Sunday, June 24, 2012


One of the interesting byproducts of having spent my life in the educational arena is that I gained a personal prejudice against the well accepted process of grading by comparing one person’s progress against that of another.

When I was involved in the degree seeking part of my life there were those who tried to indoctrinate me into the cult of grading on the curve; a system which took statistical comparisons and made them absolutes in grading small and large groups of people. Instructors would thereby be bound to give no more than 7% of their students the highest grade and then were mandated to give another 7 % the lowest possible grade.

There was a minor representation of educators who believed the instructor should set up levels of knowledge which should be achieved in order to be rewarded with a corresponding grade. I personally found this to be a much more equitable way of grading the accomplishments of students. Those who answered more than 90% of the questions received the highest grade and then lesser grades were assigned as the percentage of correct answers diminished.

There was an even smaller group who advocated contract grading where each student outlined their expectations for the class and then at the end of the session they gave themselves a grade based on how well they completed their expectations. I think that the reason so few in the profession accepted this type of grading was that it required more maturity than most students had acquired.

Even a casual investigation of the educational systems of various societies quickly reveals that attempts to make everyone ‘all that they can be’ have rarely if ever met the needs of all who have been the students in those systems, resulting in the majority of the earth’s population being content to end their formal and informal learning process well below their capabilities.

Some of the contributors to the collective failures of those systems are:

Many students have left the systems early, feeling inadequate because of consistent negative reinforcement.

Students oft time would find themselves over their heads, having been moved beyond their capabilities, because of the ‘everyone should win a trophy’ philosophy which has invaded many of our ivied walls.

Putting student expectations at the lowest common denominator, leaving some students watching the hands of clocks move with eyes clouded with boredom.

I know I am still in the process of coming to a conclusion on the matter; but for now, I have concluded that it is beyond the grasp of mortals to devise a system of grading one another which will achieve a correct balance between negative and positive reinforcement and thereby help all to become ‘all they can be.’

All Teachers are hampered by their limited knowledge of:

The foundation upon which each student is building.

The speed with which each student is capable of grasping various concepts in various fields.

The realistic potential level at which each student can master a subject.

I feel it was an act of providence which aligned the stars so that there were only a few years during my professional career when I was compelled to place judgment upon the student who filled the chairs of my classrooms. I will count it as a blessing that for most of my life I didn’t have to put a star, a smiley face, a percent or a letter of the alphabet on a student’s paper or report card.

Now that I have retired from standing behind a lectern and controlling the chalk or magic marker in a classroom I have had time to ponder upon the stimulus’ which might most effectively help us all to be more constant in our progression and thereby come closer to achieving our personal potentials.


Sunday, June 17, 2012


The hour glass has been turned many times, but memory’s miracle quickly bridges decades to the days when he was first presented to the public. It didn’t seem to matter whether the observer was friend, family or acquaintance, whether they were speaking from kindness, pride or casualness one after another remarked how much he was his father’s junior. Now with the passing of years, the babe having become boy, man, father and now grandfather, we are left to wonder how much of the father is now in the child.

Evidence piles deeper and deeper upon the shoulders of the senior generation as almost daily further tests demonstrate how the actions and character of the parents will be visited upon their offspring. It seems like minute to minute we are reminded that we not only influence our children by the things we do, but likewise by those things we fail to do.

Upon the stones where the finger of God wrote the commandments which became the foundation of the Law, one stands out having been given with promise. Conditional upon honor given to father and mother the children of Israel would be able to have their days extended upon the land the Lord had given them. Through practice and precept we have come to understand that honor is one of those qualities that must be received before it can be returned. The wise parent who truly sews the seeds of honoring their children will have an abundance of honor return in the day of harvest.

Interestingly, as the pursuit of the ‘whys’ of our mortal experience expands we come closer to understanding the cause and effect relationship between the commandment of honoring one another and the promise given from our all-knowing Father in Heaven. We are coming to realize that there is a very definite relationship between an individual’s self-esteem generated by free-flowing familial honor and respect and the resultant quality and longevity of their sojourn on earth.

If, as a parent, I regard carefully how I treat my body and the elements I choose to engorge upon, I will in a major way be determining the subsequent eating and drinking habits of my children. As we play, work and grow together we will be laying the foundation upon which generations will build their lives. Brick by brick we are building lifestyles where offspring will either be masters of themselves and their environment or slaves to those out of control persuasions of the world.

Our children’s abilities to use the gift of language, either using their words to describe the beauties of nature in poetic phrases or as a tool for mocking and degrading society, will be to a large degree a reflection of the communication they have heard from their parents.

As children face life’s problems they will look upon them as opportunities or obstacles depending on whether they have witnessed mother and father grow with each rapidly resolved problem or whether they see them weighted down by an overwhelming accumulation of burdens as the waves of life surfaced and subsided during their formative years.

As the glass becomes less obscure and vision improves we are able to see that not only will our children have a tendency to treat others as they have been treated, but their decisions concerning the major purposes of life may be a direct result of a parent’s non-determination, rejection of that which is true or the consistent walking in the ways of truth and light.

Why should we despair at the realization of how rapidly the boy becomes that which the father has been?

Rise up!

Oh glorious thought!

What marvelous understanding!

What tremendous power for good!

All that I wish my child to become I simply have to be. A life of integrity, wisdom, joy, comfort, peace and harmony can all be theirs if I make them part of my daily walk.

Parents, herein lies our legacy of wealth, lovingly given to that child with honor untold who when rearing days are past can proudly proclaim: “I am like my parents, you know.”

Sunday, June 10, 2012


When music is added to words there seems to be a magnification of meaning on the subject matter and an increased impact upon the listener. This may well be the reason King David chose to dramatize his thoughts by adding harp and pipe to his words and put them forth in Psalms rather that lectures. We can easily understand why Alma the son of Alma coveted the tongues of angels as an aid to proclaim the gospel to all the world.

Having never had the advantage of musical talent I have had to be content with reliance upon subject matter to put import upon my thoughts. As life’s experiences have multiplied, one subject has become increasingly important and has convinced me, that of all we do in life, our relationships will weigh heaviest upon the scales of justice.

David sang:
The wicked person is one who in his pride persecutes the poor, whose mouth is full of cursing, deceit and fraud. Who sits lurking in places to destroy the innocent.
The righteous is one who prevails over their tongue, who backbiteth not, who taketh up no reproach against their neighbor.

John, the apostle called beloved taught:
The ability to love God whom we have not seen is dependent upon our ability to love our neighbor whom we have seen. One professing to love God while continuing to hate his neighbor is a liar and the truth is not in him.

James, one of the sons of thunder indicates:
There is a strong relationship between the way I speak to my mortal brother and my ability to communicate with Deity in prayer.

Benjamin, the servant king demonstrated:
True service to God can only be accomplished through service to our fellow beings.

Even a brief searching of the scriptures leaves us with little doubt. That much of the degree of the quality of life we will eventually enjoy in our post-mortal existence will be determined by how we conduct our relationships with our fellow sojourners during our time on earth. Our level of worthiness may be determined less by the breaking or enshrining of the commandments written on tablets of stone and more by the words which have caused our neighbor’s heart to swell with joy and comfort.

The Lord’s cautioning words about not thinking on the morrow and what it might bring, while making sure we make this day sufficient unto itself, gives us realization that our eternalness will be no more than an eternal extension of our daily walk. The words I speak, the songs I sing, the thoughts I think, the things I do are but today’s steps upon my eternal path.

Boyd K. Packer said that when he begins his day, he petitions the Lord to aid him in being sensitive as he contacts individuals that he might come to know their needs and be made aware of how he might be able to serve and edify them.

Can we imagine the wonderful transformation which would take place in our relationships if each of us were to approach our day with this prayer in our hearts and then go forth resolutely striving to fulfill the desires of our prayer?

I don’t have to wait. It matters little whether another single soul strives to make their neighbor’s life better today. I am convinced that if I choose to live my life trying to have relationships which edify, build and bring joy to others, wickedness will lessen and a little righteousness will stand in its stead.

If a universal prayer existed I suspect that it would include the human family adding their petitions to Elder Packer’s; that we would be driven by this magnificent obsession to place our feet upon the pathway to ultimate joy, that songs of kindness might take root in more and more hearts, begin to swell in souls, transforming attitudes and actions, that mankind unconditionally begins to interact in a real loving, caring, compassionate way to all our neighbors.

Sunday, June 3, 2012


I recently reread an article I had filed in 1964. The article introduced me to Maxine Ziegler, Doctor of Psychology, in the following words: “She couldn’t just graduate from High School, she had to be Valedictorian; she couldn’t merely run in the top 35 of 3500 USC graduates, she had to be Phi Beta Kappa; she can’t just cook, she has to be gourmet; she doesn’t merely purl, she knits argyles.”

Three months after Doctor Ziegler gave birth to her first daughter she instinctively knew that something was wrong with her baby’s sight. The doctors informed these joyous parents that their child had been born with a hereditary form of cancer which results in retinal blastoma. This inheritance came from a mother who had refused to bow to the heaviness of this same handicap throughout her life.

Once again, faced with what seemed like an insurmountable challenge, this blind mother and an equally devoted father turned their energies into positive actions and dove into the laborious process of giving substitute stimulation to a child born into a world of darkness. “What a sighted baby enjoys through colors, we gave her in the feel of things. She was alert, aware, maybe near genius in intelligence.”

Under her parents’ loving, tender, patient care the child grew and at the age of two knew smatterings of English, Spanish, German and French. At three she could conjugate verbs in four languages. With special numbered blocks she was well into long division before she started the first grade.

Even as I write these words a tingling sensation goes up the back of my arms, continues up my neck and starts the process of moistened lower eyelids. Throughout my life I have been thrilled and affected by stories like this. Stories of people whom I consider to be real heroes, who face the trials of life and not only crawl over them, but subdue them and come forth victorious.

Maxine Ziegler was a living example of her creed ‘I CAN’ and has gone on to inspire and instill in others, like myself, a desire to obtain this attribute. One small paragraph, in particular, from the article makes my heart leap for joy. “When mother says, ‘lights out,’ two little girls (two other children added to complete the family by means of adoption) squeal delightedly and snuggle in bed for the reading aloud continues as blind Evalinda’s fingers dance over the words.”

This is where I really become inspired, as through persistence, diligence and determination some in the world go beyond life’s barriers and triumph over handicaps and turn what seem to be disadvantages into advantages, weaknesses into strengths.

Unlike so many of us, Evalinda’s sightlessness became a strength which gave her an enviable ability to focus and concentrate. At ballet recitals, novice ballerinas kept their eyes on Evalinda when confusion brought hesitancy about the next step. The world viewed through her four remaining sharpened senses seemed brighter and more fascinating that the one most of us see with our full faculties which may have been dulled by apathy and distractions.

There is no doubt, such examples as the Zeigler’s cause me to ponder upon the guiding principles which have illuminated their steps and have contributed to the wholeness and fulfillment of their lives.

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. (Jacob 12:27)