need to be safe, respectful and optional. Even with my limited faith in the current state of public education I think they should be able to manage that.

suzanne said...

Sex education YESthe info itself is not a matter of belief
but of real and necessary facts
don;t have them handy but the stats on the percentage of adolescents having sex
before they are 18 is enormously high
even with the phoney-baloney abstinence education
which has just made sex more dangerous

I think GEOGRAPHY needs to be taught
and I am ever grateful for the 2 years of Latin I took
as I learned so much about the structure of English
and it also made the learning of the aromasnce languages
so much easily later on

how to frame questions and then find answers
is critical
moreso than learning a bank of facts to spew forth on a test

and yes how to provide the essentials for yourself
cooking, some mechanics
even some sewing wouldn't hurt
(my sons enjoyed it in the home ec they were required
to take in middle school)

and definitely money management
at the personal level

basics in sciences, social sciences and humanities

how to investigate where your passions and talents
might lie

Anonymous said...

"When, if ever, does the school have a right/duty to deal in areas of belief?"

Isn't *every* subject taught an area of belief? For example...

"I think GEOGRAPHY needs to be taught
and I am ever grateful for the 2 years of Latin I took
as I learned so much about the structure of English"

People can have different beliefs about where the borders on the map should be. People can have different beliefs about whether their kids should have to learn any second language. People can even have different beliefs about the speed of light, or recessive genes, or whether or not anything (including pure math) is definitely true...

Anonymous said...

Lets see the difference between belief and knowledge is that knowledge is a belief that is true. But ultimately we can't really know anything to be true for certain. Even pure math where we have to deal problems like the set of all sets which don't belong to themselves. This answers my question. Everything is in the provenance of the parents and there is no need for public school since there is no knowledge to be imparted only beliefs. I get it.

Marty S

Dan Moran said...

"Isn't *every* subject taught an area of belief?"

Not if your car starts in the morning.