Tag Archives: critical thinking

History Matters

Carol A. Hand

As William Blake wrote,

“What is now proved was once only imagined.”

I choose to imagine a future based on the best of the past.

“The forests have never failed the Ojibway. The trees are the glory of the Gitchi Manito. The trees, for as long as they shall stand, will give shelter to the Anishinabe and the Animal Brothers. They are a gift. As long as the Ojibway are beneath, the trees will murmur with contentment. When the Ojibway and the Animal Brothers are gone, the trees will weep and this will be reflected in the sound of the si-si-gwa-d”. My grandmother told me this is so, and her grandmother told her. When the forest weeps, the Anishinabe who listen will look back at the years. In each generation of Ojibway there will be a person who will listen and remember and pass it on to children. Remembering our past and acting accordingly will ensure that we, the Ojibway, will always people the earth. The trees have patience and so they have stood and have seen many generations of Ojibway. Yet will there be more, and yet will they see more” (Ignatia Broker, pp. 32-33).

lac du flambeau www dot distancebetween cities dot net

Photo Credit: Lac du Flambeau Photo Credits: Lac du Flambeau

This is a profoundly different future than the one Columbus envisioned.

“Christopher Columbus introduced two phenomena that revolutionized race relations and transformed the modern world: the taking of land, wealth, and labor from indigenous peoples, leading to their extermination, and the transatlantic slave trade, which created a racial underclass” (Loewen, p. 60).

Taino men and women greeted him with gifts when he landed on the shore of the Caribbean islands. His ruminations were simple.

“They would make fine servants…. With fifty men we could subjugate them all and make them do whatever we want” (Zinn, p. 1).

Bartolomé de las Casas wrote about what he witnessed later in Cuba.

“Endless testimonies … prove the mild and pacific temperament of the natives…. But our work was to exasperate, ravage, kill, mangle and destroy; small wonder, then, if they tried to kill one of us now and then…. The admiral, it is true, was blind to those who came after him, and he was so anxious to please the King that he committed irreparable crimes against the Indians (Zinn, p. 6).

“Spaniards hunted Indians for sport and murdered them for dog food” (Loewen, p. 62).


Photo Credit: Columbus and his men hunted natives with war dogs.”

“What Columbus did to the Arawaks of the Bahamas, Cortes did to the Aztecs of Mexico, Pizarro to the Incas of Peru, and the English settlers of Virginia and Massachusetts to the Powhatans and the Pequots” (Zinn, p. 11).

As always, there are choices. We can continue to believe the manufactured myths of heroic characters, or recognize we have a responsibility to be honest about the past. Without grounding in truth, we will be unable to find the way to a future that is based on the best we can imagine, walking beneath trees that murmur with contentment because we recognize that all life is sacred.

tree of peace

Photo Credit: Tree of Peace by Artist John Fadden

Works Cited:

Ignatia Broker (1983). Night Flying Woman: An Ojiway narrative. St. Paul, MN: Minnesota Historical Society Press.

James W. Loewen (1995). Lies my teacher told me: Everything your American history textbook got wrong. New York, NY: Touchstone.

Howard Zinn (1990). A people’s history of the United States. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.


Extend Your Brand – Seriously? – Blogging 101

Carol A. Hand

I remember as a teenager, I continually felt anguish because I was “different.” I desperately wished I could be like my peers instead of always questioning everything from a critical stance. Blogging 101 is beginning to remind of those adolescent days, although I have been reluctant to write about it because I don’t mean to be disparaging of things that appear to be important to others.

This course has helped me conclude that Voices from the Margins is aptly named. The past two assignments for blogging 101 this week have made me realize the blog I share with a partner is on the margins, although many of the friends in our blogging community share the space on the margins with us. After surveying the “events” and “challenges” sponsored by other blogs in response to an assignment, nothing seemed to fit as a place to highlight work I feel is important. Although it may be appropriate for others in the course to focus on expanding readership, proving one’s uniqueness through promotion and competition, and claiming one’s niche, these aren’t really what our blog claims to be about. Sure, I did find one “event” that focused on prose, but the prompt for the week was “horror.” I don’t write fiction, but interpreted from a different perspective, this prompt could certainly include my past posts about Native American boarding schools and child welfare practices, or cultural contrasts of approaches to hunting and gathering, but it would have been a stretch and may well have been viewed as arrogant or offensive.

But today’s assignment – branding?

branding iron slide

Sources: Definition and Image

I understand that it’s the new fad for universities that are eagerly adopting a corporate model in order to compete more effectively “for students and supplies in the marketplace” (Rex Whisman, n.d., para. 1). But honestly, I can’t ignore the images that came to mind when I hear the word “branding.” As someone who is ever sensitive to colonial hegemony, when I read the assignment for today,

I saw images of branding cattle,


Photo Credit: Cattle Branding

branding 2

Photo Credit: Cattle Brands

branding women who transgress society’s narrow strictures for “proper” behavior,

branding 3

Photo Credit: The Scarlet Letter

and what we still think is an appropriate way to stereotype Native American people.

branding 4

Photo Credit: Washington DC Football Team

I do hope at least some readers can step back and think about what the term “branding” implies from different perspectives and consider whether this is really an appropriate way to think about building supportive networks to exchange ideas and overcome the differences that are used to divide us. Branding is a corporate concept based on successfully overcoming one’s competitors. That’s not my idea of a supportive community. A song by Sweet Honey in the Rock comes to mind as a more accurate way for describing how I envision an ideal blogging community “ We Are – One.”

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“You Need to Remember What Is Really Important”: Blogging 101

Carol A. Hand

I remember rushing up Bascom Hill, a hefty climb, to the Social Science building at UW- Madison. I didn’t want to be late for class. I was the teaching assistant and official note taker for the undergraduate diversity class of 465 students. It was a lovely fall morning and I was feeling a sense of excitement. I had just received news that the grant I wrote with one of my professors had been funded by the National Institute of Health, the top in the pool of applicants. It meant I would be on a fast track to finish my doctorate with a career in academia guaranteed.


Photo Credit: Bascom Hill, University of Wisconsin – Madison

As I crested the top of the hill, I neared the site of one of the last battles of the Black Hawk War. Just shy of the plaque commemorating the war, a tribal elder appeared dressed in an unlikely outfit – blue jeans and a plaid flannel shirt. He looked at me with severity and simply said, “You need to remember what is really important.” I didn’t have time to reflect on the message then, but in the decades since it is something I contemplate often, although this isn’t a story I share with others for obvious reasons. The challenge of walking in two worlds, one based on rationality and empirical evidence and the other based on a deeper spiritual awareness are not easily reconciled. It turns out that I didn’t finish my degree based on elder caregiver issues. It would take more than a decade and many experiences later to finally complete a study on Indian child welfare, but that’s another story.

black hawk marker_big

Photo Credit: Dennis McCann, Journal Sentinel 

Today, I was reminded of this unlikely encounter by the last two blogging 101 assignments: “Content Loves Design”, and “Plug in to Social Networks.” Again I am reminded to think more deeply about why I began blogging in the first place and why I have continued. Honestly, I do hope people read my posts and find something of value. And I am grateful for the virtual friendships and community that allow me to see the world from so many different perspectives. Yet I am challenged daily to remember what is really important. It isn’t fame, and it isn’t being acknowledged by awards or having thousands of followers. For me, blogging is about connecting on deeper levels with people who share a commitment to exploring how we can each make the world a better place in our own ways.

Facebook is a necessary superficial medium to maintain some connection with family and acquaintances, but it has proven to be a profoundly disappointing venue for engaging in substantive dialogue. LinkedIn, focused on connecting on a professional level is likewise not a platform for sharing deeper dialogue. So what would be my purpose for using either of those venues for engaging potential readers?

Looking back at my encounter with the tribal elder who miraculously appeared, I realize that what I have needed to learn at various points in my life has appeared at the time I was able to learn from the message – Sartre’s existentialism, Camus’ absurdism, Kuhn’s scientific revolutions, Bronfrenbrenner’s ecosystems theory, or Freire’s liberatory praxis. The stories I tell are no comparison, but I think they do have meaning for those who find them when the time is right.

I am grateful for the prompts that encouraged me to think more deeply about life on the margins and what really matters. For me, it isn’t fancy fonts or fame. In an age of overwhelming choices, I realize once again how grateful I am for the community that finds what I share worthy of attention although what I have to say is simple and unadorned.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Response to Today’s Daily Prompt – Truth Serum: Blogging 101

Carol A. Hand

Let me be honest – I’ll take the truth serum and risk being misunderstood. I don’t like daily prompts. I realize many people do and they often share exquisite essays, photos, and poems. For me, they’re a distraction. The stories I write about come from an urgency that won’t let me rest until they are written – the opposite of writer’s block. At times, this is extremely annoying. When I have tasks that need doing like now – a garden to harvest and a yard to get ready for winter – ignoring the pressure to write means I risk a lack of focus for the rest of the day.

It’s true that there are times when writing is difficult for me – the kind of writing that requires accurate details. I have two books in process that require that sort of attention right now. They’re on hold until I have time to immerse myself into the work it will take to interweave historical and contextual details into a storyteller’s voice.

No one made me sign up for blogging 101. It’s a choice I made, hence I am completing this assignment quickly so I can rush outside to get some work done on this cloudy, chilly, blustery day. I don’t mean to be dismissive of my compatriots in this adventure, but I need to care for the gardens that are my most pressing responsibility today, when the time is right.

truth serum

Photo Credit: Geek. com

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Creating Caring Communities: Blogging 101

Carol A. Hand

“Transformation of the world implies a dialectic between two actions: denouncing the process of dehumanization and announcing the dream of a new society.” (Freire, 1998, p. 74)

This morning I awoke reflecting about the connections among widgets, community building, and political advocacy. What is the purpose for using widgets skillfully or expanding one’s blogging community? What is the reason behind promoting political candidates on the basis of their support for paid maternity and sick leave? And what do these apparently unconnected realms have in common? Widgets, political advocacy, and community building all rely on neutral technologies. Each can be used as a tool to work toward a vision. But what vision should I use my time to pursue? Which technologies should I try to master?


Photo Credit: http://wp-themes.der-prinz.com/clearfocus/

If I dress up a blog with clever, engaging widgets without attending to the content of my posts, what is the purpose? If I work to expand my blogging community and lose my sense of purpose, what’s the point of blogging? In a world beset by so many serious challenges, is the wisest, most compelling focus of advocacy really paid-maternity and sick leave? How does this change corporate hegemony? How can the technological tools of widgets, community-building, and political advocacy be used to further the vision of creating caring communities?

“… it is as necessary to be immersed in existing knowledge as it is to be open and capable of producing something that does not yet exist. (Freire, 1998, p. 35)

My recent excursion into the contemporary world of political advocacy raised many more questions than it answered for me. Yes, I do want to volunteer my skills as a writer to create caring communities, yet I feel out of touch with what motivates people. Expert-driven banking models of working with people are just not my style. Yet these approaches may be more effective for the women who recently attended the event I observed than anything I might suggest. Who am I to critique people who shoulder the challenge of advocating for progressive agendas in today’s political environment? To critique women who show up for an event because they care about issues? Just because I feel a need to focus on root causes and deeper questions doesn’t mean my approach is better or more effective. Yet without a broader and deeper framework, do we really have a way to connect each advocacy step toward a larger goal?

“ … to teach is not to transfer knowledge but to create the possibilities for the production or construction of knowledge” (Freire, 1998, p. 30)

One of the speakers mentioned the importance of stories. Each woman in the room had a story to tell about the specific issues that were salient for her, and the reasons why she showed up to make persuasive phone calls to other woman to encourage them to support “progressive” candidates. Although each woman was asked to introduce herself at the beginning, each was limited to one sentence that described who she was and why she was involved in the call-bank event. Then, each participant was given the script she should read when she contacted potential woman voters – a script that was written by the sponsoring agency staff. Yes, there were forms participants could fill out to record the stories they heard from other women, but what about sharing their own stories in the conversations? What about beginning the meeting by giving each woman 10 minutes to write out her story and reasons for showing up for the event? What about asking each woman to share her story as appropriate during her phone conversations? A voice of experience and passion based on her shared connections with the women she called?

“… the educator who is dominated by authoritarian or paternalistic attitudes that suffocate the curiosity of the learner finishes by suffocating his or her own curiosity.” (Freire, 1998. p . 79)

I was merely a respectful observer until I was asked to role play the phone call recipient. There were no willing volunteers so I reluctantly agreed. I wanted the women in the room to be prepared for tough situations, so I played an anti-welfare conservative. The woman role-playing the caller gave me a “thumbs up” as we sparred in our demonstration. The woman near me whispered – “That’s exactly how some of the people I call respond.” But the supervisor for the sponsoring agency felt a need to say that the scenario I portrayed rarely happened. The message I heard was that my skills didn’t fit with the agency’s agenda. Intending only to be helpful, I felt like I was threatening her control of the event’s agenda. All I did was respond to a request with the best of intentions. I used my education and experiences as someone who taught interviewing at a college level to help people deal with anger, rejection, or tough topics.

“The freedom that moves us, that makes us take risks, is being subjugated to a process of standardization of formulas and models in relation to which we are evaluated.” (Freire, 1998, p. 102)

The organizers of the event knew I was only there to observe to see if there was some way I could write about their efforts for the general public. The message I walked away with as people gathered their phones and learned the sophisticated technological system that would keep track of the calls and responses, was perhaps it’s best to explore other volunteer opportunities. There was no room here to dialogue about root causes and larger visions of creating caring communities in partnership with the women who came to make calls and the women who were called. My values and visions didn’t fit with the approaches I witnessed. I do, however, have another possibility for volunteering that I plan to explore. But I’m still not sure about spending stressful time dealing with widgets or the wisdom of continuing to expand a blogging community that already stretches past my ability to read and respond thoughtfully to the many people I follow and admire.

“The place upon which a new rebellion should be built is not the ethics of the market place with its crass insensitivity to the voice of genuine humanity but the ethics of universal human aspiration. The ethics of human solidarity.” (Freire, 1998, p. 116)

community lakeshore dot wnyric dot org

Photo Credit: http://www.lakeshore.wnyric.org/domain/19

In the spirit of strengthening our caring community, please let me know what you think …

Work Cited:

Paulo Freire (1998). Pedagogy of freedom: Ethics, democracy, and civic courage. Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

The Price of Rebellion – Runo Lite: Blogging 101

Carol A. Hand

Although I’m not sorry I refused to learn how to type as a form of rebellion against gender stereotypes, it did cause me a lot of extra work in my early days. You know, the days before personal computers when papers were written by hand on lined paper and then typed on a manual typewriter. I remember the only way I could reorganize the flow of what I wrote was by cutting out each handwritten sentence and continuously rearranging them on my carpeted floor and then taping them together in long streams. I didn’t want to type first. It took too long and too much whiteout. I was grateful for the invention of erasable onionskin paper, but still, my work always looked like I corrected so many typos and over-ran the margins on the right side and the bottom of the page. I did, and then thinned the text and the edges of my paper with strenuous efforts to remove all the evidence. I am grateful for computers, but still fondly remember the feel of writing things in my curious blend of cursive and printing.


Photo Credit: Etsy Market

In response to today’s blogging 101 assignment to preview a variety of themes, I looked at elegant, frilly and flowered. I looked at serious and professional. As someone over 60, I have no need to appear elegant or frilly. I prefer simple, lightweight, and clean. So it made sense for me to stick with my original choice – Runo Lite, a theme that matched my inclinations and quirks. It’s not perfect. I don’t like the near invisibility of embedded links. I wonder if that’s why so few people click out to the sites I spend time to find and embed? I wonder if I can make them more visible by changing the color of the font for embedded text links? (I can’t wait to see if this works!) The other challenge has more to do with my confusion when dealing with technological aspects. Widgets! How many hours I have spent trying to add widgets and get them to show up in the “right” place! Perhaps it’s a function of my theme. Many of the other themes I tested for this exercise automatically moved the content of some of the widgets to the margins where I have tried for hours to place them.

Nonetheless, I decided to stay with Runo Lite despite these challenges. But then, I learned to live with margins that never looked the way I would have liked. It’s the content that matters, right? (I was never graded on my margins in school…)

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“It All Depends on How You Look at Things”

Carol A. Hand

These were the words often repeated by the Churkendoose, a voice from the margins in the first book I remember reading as a young child (Berenberg, 1946). As a unique animal – a hybrid of a chicken, turkey, duck, and goose – the Churkendoose accepted his differences and those of others around him. Despite the initial discrimination he suffered, he stayed focused on using his special gifts to benefit others. Because it’s a children’s story, it had a happy ending. The Churkendoose’s efforts were rewarded by acceptance. In real life, that’s not always the case.

It may be that overcoming the differences that can be seen is easier than dealing with differences in perception that are not visible on the surface. In a story for older children, Aunt Beast, a character in Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time represents creatures whose “sight” is not dependent on superficial appearances, but on the ability to discern the essence or substance of things beneath the surface.

“We do not know what things look like, as you say… we know what things are like. This must be a very limiting thing, this seeing.” (p. 181)

“We look not at the things which are what you would call seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporal. But the things which are not seen are eternal.” (p. 186)

I was reminded of the significance of the ability to discern more deeply by a comment about Teaching – And the Wonder of Life in a Blade of Grass from someone I worked with in the past. Initially, the comment didn’t make any sense. I reluctantly decided not to approve it. After reflection, however, it seemed to be another perspective – one that conveyed the inability to see the wonder of life beneath the surface appearance of things. I am grateful for a culture and experiences that have privileged me with a different view, and for artists like Louie Schwartzberg  and scientists like Neil deGrasse Tyson  whose work reminds us all of the beauty and mystery of life.

The observations and question I shared in my essay…

“Understanding one’s self and the ways in which one has been socialized to see the world are indispensable for understanding others in respectful, inclusive ways. Learning to see the wonder of life in a blade of grass is perhaps one of the most important things we can learn. If we can’t see the beauty and wonder of life in nature, how can we see it in each other?”

blade of grass

Photo Credit: 3quarksdaily – Tuesday Poem

The response from the critical commentator (as originally submitted) …

“I spent a long time thinking about the acute angle formed by the tip of a certain blade of grass. Perhaps the word “thinking” is not quite appropriate. That strange, trifling conception of mine was no continuing process, bet reappeared persistently, like some refrain. Why did the acute angle have to be so acute? If instead it were obtuse, would the classification “grass” be lost and would nature inevitably be destroyed from that one corner of its totality? When a single tiny cog is removed from nature, is not nature itself being entirely overthrown? Then my mind would aimlessly examine the problem from one point of view, or the other.”
Yukio Mishima ~ The Temple of the Golden Pavilion

This comment, based on the 1956 novel by Yukio Mishima, helps me understand why some people can destroy the earth or oppress others. Perhaps they can only see triangles where others see the wonder of life. Those who see the essence of things must be a powerful threat to those who can only ponder the surface of things. Yet, as deGrasse Tyson observes, we are not given clear guidelines for making sense of the universe.

“We awakened on this tiny world beneath a blanket of stars like an abandoned baby left on a doorstep without a note to explain where we came from, who we are, how our universe came to be. And with no idea how to end our cosmic isolation. We’ve had to figure it out for ourselves.” (deGrasse Tyson, 2014)

How we live and what we learn to love all depends on how we look at things.

Works cited:

Ben Ross Berenberg (1946). What am I? New York City, NY: Wonder Books.
Madeleine L’Engle (1962). A wrinkle in time. New York City, NY: Dell Publishing Company.
Neil deGrasse Tyson (2014). When knowledge conquered fear (Season 1, Episode 3). Cosmos: A Space Odyssey.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“But … We’ve Always Done it this Way…”

Carol A. Hand

Did you ever feel like you were living in the wrong time? That somehow you had missed learning how to simply accept the fact that we should do things the way they’ve always been done? Wondered who had decided how things should be done initially, and who benefits from keeping things the same? Why so many people automatically react to any proposed change with immediate resistance by using the same old refrain – “But we’ve always done it this way”?

einstein graphicsheat dot com

Photo Credit: bbhc.com

The question I had to address throughout my career as a social work educator was whether I, like most of my colleagues at the time, should teach using paradigms and topics from the past, tweaking models that haven’t worked to improve people’s lives because they failed to take socio-economic causes into account. The message was to “Just teach students how to fit into the social welfare agencies where they will work in the future using new evidence-based methods.” Hmm. I must have missed something. Despite these individual pathology treatment methods, I don’t see much “evidence” that the structural causes of problems – exploitation and social marginalization – have improved as a result of decades of interventions. More importantly, I ask if we can afford such hubris and indulgence when we are faced with global unrest about growing socio-economic inequality and the escalating effects of global climate change. The populations most affected are, of course, the very populations with whom social workers plan to work in the future. Is it realistic to believe that the future we face will be any better served by using past methods that haven’t worked?

einstein licalvox dot com

Photo Credit: localvox.com

Why not try something new? Isn’t that what education is supposed to do, to evaluate the effectiveness of past efforts honestly in light of what is happening now and what we anticipate in the future? Some students may be persuaded to voice the need to fit in with the status quo, but they’re quick to understand why it’s important to learn for the future. Most faculty and administrators are harder to convince. It could just be the challenge that motivates me to innovate.

It does take courage to walk into a classroom as the “teacher” knowing you don’t have the answers, and knowing no one has your back if you make a fool of yourself. Sure, you may have years of diverse experiences, but as Lisbeth B. Schorr (1998) points out, reinventing the wheel is important. Each group and community that wants to make a difference needs to figure out for themselves how to work together toward shared goals, to own the goals and the process through negotiation, teamwork, sweat, and tears. My approach to teaching research to undergraduate students this summer was an experiential experiment to see if students could conduct their own research studies as teams.

einstein quoteko dot com

Photo Credit: quoteko.com

I am pleased to report that the experiment “worked.” Yesterday, as each team of students stood together before the class with their Power Point ready to share, the atmosphere in the room was decidedly different than that of the first day. (Only two hands out of eighteen went up that first day when I asked how many were excited to learn about research – more than I expected.) When they presented their impressive work during the last class, it was clear that they had become “teams,” they shared the work, disappointments, and successes. They learned that research is not easy to do regardless of your methodology. They learned through the most effective way there is — by actually doing something themselves and thinking critically about their experiences. They could clearly articulate what they would do differently the next time!

Through participant observation, one team learned about the effects of changing weather patterns on local food production by weekly visits to a farmer’s market and conversations with the local vendors. Through surveys, another team learned about local views of climate change and contrasted those with views nationwide. The single subject design team took an inventory of the food in their cabinets and refrigerators and noted where it was produced. They planned to calculate the “food miles” and CO2 production that resulted from their buying choices. Over the next month, they took two more inventories to see if their buying habits changed as a result of trying consciously to reduce their carbon footprint. The photo voice and interviewing teams both focused on exploring the effects of the 2012 deluge and flood that affected Duluth, MN and the surrounding areas. Their experiences countered the common assumption that qualitative research is easier than quantitative studies.

I am so grateful that I had an opportunity to work with this adventurous and creative group of students. It was a fitting way to end my career as an institutional educator. The only thing I regret is that other faculty and institutional decision makers missed the student presentations. Imagine – what could the world become if educational institutions were inspired to explore ways to change how things have always been done in order to honor the earth and all life?

Work Cited:

Lisbeth B. Schorr (1998). Common purpose: Strengthening families and neighborhoods to rebuild America. New York City, NY: Anchor Books.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Morning Mourning Thoughts

“When people do no follow Tao,
Their horses are harnessed for war,
Their energies are used for destruction,
And many go hungry.
Great troubles come
From not knowing what is enough.
Great conflict arises from wanting too much.
When we know when enough is enough,
There will always be enough.”
(From Diane Dreher, 1990, The Tao of inner peace: A guide to inner and outer peace, p. 126)


Photo Credit, Ava Hand Johnson – 2013, Photographer – Jnana Hand

“Oftentimes have I heard you speak of the one who commits a wrong as though he were not one of you, but a stranger unto you and an intruder upon your world.
But I say that even as the holy and the righteous cannot rise beyond the highest which is in each of you,
So the wicked and the weak cannot fall lower that the lowest which in you also.
And as a single leaf turns not yellow but with the silent knowledge of the whole tree,
So the wrong-doer cannot do wrong without the hidden will of you all.
Like a procession you walk together towards your god-self,
You are the way and the wayfarers.
And when one of you falls down he falls for those behind, a caution against the stumbling stone.
Ay, and he falls for those ahead of him, who though faster and surer of foot, yet removed not the stumbling stone.”
(Kahlil Gibran, 1923/1951, The prophet, pp. 40-41)

May we learn to live in peace with each other and in harmony with the world we share.

The Fourth of July: Nationalism and Colonialism

Carol A. Hand

As the date of the quintessential celebration of colonial oppression for Indigenous Peoples in the U.S. approaches, signaled by loud explosions in the night, an image from my childhood comes unbidden to mind – a child crouching, head bowed, eyes closed, hands tightly covering ears.

crouching child

Photo Credit: Carol A. Hand

I remember how much I disliked attending these events with my family, surrounded by crowds of people cheering and oohing and aahing in the local park as the symbolic missiles of war blossom like booming “fiery flowers” in the darkened evening sky. I didn’t know the deeper symbolism then for Indigenous Peoples, but the mindless and frenzied fascination of the crowd frightened me. I realize it still does. It brings to mind a story I wrote about my experiences in Missoula, Montana, during the U.S. invasion of Iraq.


Mount Jumbo montanalandtrusts dot org

Photo Credit: http://www.montanalandtrusts.org/successes/

I moved to this working class neighborhood in mid-August of 2004. From the woodlands of the northern mid-west, with a 3-year sojourn in the prairie lands of the central U.S., my westward-facing backyard view of the steep grassy slopes of a Mount Jumbo was both completely foreign and yet somehow made this feel like home. On my first 4th of July in East Missoula (2005), I admit that I was horrified by the way this normally quiet street was transformed into what felt like a war-zone. My dog cowered and my parakeets grew silent and ill as the unrelenting noise continued day and night for what seemed like an eternity. And the bags of trash I collected, spent fire cracker debris, confirmed the danger of exploding incendiary devices in crowded residential neighborhoods. Fortunately, my house had a metal roof, and although the firecracker debris made sharp clanking noises when they landed, I knew they wouldn’t start a fire.

This year, as I watched Mount Jumbo’s grass and trees burn, the neighborhood boomed and bloomed with what the local newspaper referred to as “fiery flowers.” Yet, this year was different. I have had a chance to reflect on the culture of my new community, a mixture of tiny houses and trailers on little plots of land. I saw families join together in celebration, and neighbors who normally work long hours come together to celebrate as well. Those of us who were new to the neighborhood were invited to participate in the “block party,” and were welcomed. Just as I left the house to join the group, I saw the fire spreading up the mountain’s side. In alarm, I called 911 and ran to let my neighbors know, convinced that they would not be setting off fireworks if they knew. I was shocked by the reactions of those neighbors I joined briefly. They knew the mountain was on fire and were unconcerned. They continued setting off fuses without pause, reminiscing about other fires in years past that burned the more rugged slopes of Mount Sentinel to our east. Chaos reigned in the street as children, teens, and adults haphazardly vied to light the missiles lined up in the middle of the tree-bordered street. As I watched, one neighbor had to dodge a misfired firecracker that must have singed the hair on his leg as it whizzed past.

mount jumbo fire makeitmissoula dot come

Photo Credit: Mount Jumbo Fire (makeitmissoula.com)

The celebration and coming together of those who have been in this neighborhood, some for a lifetime, had already set the gently rolling slopes of the mountain aflame. It would be easy to blame my hardworking neighbors for endangering others and the environment out of ignorance. Unrelenting, the barrage continued although the spreading fire on the mountain was visible to all. One family stood alone and lined up their firecrackers in the middle of the street in front of my side garden. They lit one firecracker after the other as I watched the mountainside burn. I had a sense that some of the missiles barely missed me as I stood in my backyard gazing toward the mountain (confirmed the next day as I picked up the debris.)  Although I consciously remember to respect other cultures and perspectives, I lost my willingness to tolerate this clear threat to my home and gardens. Finally, I had enough, and turned on every sprinkler, spraying water into the street and the dousing the next missiles ready to be fired. The barrage intensified for a moment, and then blessedly, stopped.

As I look at the blackened slope of the mountain the next morning, I wondered how to preserve a sense of community and celebration in this changing neighborhood while protecting people and property. I am not sure that suggesting that residents here travel to the city’s scheduled firecracker events is a reasonable solution. We live on the other side of the railroad tracks, the other side of Hellgate Canyon. The city proper is not a welcoming place for many residents from my part of town. The class divide is something many residents have lived with for a long lifetime. Longer-term residents fear that the newer members of this neighborhood like me are part of a gentrifying trend. They fear that we will bring our devaluing judgments of them closer to home and restrict the freedom of the community to celebrate as it always has.


As I reread this essay, it occurred to me how far I am willing to go to respect the right of others to walk their paths. It takes a lot for me to act to stop the missiles that rain down on my gardens and threaten my well-being, whether they are real or symbolic. But I can’t silence my thoughts and the growing concern in my heart. As my neighbors lit their firecrackers while Mount Jumbo burned, I thought of the bullets and bombs that were raining down on Iraqi people at that moment. I thought about the symbolism of a nationalistic holiday that celebrates the domination of Indigenous peoples in the U.S. and the domination of peoples around the globe. My neighbors’ behavior reminded me of the unconfirmed myth about Nero fiddling while Rome burned. I couldn’t stay to be part of the block party. I walked to the staging area for fire fighters to see if there was anything I could do to help battle the blaze on the mountain. There wasn’t. Trained fire crews were climbing the side of the mountain and fighting from the air. Unlike the air battles in Iraq, the helicopters that flew overhead were not shooting, they were scooping water into large buckets from the nearby river to douse flames, while bombers were dropping fire retardant, not bombs.

mount jumbo bomber missoulian dot com

Photo Credit: The Missoulian

For me, this 4th of July will symbolize another type of fiddling while Rome burns. Instead of focusing the brilliance of our scientists and skills of our workers on the  development of alternative energy and toxic waste clean-up technologies, fracking vents bloom like fiery flowers across the global landscape. Instead of putting on the brakes and changing course on our path toward global destruction, our footprint is pressing “the pedal to the metal” in our race toward Armageddon.

Because I am no longer a child crouching in fear with eyes and ears closed, I wonder how I can turn on the sprinklers to stop the mad volley. I prefer to celebrate peace and balance quietly rather than war and domination with explosions that symbolize battle. The notions of “nations” and patriotism to nations and nationalities only serve to divide the peoples of the world.