Digital Screens and Our Youth: What is Happening with Group Text?

One of the greatest commitments of the teacher is to foster the building of deep community in the classroom. Young people need guidance in so many areas. One especially critical focus of a teacher is on how students speak to one another.

For all of us, the words we speak require attention, care, and refinement over the course of our lives. It is natural for young people to express themselves spontaneously and without filters. It is one of the jobs of the teacher to help kids find appropriate ways to speak, to give them awareness, to interrupt unhealthy dialogue, and unpack hurtful words. Conversations with confusing messages can create lasting fissures in the community if they are not tended quickly.

Children usually mean well, but lack both the tools to express themselves effectively, and an understanding of the impact of impulsive communication. So teachers must pay very careful attention to what kids are saying. And they must intervene often. However, there is a new problem in our digital age.

It is extremely concerning for those of us in the business of building community. It is a problem without precedent. Today’s youth have Smartphones. But that’s not all. They also use those phones for group texts (or ‘chats’). Ask your child if they are part of a group text. If they have a smartphone, they probably are. The conversations on a group chat can happen anywhere and anytime, if students have their phones.

Much of this is out of ‘earshot’ of parents, teachers, or other thoughtful adults. When conflicts arise in a group text, something that happens more often than people realize, there is usually no adult present to intervene and support constructive healing. When kids return to the classroom, there can be secret fissures that remain untended. This is a very new problem, maybe two or three years old, and it is wildly unprecedented for those of us seeking to foster deep and connected communities.

Please enter the dialogue with us. Please talk to your child. Please consider where privacy should be honored, for a child needs privacy. However, can young people have privacy in their written diaries, or in personal phone calls and conversations, but have their group texts read by adults? A group has a different dynamic than a one-on-one conversation. A digital group chat is an even more complex dynamic. This is a new frontier and we parents are all navigating it. Here is an article to begin expanding our thinking.

Ron Eglash: The Fractals at the Heart of African Designs

You’ve probably heard of fractals, the fascinating repeating mathematical pattern of shape and form that creates beautiful designs which theoretically continue in scale to infinity. The natural world is not the only place where we have discovered fractals, but there are villages in Africa that are laid out in fractal patterns.

"I am a mathematician, and I would like to stand on your roof." That is how Ron Eglash greeted many African families he met while researching the fractal patterns he’d noticed in villages across the continent.

Jacob Collier's #IHarmU

The young British, Grammy-Award winning musical phenom, Jacob Collier has a series of videos in which he provides multi-layered vocal harmony and beat-box rhythms over short musical submissions sent to him by strangers when he was 22 years old. This multi-instrumentalist virtuoso has a tremendous talent for vocal music and complex harmonic composition. Enjoy!

Quote of the Day from Calvin Luther Martin

“The messenger led the brother and sister by lantern along a woodland path till they came upon a huge, ancient oak in whose trunk was cut a cunningly wrought door. Through the door and up a long, spiraling staircase to the chamber excavated out of the core of this immense living creature. Here, haloed by firelight, stood a sage, a keeper of long-forgotten earthly knowledge. The old man spoke of a world bristling and crackling with power, the power of origination and deepest formation, which cared for everything –took care of everything- even human beings. The earth, he said, was not a place to fear. The problem was that adults had lost their nerve, lost their faith in the marrow of it all. Children, he believed, still hold the mighty secret of trust. It was the lesson of the child to the adult: absolute trust. Once trust began percolating back into the soul again, humans would behold the liberating of those colossal earthly powers that now lie silent under the spell of our bad faith. The earth would be alive again and human beings would stop living lives of waiting, stop living under the curse of time and history, to live instead in the still point of beauty….Children, and whatever bits of childhood survived the battering of growing up, might help us finding a lost trust in this planet. Human beings could unshackle the awesome powers of place if we could only find our body and spirit in the otherness of this planet, as our ice-age ancestors and their hunter-gatherer heirs did for tens of thousands of years.”

- Calvin Luther Martin, “The Way of the Human Being”

Coconut-Carrying Octopus

The oldest known octopus fossil belongs to an animal that lived some 296 million years ago. By contrast, tool-making, upright humans and been around for about 3 million years, while other primates in our family date back no more than 55 million years. So clearly octopi are ancient and complex beings! Animal behaviorists (ethologists) have long been struck by the intelligent, tool-using behavior of octopi. Please enjoy this short, silent video of a very ingenious octopus carrying a coconut for shelter.  

What is Flow Theory?

If we want students to be fully empowered to own the creative process, we need to understand what it means for students to reach a state of creative flow. The History of the Theory Although the idea of Flow has existed for thousands of years, Flow Theory began in the 1970’s and 80’s when Hungarian psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi became fascinated by artists who were so lost in their creative work that they would lose track of time and even ignore food, water, and sleep. Through his research, he noticed a similar experience with scientists, athletes, and authors. It was a state of hyper-focus and complete engagement that he described as “optimal experience.”

Much has been written about “flow theory.” As Dr. Paul, Mr. Sands, and the high schoolers delve into questions of Quantum Biology and quantum coherence, new perspectives within the sciences might explain states of flow as relating to states of quantum coherence with the organism. Enjoy this short overview of ‘flow’ as it relates to student learning. 

Quote of the day from Charles Eisenstein, Climate: A New Story

“Ecological deterioration is but one aspect of an initiation ordeal propelling civilization into a new story…What has changed, I believe, is that the consciousness of interbeing is dawning in the dominant civilization. What we do to the Other, we do to ourselves. This will be the defining understanding of the next civilization.”

- Charles Eisenstein, Climate: A New Story

Turning Salty Sea-Water Into Fresh Water

Many of us who are students of ancestral skills and technologies marvel at the ingenuity of nature-based peoples. The inventiveness of humans is remarkable. Turning salty sea-water into fresh water might seem out of the realm of possibility for someone using only local materials from nature, but not for this man. Enjoy!

Quote of the Day

One of our three Learning Domains at Manzanita is Aesthetic/Numinous (together with Biological/Evolutionary and Historical/Cultural). The word ‘numinous’ refers to that which evokes wonder and mystery in us, that awakens deep curiosity and sense of awe. According to one of the great minds of our times:

“The most beautiful thing that we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.“

- Albert Einstein

The Re-emergence of Healthy Masculinity: A Necessity in these Times

In this unusual historic moment, when public figures can ascend to powerful political positions, despite evidence of heinous impropriety in their private lives, it is important to discuss the antecedents to these troubling cultural trends, and to outline our school’s commitment to healthy emergence within ourselves and our students. 

During my trip to Bioneers Conference with the high schoolers on their last expedition, I attended a number of powerful workshops. I heard one particular presentation by author Kevin Powell, which was transformative for me personally. Powell is a graceful and beautiful man who has a commitment to challenging the toxic masculinity of North American culture. Upon my return to Manzanita, I felt a renewed commitment to examining my own life, and to considering the ways in which I listen (or fail to listen) to the women and girls around me. 

Since its inception, Manzanita School has been committed to disrupting the cultural outgrowths of empire, including anthropocentrism, which views the human to be above all other life forms. It is this false perception of the supremacy of the human that has caused the ongoing devastation of the natural world. Other behaviors related to empire, domination, and unhealthy expressions of power are patriarchy, colonialism, and misogyny. One of the more general definitions of misogyny is, “ingrained prejudice against women.” During MNZ’s first courses in Human Growth & Development this year, students in grades 8 thru 12 were taught about misogyny, and it’s impacts on North American culture. My lessons to the 8th through 12th graders reviewed the statistics on violence against women, including the fact that 1 in 5 women will be raped in her lifetime. This is compared to 1 in 71 men who will experience sexual violence. We also learned that over 90% of sexual assault and rape victims are women, and that every 9 seconds a woman in the United States is beaten. This means nearly 10,000 women are assaulted every day. While at Bioneers, I heard the term ‘rape culture’ used again, an expression that had previously felt too strong to my ears. It doesn’t feel that way anymore. 

Wikipedia tells us that, “Rape culture is a sociological concept for a setting in which rape is pervasive and normalized due to societal attitudes about gender and sexuality.” The Office of Sexual Assault Prevention at Harvard University concludes that, “rape culture… manifests in the print, music, and film media we consume, the language we use to talk about sex and relationships, and the laws that govern our public and private spaces. Rape culture promotes sexual objectification and coercion, lack of agency over one’s body, and dismissal of feminine-presenting or gender nonconforming individuals.” 

Wikipedia also states that, “Patriarchy is a social system in which males hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property.” 

The Manzanita Parent-Student Handbook includes this language: “The students of Manzanita are taught…to have mutual respect and tolerance, and to understand the value of cooperation….Bullying behavior is unacceptable at Manzanita, including verbal or physical abuse, teasing, ridicule, and any other mean-spirited behavior targeting a student.” (page 14). 

At Manzanita, we believe that many of our north-American cultural attitudes towards women and the female-bodied, and the behaviors which emerge from those attitudes, are central to the perpetuation of ‘rape culture’ and support the ongoing violence against women and girls. We also believe that young boys in America, very early on in their lives, are exposed to attitudes which, though seemingly inconspicuous at times, are in fact toxic and lead to behaviors that seed the conditions for the prevalence of violence against women in our culture. Furthermore, at Manzanita, we believe that the teachings of contemporary nature-based peoples, in particular the Odawa of Michigan and Ohio, offer healthy and ancestrally-validated alternative to cultural beliefs that feed rape-culture. For example, the Odawa prioritize male-bodied social responsibilities as being those related to protecting and providing. Domination of others, especially through greater size or strength, is antithetical to their world-view. 

At Manzanita, we will continue to pay special attention to any kind of aggression or bullying among students. We will be uniquely sensitive to bullying by male-bodied students against female-bodied students, as it recapitulates inequitable power dynamics faced by women in social, political, and cultural spheres of our country. Such bullying is often facilitated through perceived power differentials between men and women related to gendered physical size as well as cultural preferencing of males. 

Bullying and aggression by male-bodied against female-bodied, in schools and in society, is an especially pernicious form of domination, as it is taking place within a historically patriarchal society infected with the dynamics of rape culture. Each such act of bullying can be seen as representing another stone in the foundation of rape culture. Stated differently, each time a male-bodied person resists the temptation to aggress against or bully someone who is female-bodied, he is disrupting patriarchy, and every time he protects or defends someone who is female-bodied, he is dismantling rape culture. This is a collective necessity of our times; the interrupting of empire, colonialism, and the misogyny born of these historical traumas. The cultural expressions of empire are neither healthy nor organic to human beings, and their unraveling is as inevitable as it is imperative. We are all implicated in this vital work. 

The DNA Journey

Enjoy this interesting and provocative ‘reveal’ about DNA testing with a group of participants in a project run by the Danish company Momondo.

We asked 67 people from all over the world to take a DNA test. It turns out they have much more in common with other nationalities than they thought ...

It’s easy to think there are more things dividing us than uniting us. But we actually have much more in common with other nationalities than you’d think.

At momondo we believe that everybody should be able to travel the world, to meet other people, and experience other cultures and religions. Travel opens our minds: when we experience something different, we begin to see things differently. Share this video, and help us spread the word – and open our world.

Quote of the Day from Aldo Leopold

“One of the penalties of an ecological education is that one lives alone in a world of wounds. Much of the damage inflicted on land is quite invisible to laymen. An ecologist must either harden his shell and make believe that the consequences of science are none of his business, or he must be the doctor who sees the marks of death in a community that believes itself well and does not want to be told otherwise.”

- Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, 1949