Shack II – Good Friday at the Basilica of Saint Mary. “God” Among Us.


In my tradition, today is Easter. Whatever your tradition, this day, all best for a happy one!

(click to enlarge)

At the Stone War Memorial at the Minnesota State Capitol Mall, March 28, 2017. Each Minnesota County contributed a boulder on which part of a single war time letter was inscribed. This one is from Todd County Minnesota.

March 17 at this space, I posted about the film and movie, The Shack. You can revisit it here. At the beginning of that post, I very deliberately mentioned Columbine High School which became memorable April 20, 1999. At the end of that post I have now added my blogpost about The Shack written at the time I read the book in 2009, plus my Amazon review at that time. At the end of this post – postnote 1, below – is my unedited first rough draft thoughts about todays post, saved on March 19.


It’s been almost eight years since some friend told me about the book, “The Shack”, and now well over a month since I saw the film version in Littleton CO (see postnote 2 below). I have had some very interesting conversations about the book in the past month (including with myself!), and my antennae have been up to observe, as I say in the headline, “God Among Us”.

These are two repetitive thoughts this day:
1) Ours is an individualistic society, with a tendency to create God in our own image and to justify our own action. This is a real dilemma for organized hierarchical religion of all varieties, long accustomed to controlling the flock through one or another view of what God is, or is not.
2) We have great trouble dealing with forgiveness…of others, and of ourselves. The 1916 quotation on the boulder which leads this column merits long and very serious reflection and conversation.


Tenebrae on Good Friday evening at Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis – two days ago – seems to bring it all together for me at this moment in my history.

We were in a jam-packed church Friday night.

The stage for Good Friday had been set for me, personally, through a brief back-and-forth between two of us – long-time good friends – earlier in the day.

I’m a regular at Catholic Mass; my friend used to be. He has his reasons.

Some snips:
J: “Happy Easter from the Apostate. I haven’t been to a Good Friday service in ages… do they still pray for the conversion of the Jews?”
D: “Maybe we’ll go tonight and I’ll let you know…we visited Auschwitz, etc., in the spring of 2000, a mixed group of Jews and Catholics from Basilica and Temple Israel. About that time, the big story was the shakeup in the famous Oberammergau (sp?) Passion Play, where the big deal was the guilt of the Jews… But, I think, there is a relatively positive equilibrium at the moment….

Seated, I leafed through the program booklet, and in the section, “Jesus Breathed His Last” on p.6, was this (click to enlarge):

Tenebrae Program booklet at Basilica of St. Mary Minneapolis MN Good Friday April 14, 2017

The powerful service continued, and at page 12 in the booklet, came a prelude: “Remarks (Please be seated.)”

Presider and Basilica Pastor John Bauer began brief remarks by talking about the tragic history of Jewish – Catholic relations, and the strong impetus to change those relationships particularly in the time beginning with Pope John Paul II.

Then he introduced the speaker, Rabbi Sim Glaser of neighboring Temple Israel in Minneapolis.

I have heard Rabbi Glaser before, and we did go to Auschwitz with Temple Israel members in 2000, so what I and the others were about to hear was not a surprise.

I would summarize Rabbi Glaser’s very powerful remarks in this way:
1) There are three major Abrahamic religions: Jews, Christians, Moslems.
2) Jerusalem is important to all these religions.
3) We all live together in this world, and we need to relearn how to communicate with each other, rather than continue isolation and division.

I usher at Basilica often. I am sure that many of these people who Rabbi Glaser was addressing from this Catholic pulpit had not been in Church for a long while. Some may have been surprised.

The Rabbi had been introduced to much applause; when he returned to the pew, seated among all of us, the applause was even greater and sustained. This at a service where the final words in the program are “All depart in complete silence“.

I thought of my earlier conversation with my apostate friend, and about “The Shack”, whose focus (at least to me) is the need for forgiveness, of others, of ourselves.

A few hours earlier, my friend and I had closed our e-mail conversation.
J: “Heck, I go [to Catholic Mass”] fairly often… at least 2 Sundays per month at least, at St Joan… and I don’t even consider myself either Christian or Catholic….
D: “Actually, I like going to church. It’s a good calming place for me. We’re a large diverse place so there’s all sorts of folks who wander in, including me, I guess.
J: “Yep, calming… agree!

The Shack? A novel followed by a movie. By traditional standards, perhaps, a purveyor of bad theology.

But what I witnessed at Basilica of St. Mary on Good Friday 2017 was the very essence of what I had read about and saw in “The Shack”. It may not seem like it, but people are beginning to get it. Let’s leave it at that.

Happy Easter.


POSTNOTE 1 – the early draft of this post, March 19, 2017: This post begins with two pages from an 1896 8th grade Geography book, used by my grandmother when she was in 8th grade – the final year she went to school at a Catholic school in Wisconsin, not far from Dubuque IA. It speaks for itself. (Click a second time and you can enlarge both).

The above was 131 years ago, in the United States of America, in a textbook sanctioned by my Church, the Catholic Church. It was the basis of instruction for 8th graders in a Catholic School.

We have changed, and I think very much for the better. But where we started was dismal, and for some what the standard should still be.

POSTNOTE 2: We saw the film, the Shack, literally across the street from “Cross Hill“, overlooking Columbine High School in Littleton CO. By sheer coincidence, I was visiting my family in Littleton five days after the massacre on April 20,1999. We joined the throng of people who slowly moved up that “hill” of construction remnants, to see the crosses that had been planted there by a man from another state for each of the victims killed that terrible day. It was incredibly moving.

It is long ago, now, so I don’t remember precisely, but in my memory, the day we reached the top, two of the crosses in that line had been cut down – the ones erected for the killers, the two students who had killed the others and then themselves. They, too, had perished, but denied standing as having also been killed.

In effect, they had been denied the right to be grieved – two more lost lives on an awful day.

My son and I walked up that same hill little over a month ago, and there is now a permanent monument – presently being reconstructed – remembering those killed 18 years ago.

But the killers seem to appear nowhere in todays monument, at least nowhere I can see. I can see the reasoning. At the same time, how long will it be till we can forgive, to echo that letter in the photo above, written in 1916, about the Civil War 60 years earlier.

In my opinion, unwillingness to forgive others, and ourselves, is the blind-side of forgiveness that affects every one of us. No one need qualify for forgiveness. To me, that seems to be the essence of this day, Easter Sunday, April 16, 2017.

Have a great day, and all which follow.

from Flo: Amen.

from Jermitt: Wonderful testimonial, wonderful historical story of your Grandmothers education and great lesson on forgiveness for everyone.

from Larry(, with permission): Found your pieces on “The Shack” and Good Friday in your Roman Catholic Church to be thought stimulating. Will watch for the book and/or movie. I’ve bypassed the book several times but your article prompts me to maybe read it or at least look at the movie.

Regarding the Roman Church, I have my problems with this body and not just because I’m a lifelong ELCA Lutheran. I have many dear friends – like you – who are Catholics and when my wife and I have visited places like Mexico and Hawaii, we’ve attended mass at the most prominent landmark in any village, the Catholic cathedral. I find your church’s emphasis on string instruments and piano refreshing. I’m with Garrison Keillor on protesting against overly-enthusiastic organists. We have them in our church and, apparently, they’re also playing loudly in Mr. Keillor’s.

But my concerns today with your church have to do with their heavy-handed role in American politics. Although it raises my blood pressure, I listened to Catholic media, both radio and television, featuring endless praise for Donald Trump because of his stand on “abortion,” although his stance on anything, including abortion, is a bit suspect. The commentators on Catholic media sounded like they took their training from Fox News. Horribly one-sided. I called into one national program and reminded two of the on-air expounders, who were praising Republicans and blasting Democrats, that it was Democrats who put across the Civil Rights Act, Medicare and Medicaid, and fought for working class people, many of whom belonged to unions and were good Catholics. Also, because I’m “pro-choice,” does not mean I’m against life. I believe Republicans and Catholics ought to care as much about babies who are born – through health care, education, and so forth – as they are about getting between a doctor, his or her patient, and the patient’s God, or no religious belief. Our Republican legislators in North Dakota, many of whom are Catholics, cut health care programs for women and others but pass unconstitutional measures that waste tax dollars on wild goose chases that do nothing but please the Roman hierarchy.

Noting the personal morality record of Mr. Trump, multiple divorces, not paying subcontractors, and proposing to cut health care while investing more money with the Daddy Warbucks of the country, I just don’t get it why the Roman Church in the USA is so in love with Trump and expressed such hatred for Mrs. Clinton. They preached their right-wing philosophy so strongly during the Presidential campaign that, I believe, the should have lost their 501-3c tax exemption.

Response from Dick: Larry, it’s a rather daunting task to take on your response. I just googled the words “Catholic census” and the first link was a reputable one, Pew Research, that says there are over a billion Catholics worldwide, half of the Christians. The whole global population is over 7 billion. I usually hear that Minnesota has about 20% Catholics; the U.S. about 25%. That’s lots of folks, and I know from long experience that they aren’t all alike.

I was in college in the transition from the old to the new Church – 1958-61. Generalizing is dangeous, granted, but I think I can fairly say but “authority” took a hit in the post-Vatican II era. This was great for many Catholics; “the pits” for many as well. In one sense or other this battle is joined every day in one way or another.

Personally, I’m on what I’d call the social justice side of the debate within the church. I’m sure the authoritarian side would also say they’re for social justice, but they’re more into control, often played in the assorted debates that you cast concern about in your state (which is a state very familiar to me.)

I choose to stay within the Church. I don’t see it doing much good to drop out and start over in some other denomination. Those I would call “authoritarians” are not comfortable with the current Church, which is fine by me. The Catholic Church, like many Christian churches (and others, doubtless) has a very long history of authoritarianism, going all the way back to Constantine’s embrace of Christianity as essentially the state Church of the Roman Empire about 300 A.D. In general, where the ruler went, the people went. Some places, everybody was Lutheran; other places, something else. in the olden days sense, we’re sort of in the wild west.

I think I’ll leave it at that, except to emphasize once again Rabbi Glaser’s advice at my Catholic Church on Friday: we need to look at and talk with each other. That is risky, but the only way to break the current and very unhealthy stalemate. Just my opinion.

A LETTER: On April 17, I sent a letter to the Denver Post. I almost immediately got a call back that they were interested, and I expected it would be printed. Thus far (Apr 26) I haven’t seen it printed. So here it is:
Last month we were in Denver to visit family. I asked to visit “Cross Hill”, the place above Columbine dating back to just after April 20, 1999. March 11, 2017, we walked to the memorial.

April 25, 1999, I was in Littleton to visit the same family, who then and still, lives little more than a mile from Columbine. In a steady rain, four of us patiently trod up to those new crosses.

At the top were two fewer crosses than originally set in the ground. Those two were those raised for the killers, also students, who also perished that day. Those crosses were cut down.

I know the reasons those crosses came down.

Today I speak to the need, in my opinion, to recognize once again these two students whose personal demons led to the heinous results. They were victims too.

Forgiveness is difficult. Consider it, seriously.

#658 -Bob Barkley: Teaching as a Team Sport: Thoughts after the Chicago Teachers Strike (Sep 10-19, 2012); and What I've learned so far (as of Nov. 19, 2012)

Pre-Note: This post has been held for some time, with precedence given to Election 2012. The topic of Public Education is timeless and crucial.
Bob Barkley has very strong “street creds” in public education, from beginning public school teaching in 1958, through years of Quality Ed work within the National Education Association, through Executive Director of Ohio Education Association and post-retirement consulting.
Teaching as a Team Sport:
Bob Barkley: Yes, you read that title right. Traditional schools are structured and managed as if teachers were individual performers. Evidence and common sense say that’s far from being the case.
Given the recent furor over the Chicago teacher strike and the accompanying union bashing that dominates the mainstream media, we’d do well to give thought to what can be learned from successful schools around the globe.
We talk much about American exceptionalism. A key element of that exceptionalism is our deep-seated belief in the merits of competition. So thoroughly have we adopted the notion that market forces inevitably lead to superior performance, we have great difficulty accepting the fact that schools that emphasize collegial relationships, encourage shared faculty planning, and make use of cooperative approaches to designing and implementing teaching and learning strategies, routinely outpace those that stress competition.
Most teachers know this intuitively, although too few articulate it well. Professional organizations, unions, school administrators, and schools of education are also familiar with the research and conclusions based on experience, but are no more successful than individual teachers at getting the message across. The narrow preoccupation with raising test scores at the expense of all else seems to have so rattled educators they can’t get their sensible messages out.
The need to work together is a major reason why private sector pressure to rate and pay teachers on the basis of test scores and other individual performance measures is a huge mistake. Predictably—given political reliance on corporate funding for campaigns—neither Republicans nor Democrats are willing to listen to educators. Vouchers, choice, charters, merit pay, school closings and “turnarounds,” and other silver bullets being fired by politicians and rich entrepreneurs block dialogue that could be productive if they came to the issues open to the possibility that the hundreds of thousands who actually do the work might just possibly know something about how to do it best.
Corporate fascination with competitiveness notwithstanding, in teaching and learning, competitiveness is almost always counterproductive. It blocks a host of useful strategies for evaluating performance, gets in the way of freely sharing good ideas, and wastes the benefits of knowing one is part of a team, the work of which will inevitably be smarter than that of individual members.
It’s ironic that teamwork—an idea the merit of which is taken for granted on factory floors and playing fields, in neighborhoods and families, and just about everywhere else that humans try to be productive—is seen as counterproductive in classrooms. Within companies managers want employees to collaborate with colleagues. An accountant sitting next to a fellow accountant is required to work with that person. No one wants the two of them to compete, withhold trade secrets, and crush the other by the end of the day.
Finding scapegoats, fixing blame for poor performance on a percentage of teachers or on a few individuals, has an appealing simplicity about it, but it’s a lazy, simplistic, misguided approach to improving system performance. As management experts have been pointing out for decades, if a system isn’t performing, it almost always means there’s a system problem. Since teachers have almost no control over the systems of which they are a part, it’s necessary to make the most of a bad situation, and the easiest way to do that is to capitalize on their collective wisdom. If they’re being forced to compete against each other, there’s no such thing as collective wisdom.
For a generation, under the banner of standards and accountability, teachers have been criticized, scorned, denigrated, maligned, blamed. Accountability in education as indicated by standardized test scores is no more about individual teacher performance than accountability in health care as indicated by patient temperatures is about individual nurse performance.
I’m not making excuses for poor educator performance. Teachers should be held accountable for identifying, understanding, and applying practices that produce the highest level of student achievement. Administrators should be held accountable for creating an environment that encourages the identification, understanding and sharing of effective practices. Schools of education should be held accountable for whatever improves the institution.
But the new reformers aren’t interested in improvement, just replacement. Management experts say, “Don’t fix blame; fix the system.” Just about everyone in the system would love to help do that if given the opportunity, but the opportunity hasn’t been offered, so nothing of consequence changes.
Case in point: The Chicago teachers’ strike. Rahm Emanuel, like the rest of the current “reformers,” came to the table having bought the conventional wisdom in Washington and state capitols that educators either don’t know what to do or aren’t willing to do it. He obviously went to Chicago with the same tired suspicion of teachers, the same belief that they’re the problem rather than the key to a real solution, the same confrontational, competitive stance.
Will we ever learn? Don’t hold your breath.
What I’ve Learned So Far (as of Nov. 19, 2012):
In February of 1958 I began student teaching in a small rural Pennsylvania town. Approximately one month into that experience my master teacher was drafted into the military. And since there were no other teachers in my field in that small district, I was simply asked to complete the school year as the regular teacher.
From that day on I have been immersed in public education at many levels, in several states – even in Canada and with some international contacts, as well as from many vantage points. So some 54 and a half years later, here’s what I have learned so far.
1. There will be no significant change in education until and unless our society truly and deeply adopts a sense of community attitude. And a sense of community is first and foremost based upon an acceptance that we all belong together – regardless of wealth, race, gender, etc.
2. The views of amateurs, otherwise known as politicians and private sector moneyed interests, while they may be genuine and well intentioned, are, at best, less than helpful if unrestrained by the views of the professionals working at ground level. Put another way, the view from 30,000 feet may give a broad sense of how the system looks, but the view from street level gives a sense of how the system actually works. Neither is wrong, but both are inadequate by themselves.
3. Moneyed interests such as test and textbook manufactures and charter school enthusiasts will destroy general education for they have little commitment to the general welfare and common good
4. No institution or organization will excel until and unless it adopts at all levels a shared sense of purpose – a central aim if you will, and agrees upon how progress toward that purpose will be measured over time. Education is no different.
5. At the basic levels all education must begin with the recognition and nurturing of the natural curiosity and the current reality of each student.
6. Teaching is a team sport. In other words, the structure and general practice in schools of teachers operating as independent sources of instruction is flawed. Anything that exacerbates this flawed structure, such as test score ratings of individual teachers and/or individual performance pay schemes, will be harmful and counterproductive.
7. The separation of knowledge into separate disciplines may be convenient to organizing instruction but it is counter to the construction of learning. Therefore, integrated curriculum strategies are essential if neuroscience is to be appreciated and taken into account.
8. School employee unions can be useful or problematic to educational progress. Which they become is dependent upon their full inclusion in determining the structure and purpose of education. The more they are pushed to the sidelines, the more their focus will be narrow and self-serving.
Robert Barkley, Jr., is retired Executive Director of the Ohio Education Association, a thirty-five year veteran of NEA and NEA affiliate staff work. He is the author of Quality in Education: A Primer for Collaborative Visionary Educational Leaders, Leadership In Education: A Handbook for School Superintendents and Teacher Union Presidents, and Lessons for a New Reality: Guidance for Superintendent/Teacher Organization Collaboration. He may be reached at
Ed. Note: Bob Barkley did a great deal of significant work within NEA on quality initiatives in a number of states, including Minnesota. Here’s a recent article, “Guerrilla Baldrige in the Classroom” outlining a long term impact of his and NEAs work towards quality systems in public education.

#160 – Bob Barkley: Context and alignment are everything.

Context and alignment are everything: Context determines how we think about things, how we see things and how we see each other. It is our unconscious reality – one we create for ourselves or is created for us through marketing and such.
As a result, many, no, most if not all, of us go through our lives in what can only be called fantasy. This is because context is not actual reality. It is simply the way we view reality at a particular point in time. Authentic learning is the process of consciously reflecting upon and adjusting one’s context to fit a new reality. Those who do not adjust are doomed to that fantasy.
Thomas K. Wentz in Transformational Change states it about as simply as it can be when he writes: “You can’t do things differently until you see things differently.” “Contextual blindness,” Wentz later adds, “is oppressive and demoralizing.” Wentz was applying this observation to business management, but I contend that it applies across the board to all personal and organizational settings. How many marriages have been torn apart by couples not sharing a common context for their thinking and behaving together? Is there a family anywhere that can’t relate to that observation somewhere amongst their kin? I doubt it.
Peter Barus, an extremely bright, wise, and articulate acquaintance of mine via the Internet, captured much of this with the following: “…human beings have no direct awareness of what is actually going on in the world around them, whatsoever. Instead our brains construct a kind of virtual-reality model of the environment, organizing the chaos of sensory input according to an arbitrary self-referential logic, simply ignoring whatever doesn’t quite fit, patching the gaps with bits of recorded memory, and we live as if these multi-sensory movies-in-the-head were reality. It is a survival adaptation that works astonishingly well. The brain needs to predict the immediate future well enough to keep you alive in the great outdoors, and it’s pretty good at this. You can go through life without ever waking up from this dream, and things will sort of automatically turn out ok, mostly. At least there will be a sort of continuity that is sufficiently reliable to increase population.”
This façade of reality that we all live with is context. And real context is something we can influence. It can best be described as creating focus and determination – Kennedy’s vision of “a man on the moon in ten years” set a context for the nation. It established focus on what could be, and how to get there, rather than on its improbability.
As we are ending the first decade of the twentieth century, context seems dramatically influential in our world. Are we focused on getting affordable health care for all, on reducing man’s negative impact on our climate, on removing money from undue influence in politics, on establishing an authentic sense of community where we all care for each other – that accepts that we all belong together? Or have we established up front, in a predetermined context, that all of that is unrealistic and impractical?
Do we common folks simply have a different context – a different sense of reality – than our elected leaders? I hope that is what it is. I hope neither of us is ignoring the need to learn and adjust – to grow our reality and refine our context. What else can explain Obama’s departure from what he promised in his campaign? Does he simply see things differently now? And if so, why does he not attempt to share that change with us? Tis a puzzlement.
But context is not all there is to it because, as Wentz observes; “When the context has changed, entirely new content will be created.” That new content can be both invigorating and productive or it can be chaotic and overwhelming. Which it is becomes a matter of the related concept of alignment.
So, if Obama’s context has changed, and he fails to share it convincingly, we are stuck with a predictable chaos, and the nation will stay unaligned. And I have to admit that this is what I feel right now – chaos.
What Kennedy’s statement did was get everyone headed in one direction and fully aligned. Clearly our nation isn’t there at the moment. The opening sentence of George Labovitz and Victor Rosansky’s book, The Power of Alignment, is the following quote from Jim Barksdale, CEO of Netscape: “The main thing is to keep the main thing, the main thing!
What is Obama’s “main thing?” I do not know and few seem to. He must correct this and soon or the chaos will continue.
So, context, either new or old, absent alignment ends up creating chaos. The role of leadership is to assure a shared context and foster alignment. This component is sorely missing from our recent national leadership on almost any issue. And the context that has been created and fostered by corporate and conservative-leaning leaders – of both parties and the media – has developed and exploited our unconscious reality to the point where the demise of our society is real, if not imminent.
Bob Barkley, counselor in systemic education reform, author, and retired Executive Director of the Ohio Education Association. Worthington, Ohio.

#158 – Bob Barkley: "Useful to those in power…."

I have been reading Howard Zinn’s A Power Governments Cannot Suppress. It is a collection of his essays on a variety of topics all of which portray the benefits of civil action to reign in the powerful.
About half way through there is an essay on Nationalism. In it I was struck by the term applied to certain factors that are “useful to those in power
.” I had not thought of this label applied to many of the attributes the concern me but it is about as apt a description as I have heard for many of these negatives.
There is nationalism – the blind support for the fictitious boundaries that separate people only, for the most part, due to the pure chance of their birth. Nationalism is used to rally support for “your country” against any other country that does not agree with your leader’s espoused definition of what is best for your country. It is terribly useful to those in power in your country, and they almost always exploit it to their ends. Often those citizens who are not in agreement with their national leaders at a particular point in time are labeled as traitors to their nation.
There is religious fundamentalism – the extreme and historically and theologically unsupported allegiance to a literal interpretation of conveniently isolated and selected excerpts from the Bible or other holy document. Those in power in the US and in many Middle East countries almost always introduce or close their official statements with some utterance of loyalty to a popular divinity. It is exploited to the point that there is almost never a second thought given to it.
There is imperialism – the assumption that through whatever means your country has at its disposal, and for whatever purpose/need your leaders assume is justified, your nation can impose itself on others. By dramatizing that purpose/need, a nation’s leaders exploit popular zeal for imperialistic invasion and occupation of foreign lands. It is extremely useful to those in power to trumpet the threat of others to the selfish and often shortsighted wants of the people. Such behavior is specifically inconsistent with the teachings of all major religions yet this is conveniently ignored by those in power – EVEN many of those in power in these religions.
There is patriotism – the expectation for all those in a particular country to steadfastly display loyalty to one set of beliefs about how a country should behave as defined by that country’s leaders. Allegiance to those leaders themselves is misplaced for allegiance to what the country actually stands for or the principles upon which it was founded and established. Almost without exception national leaders define patriotism as loyalty to their particular beliefs and goals and anyone who does not espouse those particular beliefs and goals are branded as unpatriotic. In deed, we go on to celebrate events and people who have adhered to the popular beliefs and goals at a particular time in history even when history proves beyond doubt the inappropriateness of such adoration. Columbus Day comes to mind.
There is divine sanction – the almost incredible and inane conclusion that whatever evil or violence a nation imposes upon others is justified by some message from a divinity of some sort. While this grows out of the religious fundamentalism spoken to earlier, it is unfortunately and often unconsciously adhered to even by those that would not be considered religious. “In God We Trust” emblazoned on the coinage of the nation or on our license plates is an example of the aura of divine sanction that subtlety engulfs us all – often with not a second thought by many. We even have presidents who proudly proclaim that “God told me to do it,” or “I prayed about what to do” to explain away their actions that seem inappropriate to many of us.
There is the claim of moral purpose – the ultimate in an ends justify means mentality. And too often the moral purpose is, in fact, immoral and is little more than violent revenge and reactionary and driven by emotion rather than reason. At these times the hard work and competence demanded of nonviolence is rejected out of hand. And, throughout history, in the case of military super powers, the easiest alternative is military action justified by some strange morality.
There is the sense of moral superiority – the illusion that whatever is done is acceptable because of the erroneous assumption that ones own country is surely more moral than any of its competitors/enemies. This sense leads to the claim of moral purpose. Those in power almost never reveal any thought that their country could be wrong and is certainly as moral as it could possibly be – at least comparatively. And the people find it convenient to fall in step with such thinking, so leaders exploit it without exception.
To sum this up there is the over riding loss of any sense of proportion – the inability and/or unwillingness to apply reason and deep thought to the grand scale of what is happening around us. We have been wired to emotional and shallow reasoning. Psychologists have been pointing this out repeatedly. It is not new but it is fatal if not challenged. It is an outgrowth of a combination of stunted education and continual spin by the media and politicians. It is easier to follow than think, and leaders exploit this phenomenon endlessly.
All these characteristics are present in trump today. They serve our leaders well and we the people poorly. They must be raised to public consciousness and publicly challenged.
Bob Barkley, counselor in systemic education reform, author, and retired Executive Director of the Ohio Education Association. Worthington, Ohio.

#103 – Bob Barkley: The Evils of Commerce

Everything that is discovered – whether an idea or a scene – that can earn a buck will be exploited and then ruined.  That is the way of commerce in the unregulated capitalistic scheme of things.  Only the people, through their government, can control this.  And when the commercial interests themselves control the government, hope is lost. We are getting very close to that point.
Ambrose Bierce in his Devil’s Dictionary defines commerce thusly: “A kind of transaction in which A plunders from B the goods of C, and for compensation B picks the pocket of D of money belonging to E.” I suspect the “E” in this formula is we the people.
It is extremely hard to be objective about a system that for the most part has served many of us quite well – and still does in many instances.  It is hard to have significant investments that are doing well and at the same time criticize that which seems to be working in one’s self-interest.
But failure to do so means being blind to the inevitable collapse of a system of greed and collusion amongst commercial interests.  As 18th century’s Scotsman Adam Smith observed, in reflecting upon the evils of monopolies, “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the publick, or some contrivance to raise prices.” Then he added, “The proposal of any new law or regulation of commerce (that arises from the merchant class) ought always to be listened to with great precaution.” Amen! As in health care maybe?
It is not that profit is wrong or that hard work and innovation should go un-rewarded.  It is that the “general welfare” (Check our Constitution’s Preamble.) and the nation’s founders all too familiar term, ‘the common good,’ are being ignored in such an unconstrained system.
As Scotsman Adam Smith apparently felt from his study of the Greeks, wisdom was the avoidance of excess in all things. Thus, it can be concluded that wise government does indeed guard against excesses – whether it be in poverty or profit.
All of the above paints many of us with a broad brush.  It implies that those who have invested their lives in the financial system, the insurance system, the health care system (At least in the US.), and in many well-intentioned (at least initially) endeavors are somehow evil.  That is not the case, but it speaks to the blinders our current system places on most of us.  We seek employment and well-being and for the most part no one chastises those in such businesses. But it’s the system stupid, as they say, and it is a system that must be roped in – soon and strongly – for I am convinced that it cannot prevail much longer and shouldn’t.
Most of us are in denial on this topic.  In Reality Isn’t What It Used To Be, author Walter Truett Anderson tells us, “Faced with information, the believer becomes either a constructivist or a fundamentalist; the former takes stories lightly, changes them, or abandons them entirely when it becomes necessary; the latter deals with troublesome information through psychological denial and/or political repression.” I believe we’re seeing both at play all the time regarding today’s commercial capitalist system. Anderson goes on to point out that all explanations of reality are tainted by this psychology.  In my words, we see what we wish to see and hear what we wish to hear based largely upon how it makes us feel about ourselves.
In that context, our ability to be rational requires that we step outside our context and look down on the picture.  It requires that we go to 20,000 feet and ponder what is beneath us – absent our direct relationship to it.  That is when the truth is both easier to see and to bear. And when I attempt to do that, the picture relative to our commercial system is not pretty – and yet it controls us ever more in our unrestrained ‘crapitalistic’ society.

#81 – Bob Barkley: The Growing Incivility of Public Discourse

A reluctant churchgoer, some power pushed me there recently as the title of the sermon was particularly poignant.  It was, “When you open your mouth.”
On the same weekend there was an opinion piece in the local paper titled, “If you know you shouldn’t say it, then just don’t.”
Both the sermon and the editorial quote from the Bible’s New Testament book of James where it says, “No man can tame the tongue. It’s a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”
Here I was, in the midst of observing one of our nation’s more uncivil debates, about our nation’s antiquated medical care system, and I am confronted with these two experiences highlighting the unchristian nature of such behavior.  And yet, many of those engaging in this less than civil behavior, claim to be Christians.
What is it about our tongue that gives us so much trouble?  How can we “tame” this dangerous instrument – one that can also do so much good?  The sermon gave me the clue. It was this simple formula and it was not simply think before you speak.  It told me what to think about before I speak.  I am to ask 3 questions:
1)    Is what I am about to say true?
2)    Is what I am about to say necessary?
3)    Is what I am about to say kind?
It may be just that simple.  How come so few people, including yours truly, live by such a moral and ethical code?  Why does the media give credence to the tongues that are so out of control?  What attracts us to such uncivility?
When someone starts a comment to you with, “I shouldn’t say this, but…” we should quickly respond with, “Then don’t.”
But how do we control uncivil behavior in the public arena?  What is a well-meaning politician to do when confronted with uncivil behavior? Was Barney Frank right to ask, “What planet have you been living on?” to a rude, boisterous, and obviously uniformed citizen at one of his town meetings. Can we legislate civility?  I think not.  Then how do we establish a culture where incivility is unacceptable?
Not long ago I had a remarkably sobering experience as I joined about 60 educators in spending a day at a nearby prison.  It is not you usual prison.  It is a premier rehabilitation facility.  I learned much from the prisoners.  And a comment one of them made is particularly germane to the topic of civility.  He said, “All cultures depend upon imitation for their survival. Poverty and crime are cultures, and we tend to accept our destination within our particular culture.”  Apparently, if that is true, and I sense that it is, we have created a culture of imitation around incivility.  And one commenter on an earlier draft of this little essay even suggested, incorrectly I think, that those of us offended by the screaming and yelling, need to get over it and start doing it too – the ultimate in imitation.
The Archbishop of Canterbury gave a sermon on the power of silence.  It certainly countered the raucous approach now being so widely applied.  One cannot think and reason well in the midst of noise.  Maybe that is why those who have apparently neither engaged in thoughtful reflection not wish others to do so resort to using so much noise.
I fear for a society that tolerates what is occurring right now in our country.  It is, in fact, what occurred in Germany in the first half of the 20th century. On that note, it is interesting that there is a German proverb (offered by a reader of this essay) that goes, “Be silent, or say something better than silence.”
George Eliot said, “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” And the Bible, in Proverbs 17:28, tells us, “Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise: and he that shutteth his lips is esteemed a man of understanding.”
What should civil discourse look like?  Perhaps the following quote from David Bohms “On Dialogue” offers up a good example:
 “From time to time, (the) tribe (gathered) in a circle.
They just talked and talked and talked, apparently to no purpose.  They made no decisions.  There was no leader.  And everybody could participate.
There may have been wise men or wise women who were listened to a bit more – the older ones – but everybody could talk.  The meeting went on, until it finally seemed to stop for no reason at all and the group dispersed.  Yet after that, everybody seemed to know what to do, because they understood each other so well.  Then they could get together in smaller groups and do something or decide things.”
In the interest of a civil society, where do we go from here? I don’t know. But imitation seems unacceptable, and somehow, despite all the very good advice above, silence does not seem an acceptable alternative either.  Can we once again simply gather in a circle and talk and listen?
Bob Barkley

#74 – Bob Barkley: First do no harm

It is intriguing to observe our nation’s current on-going debate about medical care – a system that ostensibly follows the ethical principle of “first do no harm.”
It seems that medical care has now digressed to an un-American and unprofessional dictum of “first do not care for the unprofitable.”
How can we “first do no harm” when we have allowed medicine to denigrate into a profit motivated business rather than a basic human right?
When did not doing harm to a business take precedence over not doing harm to an individual’s health? Perhaps what seems so basically humane no longer applies to protecting our environment or caring for the sick.  Could I have missed that decision somewhere along the way?
When did we decide that corporations could tax us at will – through uncontrolled and outrageously escalating premiums – and do their taxing without representation of those being taxed?  Is this one of our great American values all of a sudden?
When did we decide that we could harm the poor by rationing medical care only to the wealthy and fortunate? Does “America the beautiful” pertain only to our scenery or should it apply equally to our compassion?
Isn’t one of the basic premises of government in a civilized society to protect its citizens against excesses?  How does allowing the continuation of a broken system of unconscionable medical care excesses in profit and privilege fit with being civilized?
When did we first decide that we could tolerate armed citizens behaving like terrorists in disrupting civil discourse?  What statute was it that slipped by us and sanctioned that sort of threat to our liberty?
Who was it that first proposed that America should slide to the bottom of the developed nations and allow so much harm to be continued? Why have those who call themselves American conservatives become so enamored with the existing evils of our medical care system that they fight so relentlessly not to change them?
What true American is it that would stand in the way of authentic and fundamental doctor-patient care rather than first fret over who might have coverage versus who will not be so lucky?
I don’t recall when we decided to let insurance companies govern our lives and determined that our democratic government should allow such harm to continue.  How is it that the huge bureaucratic waste that resides in these companies is somehow tolerable to those who lash out so vociferously at the mythical ineptitude of government?
“First do no harm!” is apparently the biggest myth of all.  Providing adequate and affordable medical care to all Americans is both necessary and feasible.  We will all need to share in its costs according to our means.  Providing for those costs are simply the dues true Americans have agreed to pay to be citizens of our great country and members of our great society.
I have excellent medical coverage – much of it well run by our government.  I would do just fine if nothing changed.  But “first do no harm” seems fundamentally American to me.  Consequently, the system that rewards me so well should be extended to all my neighbors alike. I thought that was what made our country so cherished.  Surely civility and rationality will prevail.  Surely we can do better. Surely we wish to do no harm. Am I wrong?  I guess I will know shortly.
 Robert Barkley, Jr., is a counselor in Systemic Education Reform, retired Executive Director of the Ohio Education Association, and began his career as a teacher and coach. He is the author of Quality in Education: A Primer for Collaborative Visionary Educational Leaders and Leadership In Education: A Handbook for School Superintendents and Teacher Union Presidents.

#53 – Bob Barkley: Fact vs Theory

I play golf at a private club where those I play with, quite predictably, are predominately conservative to right-wingers.  And I am the vocal counter agent to all of their views.  Many of them would be surprised, however, at how many of the silent ones come up to me privately and encourage me not to let up.  They needn’t worry. I won’t!


Nevertheless, in a recent exchange the subject of global warming came up.  And the gentleman who raised the issue said – using it as a parallel example to another we had been debating – that “it’s sorta like all that Al Gore stuff on global warming where half the scientists believe one way and half believe the other way.”  Then he added, apparently to astonish me, “And the earth’s temperature is actually lowering!”


I responded with, “I think Gore is supported by considerably more than half.  And I believe the earth’s temperature is actually declining precisely because of global warming.”  This last statement threw him completely, but it was time to tee off and we left it at that. He ended up, I think, more astonished at me than me at him.


But I decided to do a little homework when I got home. And it brought me to the point of a better understanding of the whole area of fact versus theory.


Most of what we argue about these days is based upon theory, although we take our positions as though we know the “facts.”  As it turns out, global warming is a very good example of just that.

Wikipedia tells us: “A theory, in the scientific sense of the word, is an analytic structure designed to explain a set of empirical observations. A scientific theory does two things: 1) it identifies this set of distinct observations as a class of phenomena, and 2) makes assertions about the underlying reality that brings about or affects this class.”

“In the scientific or empirical tradition, the term ‘theory’ is reserved for ideas which meet baseline requirements about the kinds of empirical observations made, the methods of classification used, and the consistency of the theory in its application among members of the class to which it pertains. These requirements vary across different scientific fields of knowledge, but in general theories are expected to be functional and parsimonious: i.e. a theory should be the simplest possible tool that can be used to effectively address the given class of phenomena.”


Given that definition, I would have to conclude that global warming may be approaching classification as a theory, but may not be fully there.  For example, the “simplest possible tool” for explaining global warming may yet be the normal cycles that have occurred over the eons of the earth’s existence.  For the sake of argument, let’s just assume that all that is true.  It means that no matter how convincing all the global warming arguments may be, we are still left to believe what we find most appealing, and that may be a long way from “fact.”


Fact, on the other hand, is defined in the dictionary as, “1. Knowledge or information based on real occurrences, 2. Something demonstrated to exist or known to have existed, 3. A real occurrence, 4. A thing that has been done.”


Well, global warming is “based on real occurrences,” and it “can be demonstrated to exist.”


But I have to conclude that global warming is certainly more theory than fact.  So where does that leave us?  Where it leaves me is that we need to lighten up a little and quit trying to take absolute positions on things that are at best still marginal theory.  After all, not too long ago, in the long existence of this earth, most people were convinced beyond doubt that this place was flat. [And Thomas L Freidman still thinks it is.]


Here’s what I learned so far on global warming. There are petitions, garnered by the pros and cons alike, signed by thousands. To quote a Yahoo Answers response I got, “There is a very large majority of scientists whom support the idea of global warming and anthropogenic climate change in general. Hundreds of surveys and studies and meta-surveys have long since confirmed that this is occurring and that mankind has contributed to the concern.”
”However, there is a minority viewpoint held by several dozen climate scientists who feel – for various reasons – that the climate is not changing or that the change is not primarily human-caused, however, personally speaking, I find that a lot of the scientists – appear to have been “compromised” at some point.”


There is a lot more, and it certainly appears that there is better scientific consensus on global warming than on many other current debates.  But the skeptics remain, although it seems they are gradually falling away. Most scientists do agree that man is contributing to this phenomenon, although many are not as alarmed as some.  Then, as always, there’s the corporate interest at play – as the quote just above suggests when using the word “compromised.”  As one guy says, “Follow the money.”  The Exxon/Mobils of the world spend untold millions on pooh-poohing the whole thing while the so-called green industries are advocating that global warming will kill us all in a few months.  We are being spun to death on this issue like many others.


It seems that a new study on this topic comes out almost weekly.  But from it all, I believe man’s contribution to global warming is real and substantial.  I believe that “theory” holds more water than any countervailing one.  That said, while action is justified and necessary, panic may not be.


We are a long way from “fact” in much of this.  We need to pay attention, react, but not over-react.  We need to share information but not preach.  We need to rid ourselves of reliance on fossil fuels no matter global warming or not.  This phenomenon may not be killing the earth, but it is killing many of us on it.


And then there’s this from Phil Chapman writing in “The Australian.” Chapman is a geophysicist and astronautical engineer who was the first Australian to become a NASA astronaut. “All those urging action to curb global warming need to take off the blinders and give some thought to what we should do if we are facing global cooling instead,” he writes. Then he adds, “It will be difficult for people to face the truth when their reputations, careers, government grants or hopes for social change depend on global warming, but the fate of civilisation may be at stake.”


And on top of all this out comes a new study telling us that there is a large gap between what scientists think and what ordinary citizens think. One article covering the release of this Pew Research Center survey states, “And while almost all of the scientists surveyed accept that human beings evolved by natural processes and that human activity, chiefly the burning of fossil fuels, is causing global warming, general public is far less sure.” It adds, “Only about half of the public agrees that people are behind climate change, and 11 percent does not believe there is any warming at all.” Further, it concludes, “The report said 85 percent of science association members surveyed said public ignorance of science was a major problem. And by large margins they deride as only “fair” or “poor” the coverage of science by newspapers and television”


So I suspect from that we must assume that most of us are arguing over things we really know very little about whether it be fact or theory. Apparently we believe what we wish to believe – what makes most sense to us and what we’re most comfortable believing.  But often it’s not fact, and often not even real theory that we seem to argue about so vociferously.  It’s all mere supposition.


Supposition: “A guess: a message expressing an opinion based on incomplete evidence,” or, “a hypothesis that is taken for granted.”  I guess we should all begin our arguments with the phrase, “I suppose…” and let it go at that.  And then maybe we should also lighten up, but certainly listen.


Now, back to improving my golf game – where I have all too many theories at play all at once.


#45 – Bob Barkley: Guns and America

Moderator:  A previous writing on this general topic is at #3, published April 3, 2009.

Guns: Guns are used for sport. I have absolutely no interest in such sports. But as long as my safety is not seriously threatened, I believe individuals should have the right to engage in such sports and use any reasonable sporting guns they choose to.


On the other hand, I do not support guns in homes—and certainly not other than under lock-and-key – and in no way do I support assault or other military weapons in the possession of civilians. To paraphrase Bierce, “guns are instruments used by supposedly civilized peoples in order to settle disputes that might become troublesome if left unadjusted.” This points out the absurdity of violence as a means of generating peace. The use of guns indicates a reliance on force when there is little competence or inclination to rely on the power of more civilized means. I have little tolerance here, and the international data—viewed over time—demonstrates without question the ridiculousness of the US fascination both with weapons and with force.

To give a little context to this issue, “Guns Take Pride of Place in US Family Values” by Paul Harris, and published in the UK Observer on October 14, 2007 stated, “Guns, and the violence their possessors inflict, have never been more prevalent in America. Gun crime has risen steadily over the last three years. Despite the fact that groups like the NRA consistently claim they are being victimized, there have probably never been so many guns or gun-owners in America – although no one can be sure, as no one keeps reliable account. One federal study estimated there were 215 million guns, with about half of all US households owning one. Such a staggering number makes America’s gun culture thoroughly mainstream. An average of almost eight people aged under19 are shot dead in America every day. In 2005 there were more than 14,000 gun murders in the US – with 400 of the victims children. There are 16,000 suicides by firearm and 650 fatal accidents in an average year. Since the killing of John F. Kennedy in 1963, more Americans have died by American gunfire than perished on foreign battlefields in the whole of the 20th century.”  
And later Harris adds, “But the key question is not about the number of guns in America; it is about why people are armed. For many gun-owners, and a few sociologists, the reason lies in America’s past. The frontier society, they say, was populated by gun-wielding settlers who used weapons to feed their families and ward off hostile bandits and Indians. America was thus born with a gun in its hand. Unfortunately much of this history is simply myth. The vast majority of settlers were farmers, not fighters. The task of killing Indians was left to the military and – most effectively – European diseases. Guns in colonial times were much rarer than often thought, not least because they were so expensive that few settlers could afford them. Indeed one study of early gun homicides showed that a musket was as likely to be used as club to beat someone to death as actually fired. But many Americans believe the myth.”
Recently it was reported that if you have a gun in your home there is 22 times as great a likelihood that it will be used against you or someone you know than against an intruder/criminal. And as the New York Times reported on April3, 2009: “Contrary to gun lobby claims, the evidence suggests that permitting concealed weapons drives up crime rather than decreasing it.”

The second amendment recognizes the need for a “well regulated militia” being the only basis for the possession of arms. With the abundance of formally organized and regulated police, safety, and military forces in the US—none of which existed at the time of the amendment—it is a huge stretch to use this amendment to suggest that it provides for random and indiscriminate individual possession of arms. It does not. And the Supreme Court, is dead (no pun intended) wrong! We must move into modern civilization and seriously regulate arms possession and use. However, the fundamental right to bear arms—as long as they cannot be used to threaten me and mine—remains a matter of individual choice and intelligence. We cannot legislate wisdom – or even common sense it appears.


And to expand on the Second Amendment arguments, it is only those who are ignorant of, or choose to ignore history, that fail to recognize that the founders were strongly set against a standing army.  They considered it a horrendous threat to the future of the democratic republic they envisioned.  And it was solely because they anticipated no standing army that they endorsed ordinary citizens owning and learning to use muskets so that they might be called upon to defend our country if needed.


Thus, we have ended up with two violations of our founder’s intentions: 1) the presence of a standing army of gigantic excess, and 2) the support of the people’s license to possess arms of unlimited dimension for reasons that no longer exist.


Jane Smiley, novelist and essayist, in April 2007, had this to say about the subject, “…guns have no other purpose than killing someone or something. All the other murder weapons Americans use, from automobiles to blunt objects, exist for another purpose and sometimes are used to kill. But guns are manufactured and bought to kill. They invite their owners to think about killing, to practice killing, and, eventually, to kill, if not other people, then animals. They are objects of temptation, and every so often, someone comes along who cannot resist the temptation–someone who would not have murdered, or murdered so many, if he did not have a gun, if he were reduced to a knife or a bludgeon or his own strength. I wish that the right wing would admit that, while people kill people and even an “automatic” weapon needs a shooter, people with guns kill more people than people without guns do.


But above all else, I am swayed to my negative thinking regarding guns by the following: “In the U.S., 12 children each day die from gun violence. Homicide was the second leading cause of death for people ages 10 to 24 in 2001, with rates 10 times that of other industrialized nations.” (Source: Marianne Williamson of The Peace Alliance.) No sporting interests can trump that revelation.


I also believe that everyone that purchases or owns a gun should be forced to buy special insurance to cover its misuse or accidental injury. Why not? Isn’t auto insurance the same thing?


Individual rights—particularly when it comes to minority interests—are what our nation was founded upon and those rights must take precedence over ideological preferences. Nevertheless, it is my considered belief that many people are pretty dumb and guns have a way of helping those people prove it.

#24 – Bob Barkley: Power vs Force

As the transition from Bush to Obama continues, the differences between the reliance of power versus force, while subtle, are still quite substantive. I believe it is best explained in a piece I wrote in the midst of the Bush incompetence.
The tension between power and force is great and often misunderstood. Much of the problem here is the western worlds—or at least most Bush sympathizers—misunderstanding of the differences between these two dynamics.
And when it comes to which of these two will win in the long-term, power will eat force for lunch.
Power is about influence, persuasion, example, compassion, civility, modeling, pacifism, peacefulness, humility, and is intrinsic by nature; it is a ‘pull’ action.
Force is about bullying, brashness, greed, militarism, war, arrogance, hubris, brutishness, and is extrinsic by nature; it is a ‘push’ action. We have just escaped a US leadership that revered force, and, while not yet complete, the shift is apparent to at least a balance of the use of power and force.
Gandhi, M. L. King, Mandela, the Dalai Lama, Reinhold Niehbuhr, and Jesus exemplify power. Its essence is in ideas rather than things, and it is transmitted through words, serenity, calmness, and trust. Use of this model generates eager followers rather than reluctant servants.
King George III, Napoleon, Hitler, Stalin, bin Ladin, Saddam, Caesar, Herod, and, some would argue, to an increasing extent the US and British leadership for the past 8 years in particular, exemplify force. It is transmitted through fear, intimidation, coercion, dishonesty, and violence. It generates obedience and subservience rather than voluntary and enthusiastic acceptance.
The world has had its share of force, but force has never sustained a society in the way that power has. Martin Luther King captured the concept with the following: “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” It will always take the power of some new and more reasoned influence to rectify the damage done by the wrong-headedness of using force.
A friend has offered that recently, “We have at work a strange version of the force/power distinction that operates as if force is the measure of power. Those holding this belief think that a bigger force will inevitably win, and they dread that others will conquer them if they don’t achieve total domination first. The only thing that can be won in such a paradigm is more control. And to maintain such control requires an ever-increasing ruthlessness and creates a world that responds only to force – a world that is driven by extrinsic reward or consequences rather than by an intrinsic sense of hope and of true community.” A study of history—Rome, Hitler, Napoleon, on and on, take your pick—shows that force is always trumped and is never sustainable long term.
A tweaking of this power vs. force discussion might well lead to what Reinhold Niebuhr would have referenced as “power and humility.” This comment about Reinhold Niebuhr recently came to my attention*, “Niebuhr understood that the exercise of power can be shocking and, at times, corrupting. But he also understood that power is absolutely necessary to fight the battles that must be fought. The trick is to fight these battles with humility and constant introspection, knowing that there is no monopoly on virtue. Moreover, this combination is simply more effective. For power untethered from humility is certain to eventually fail.”
And in the wake of World War II, Niebuhr warned us “we are so deluded by the concept of our innocence that we are ill-prepared to deal with the temptations of power which now assail us.” I can’t think of a better bit of advice to those that today control our government.
Finally, Niebuhr wrote, “If we should perish, the ruthlessness of the foe would be only the secondary cause of the disaster. The primary cause would be that the strength of a giant nation was directed by eyes too blind to see all the hazards of the struggle; and the blindness would be induced not by some accident of nature or history but by hatred and vainglory.” Or quoting an old adage, “Hubris is terminal.” And there couldn’t be a better description of where Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush, et al, had been leading this nation.
In my manuscript titled “Progressive Thoughts from a Liberal Mind: Creating a More Perfect World,” this section has received the most attention by occasional readers. It is also the one I seem to refer to most often as I reflect upon today’s international climate.
Undoubtedly we must guide our nation to the use of power as here defined and to avoiding a reliance on force. Ultimately, particularly in the long term, all models based upon force will fail. But quite unfortunately, the failure of these models falls upon the children of the perpetrators rather than upon them. This means that it is most often the shortsighted and selfish – those lacking “humility” – who most rely on force to settle their grievances and frustrations or satisfy their greed.
It will serve us well to reflect upon this dynamic of power v. force as we evaluate efforts by the Obama administration to make the transition as it is apparent they wish to.
* Quotations by Rienhold Niebuhr are from his book Moral Man and Immoral Society: A Study of Ethics and Politics
Robert Barkley, Jr., Worthington, Ohio. Email at Retired Executive Director, Ohio Education Association, served as Interim Executive Director, Maine Education Association, thirty-five year veteran of National Education Association and NEA affiliate staff work, long-term Consultant to the KnowledgeWorks Foundation of Cincinnati, Ohio [], author of: Quality in Education: A Primer for Collaborative Visionary Educational Leaders, Leadership In Education: A Handbook for School Superintendents and Teacher Union Presidents, Principles and Actions: A Framework for Systemic Change (unpublished), and Progressive Thoughts from a Liberal Mind: Creating a More Perfect World (unpublished and available online upon request).