Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Almost Done of FI Assignment, got through Freire, will post notes later

I guess I'm on my own time but I'm almost done of my FI assignment. I did a few more annotations tonight, and only have three left to do. The annotations are the only part I hadn't finished when I was on campus. Once I left I stalled for quite awhile, partly due to the legitimate fact I was on vacation, and then when I got home it was hard to get my wheels turning. I think I've found some balance now. I'm chipping away at the stone, doing work when I can. I think I'm going to feel really good when I get this assignment behind me. It will mean more time to work on other things. It will also mean I'll be able to get some feedback from Leona on all this stuff I have written. The assignment is 36 pages at this point. I'm guessing the last few annotations will put me up to 37 or 38. It will be useful to know if I am on the right track as well as get input or suggestions. I'm debating on whether to steam roll through it tonight and have it done, or spend some time working on the document I started to address common grammar problems my students have. I've taken examples from a batch of essays I corrected over the weekend. I'm hoping it will be a useful reference for students for their writing. If I'm optimistic I'd like to hope that it has some small effect on the writing that the students do. At any rate it will be something that I can refer students to on an ongoing basis in future essays.

I finished reading Freire today, highlighting as I went along which is my new habit. It's kind of hard to live with it, as I used to be quite reluctant to mark up my books. However, I think it's useful when I'm reading this non-fiction stuff in my masters work. I still will be anal in regards to novels that I own. It's a bit of a moot point as I won't likely get to read any novels for the next few years. After I finish this masters degree I will deserve a good binge of reading for the pure fun and entertainment of it! Still, I'm enjoying getting back into the reading of non fiction works on a more intense basis. That is something I enjoyed in University, always feeding the mind with new things to ponder.

I will eventually make notes here on what I read in Freire but need to clear other stuff out of the way first. The other stuff being finishing the notes on Philosophical Foundations and the remaining annotations. Hopefully when I get them out of the way I'll start to catch up my note taking with where I'm at in reading. I started 'Contexts of Adult Education Canadian Perspectives' today, and it seems like it will be interesting.

Well I want to keep this one short. I wanted to jot something down as I'm trying to keep doing this fairly regularly, but I don't want to spend too much time tonight as I want to get other work done. I feel good right now. I'm a bit tired of working, but I feel like I've had a somewhat productive day. I got to the gym early, worked on my FI assignment, did shopping, and got my protein and other online stuff I needed ordered. I even ate fairly reasonably and think I lost a bit of that weight from the Canada trip.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

First Skype Meeting with Leona, FI Deadline, and Philosophy

I had my first online skype meeting with Leona. I thought it went fairly well. I feel much better about all this than I did about a week or two ago. I did want to finish my blog post of last week on my ruminations regarding the Philosophical Foundations book, but got clogged down in marking student essays. In many ways I like teaching the writing, having a window into the students thoughts, but it is quite a slog sometimes. When you have 24 or 25 students writing essays in a language that is not their mother tongue it can be an incredible amount of effort to sift through it and decipher things. I also seem to be a compulsive grammar checker, even though I try to force myself not to, I can't seem to shake it. I'm trying to focus more and more on their content and ideas, but sometimes the grammar mistakes make their content and ideas confusing or vague.

I talked a bit about the philosophy from the book, especially regarding the balance between having a respect and reverence for rationally based thought with regards to epistemology and being careful not to make the classroom to heated of a place. I did have one aha moment. Their is a distinct difference between what I do, express, and challenge inside the confines of my university job teaching english as a a second language, and what I can challenge or express in general, while living here in a foreign culture. Because of my conviction that building a personal philosophy of morality and justice should be built on firm pillars of reason I have many misgivings about the extreme brand of confucianism that permeates the culture here. It doesn't always promote critical thinking, thinking outside the box. It's a very conformist and conservative society compared to how I grew up, although it does seem to be getting more flexible as time goes on. There are also some good things, the willingness to work hard, and strong family ties for instance.

Leona asked if putting a deadline on passing in my Foundations Institute assignment would help motivate and focus me. We agreed on October first. I think it's a good thing as it will help to keep me focused. Also, there will be a certain feeling of freedom to have it behind me. I am making progress, and feel like I've had more momentum the last week or so. I've got four of my annotations done. Leona told me that the two annotations that I sent to her were really well written. That made me feel more confidant that I am on the right track.

So, my two goals right now are too finish my other six or seven annotations by October first and if at all possible also finish my blog entry on the Philosophical Foundations book. I am still where I was on that before, the first two chapters done. I'm really glad I decided to do the blog about what I read. It's makes me more confident I'll have something to show for it all down the road. I've read lots and lots of books in my life, and many of them sparked really intense thoughts and reflections, but it's all a blur sometimes. It can be hard to recall specifics. That's not to say that all the ideas and things I learned are gone, but recall is hard. My highlighting while I read and making notes and journaling later seems really useful. It's a great way to build an arsenal for arguments I'll be trying to make in the future! I've also printed out hard copies as back up of all the blog entries up to the Philosohical Foundations reading blog. That way I'll be able to read all my blog entries like a book and see a progression over time. I can't print farther until I finish that particular blog or the printing order and page numbers will be screwed up.

Now I've got about three more of those student essays to slog though before I'm done with this batch. It's already 11:34 so maybe I ought to leave it till the weekend. Then again, with the band cd release on Saturday night, the practice tomorrow, and hockey on Sunday perhaps it would be best if I put it behind me. I've been making a list of problem sentences (grammar wise) as I've been going through these essays. I also hope I can get a chance to type that up and organize it so I can do an overview during class and all students can see some of the solutions to common mistakes.


Monday, September 19, 2011

I quit my band

I'm a bit sad, but also a bit relieved. I'm sad because it was a good band with lots of potential.


We had just went into the studio to record professional versions of some of our songs, we had a song used in a short film, and we seem to be gaining steam. I love music, and sometimes wonder if I should have put more effort into really pursuing a music career. At the same time, I have trouble with motivation, even for music. I sometimes wonder if I am doing things like getting my MA because I don't believe in myself enough to really follow music dreams, if I've already given up on myself when it comes to that. On the other hand maybe I'm just being realistic.

I just hope I haven't Pete Bested myself here.

Well if I did Pete Best myself, at least it was my own choice to walk away. It must have been worse for poor ol' Pete, to have been fired and then watch his former band go on to become the biggest band in the world pretty much. I saw him play at my university back about 9 or 10 years ago. He was doing a show called The Best of the Beatles, playing songs he'd played when he was in the band. Well, if I have Pete Bested myself so be it. If that were to happen I am just going to be happy and proud that I was a part of it. I am planning on going into the studio to record one more tune, one that I wrote the lyrics for and sing as a memory of my time with the band, and a good recording of something I co-wrote. I wrote the lyrics and had the idea for the general structure, what kind of beats I wanted where, then Geoff came in and helped me and it went in a somewhat new direction. Here's a non professional recording of it done at my house and recorded on an iphone.


I can't wait to hear it done up professionally. 

Anyway, I was too busy, and something had to go. Besides, I'd like to look at all this in a positive note. I've made a tough decision of sacrificing to achieve a goal and make my life manageable. And this by no means sentences me to never playing music again. I still have lots of solo stuff recorded that I can dust off some day.


And I do feel relieved, as I said before, to have one less big commitment on my table right now. I can still record some of my own solo stuff here and there when I have time, but with no commitments to play live shows, or to anyone other than myself I have the freedom to take it a lot slower and really focus on studying.

On a slightly related note, since I'm a drummer, a drummer friend posted this study about drummers and intelligence. Kind of interesting.

Also, if you are interested in a post dealing more directly with Adult Ed theory, my previous post is a collection of quotes and subsequent commentaries and thoughts I had about them from Elias and Merriams "Philosophical Foundations of Adult Education". I'd love any comments or reflections of yours on that post. BTW, I'm planning on continuing to add to that post as I continue going through the chapters and stuff I highlighted on and made notes in the margins.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Finished Philosophical Foundations of Adult Ed by Elias and Merriam

As the post title suggests I finished reading the above book. I enjoyed the read being a philosophy major myself. I figured a good blog post would be some reflections on that reading. I'm going to flip through it and comment on some of the things I highlighted, though not all of them as I tend to over highlight.

p. 3 - "The philosopher of education is interested in certain general principles that are involved in education . . . analysis of the teaching-learning process, and the relationship between education and the society in which education takes place" 

I left a bunch out of that quote, the list of things such as curriculum, objectives and stuff. I was most interested in the stuff about the relationship between education and society. Since September 11th a lot has been happening in society as a result of what happened. Some of the things that have happened are a lot of writings, lectures, and debates about religion and atheism from the likes of Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, Dennet, Hirsi and many others. I've listed atheist thinkers, scientists because it's what I've read a lot of and am interested in. Another thing that has happened as a result is a lot of racial profiling and a change in the realities of life for muslims living in Western countries. What place does education have in this post september 11th world? I'm not sure, but I suspect that it's to find a balance, to find a way to challenge religion in the cases where it is being extremist, but to realize that not all religious people are terrorists or fanatics. Still, I think that sometimes education must ride that balance between respecting people's right to religion, or lack of it. Freedom of religion is not only freedom to practice religion, it is also freedom from religion for those who do not belong. One of the big themes I seem to pick up in Adult ed literature is that dialogue is important, dialogue between teachers and students, but I think it in general applies to dialogue between people of different beliefs and ideologies. I think debate is a good force for education and society. Debate is certainly preferable to bombing those you don't agree with, and it's better that censoring yourself completely because that which you think is important to society might offend someone. I don't think we should strive to offend, but sometimes we need to challenge the beliefs of others and to have our own beliefs challenged.

p. 4 "A major dispute among philosophers concerns the relationship between philosophy and action or between theory and practice.  . . . Theory without practice leads to empty idealism, and action without philosophical reflection leads to a mindless activism" 

I like the notion of balance here. I'm always striving to find balance in my life. Balance as a teacher, balancing all the different parts of my life, feeding my soul with music, art and intellectual persuits, life as a married man and all that entails, a fairly new existence for me, work, play, getting exercise to keep my body healthy and stave of depression and laziness.

My goal I wrote for my research in my FI assignment was as follows. "To conduct an inquiry into how a foreign language teacher can reconcile fundamentally strong beliefs and values, either religious or ideological in their teaching practice while living in a foreign culture"

In my case the 'fundamentally strong belief and value' for me personally, is secular humanism, or to use a more blunt and to the point phrase an atheist who believes in the value of skepticism, critical thinking, and the scientific method as important factors in my own personal philosophy and ethical stance. Now where the balance is needed is that as a teacher I don't want to step on students right to belong to whatever religion they want to. It's acknowledging that it is a huge part of my identity, but at the same time realizing that I should carefully consider how I portray myself in the classroom. I try not to broadcast this part of my own personal philosophy too much, or at least think about what I'm saying and doing in the classroom. At the same time, I don't want to completely ignore it.

 One reflection I have had is that I can encourage critical thinking skills and skepticism in general without going into my own personal pet areas. I'm an ESL teacher after all. My job is to teach English, not indoctrinate. Still, I teach conversation, and within conversation many different topics come up. I teach essay writing and essays often need to tackle big issues. It's good to have thought how the professional way to handle these hot topics might be before they come up in the classroom. If they do come up it's good to reflect on how they were dealt with, and whether or not I managed to maintain a safe environment within the classroom for both students and myself, for students who may be religious or atheists themselves. Do I teach them to discuss different viewpoints with each other if they come up in the spirit of a fair and open debate, or do I let it devolve into a fox news, jerry springer type yelling match. This hasn't really happened by the way, it's just a hypothetical scenario.

Another thing that's been on my mind: There was a certain amount of tension for me in the Foundations Institute connected to my beliefs. I do think that education has an impact on people's beliefs, and can help to create a more civil society. Some professors gave me the impression that I was barking up the wrong tree to be researching atheism and adult education, that I was off track. I did find lots of places in this book where I saw connections. Am I just seeing what I'm preoccupied with? Maybe, maybe not, but reflecting on it and thinking and analyzing seems a more healthy way for my own sanity than ignoring it.  Here are some of the things in the book, quotes that popped off the page to me. These are in an actual Adult Education book, a foundational book, a book that was on the suggested readings of this course. It makes me wonder if the reactions I got, some of which seemed dismissive of atheism having any valuable contribution to adult ed, and some of which were more in the vein of 'find the connections and make the case'. I don't know if any of this will make a case or not, but nonetheless I'm going to record them here so I can easily find them later, and recover some of the things that I was thinking down the road when my head is filled up with other books and thoughts.

from Chapter 2 - Liberal Adult Education

p. 15 - "The meeting of Christian faith, espousing the Bible as the revelation of God, with classical Greek learning produced a struggle between competing views of life and education- the one being based upon religious faith and the other upon rational inquiry."

The authors of this book saw some importance in outlining some of the historical trends in education that have had impacts on adult education, and the conflicting educational philosophies between revealed knowledge and knowledge gained from rational enquiry was important enough to them to put in print.

p.27 - The book points out that earlier forms of liberal education philosophy viewed "the role of science in the curriculum. [And said] It is clear that philosophy, religion, and the humanities are superior to science at all points. . . . More recent expositions of the liberal tradition in education seem to have recognized the place of science in the curriculum."

This is given as the history before adult education so you might say that they have a point when they tell me that atheism, which is very connected to science for it's method of searching for knowledge and truths about the world, is off topic. However in a section sub-titled "The Liberal Education of Adults" we see the following quote.

p.31 "Most of the theorizing . . . has been concerned with the education of children . . . [but] has applicability in the education of adults [and further] a persuasive case can be made that liberal education will play and increasingly important role."

If in fact liberal education found a larger place for science, and if in fact liberal education, while having valid critiques made against it, such as a bias that it sometimes looks down on practical learning and vocational learning, still has some part to play in the future of adult education, then is it not legitimate to investigate what atheistic world-views might have to contribute to adult education or education in general? I can think of one such place where it might have a useful contribution. Without pushing an atheist agenda or belief system  on students, a secular approach to education might promote equality in a classroom. Here's how it works. A secularist would view all religions as equal to each other, whereas a religious view would place it's own particular religion as the one with the 'right' answers to these big questions. Much like separation of church and state is meant to provide freedom of religion, where no one religion is state sponsored, and freedom from religion where non believers are not forced to participate in a religion against their wills, having a classroom with a similar principle could be beneficial, especially in a class room in this globalized world, where the students in any given class may come from many different spiritual, religious, or secular traditions.

from Chapter 3 - Progressive Adult Education

This chapter starts off with the forceful statement that this school of educational philosophy

p.45 -"has had a greater impact upon the adult education movement in the United States than any other single school of thought. . . . [and that] . . . some of the basic principles in adult education originated in progressive thought: needs and interests, the scientific method . . . and the idea of social responsibility."

and continues on the next page with

p.46- "These ideas of Darwin affected not only psychology, natural sciences, and philosophy, but also had an influence in shaping the new pedagogy being developed by progressive educators."

The chapter mentions the contributions of Darwin to the progressive movement (p.46) and I think it is easily argued that his theory of natural selection and evolution has had a bigger impact upon the rise of atheism that any other intellectual or scientific discovery. So, if progressive education is such a big player in the formation of Adult education philosophy I think that there can be some link made that atheism has something to say about adult education.

Darwin however isn't the biggest name in progressive education. The name that seems to come up first and foremost is John Dewey. I got the sense from reading this book that while some in Adult education have had some disagreements with him everyone in the field also recognizes an influence and indebtedness at the same time. Dewey was into social reform, and so are a lot of the new atheists that I read.

p.49 - "For Dewey, education would flourish if it took place in a democracy. . ."

Here's a little thought experiment, contrast the type of education that is able to take place in a democracy as opposed to what is able to take place in a theocracy, or rather what restrictions would take place in a theocracy. The author never went down this road, but I am. There are many parts of the world, in the middle east for example where there is no separation of church and state, and where religion permeates education. Places where religious governments make it unsafe to openly and critically be an atheist, places where women are not allowed to be educated, and places where certain sexual orientations are considered a crime. We can not take for granted the freedom we have to openly study critically any avenue of education, even if that education, such as might be the case with certain schools of philosophy,  science, especially biology, or religious studies happens to, based on the evidence of what you are study happens to point to a world in which religion is myth and superstition. In our secular democracy the religious student also has the right to study theology, and subscribe to any religion, change religions, and belong to a religion that is a minority.I'm currently starting to read Freire's Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and it doesn't escape my attention, that in some parts of the world state religions can sometimes act as oppressors. I did read recently as I was researching the possibility of applying for better paying ESL jobs in some some Islamic countries, that there is actually a law whereby apostasy, the rejection of religion by a former religious person in favor of a life as an atheist is actually punishable by death! Would it even be safe for me to live and work there knowing how outspoken I can be?

It's getting late, and I haven't touched on the other philosophical stances of education covered in the book, Behaviorist, Humanistic, Radical, and Analytical, or the chapter on Philosophy of Adult Education and Bibliographic essay near the end. I wish it was earlier and I could get it all touched on in one sitting, but I need to get some balance. I've got a stack of essays from my job I haven't looked at, and  probably won't tonight. But I will try to finish off with a few more quotes from the progressive section and a few, brief I hope, notes. I hate stopping in the middle of something, as I might never get back to it.

Here's a bit from Knowles
p.52-53 ". . . Adult Education was clearly in tune with the needs of this era [1866-1920] of industrialization, immigration, emancipation, urbanization, and national maturation. [Knowles, 1977, p.75] (The History of the Adult Education Movement in the United States)

I wrote in the margins - .  . . so if Adult Ed. was addressing the needs of the times, what are the needs of today it might address? Terrorism? Globalization? Right Wing craziness?

Right wing tea party crazies seem to have a large presence in the US Republican party, and many of these tea party fundamental religious people are attempting to blur the lines between separation of church and state, and are quite creative with references to history and facts. This scares me. Bush scared me. Sarah Palin scared me. Fox news, the Bill O'Reilly's, Glen Becks scare me. I think education is part of the tonic to this branch of craziness. Open debate and being self educated are important in this day and age when journalism and news on the TV is hardly impartial.

p.53 - "Lindeman was directly influenced by the ideas of John Dewey and other progressives. He saw education as having its primary aim the development of social intelligence, that is, the practical understanding of the world in which we live."

I haven't read Lindeman yet, but I have heard his name a lot since I started studying Adult education. I wonder if when he speaks of "social intelligence" if he would see critical thinking skills and a prerequisite? I know I certainly would.

p.53 - quoting Lindeman "Every adult person finds himself in specific situations with respect to his work, his recreation, his family-life, his community-life, et cetera- situations which call for adjustments . . . Texts and teachers play a new and secondary role in this type of education; they must give way to the primary importance of the learner. [Lindeman, 1926, pp. 8-9] (The Meaning of Adult Education)

I scribbled in the margin - maybe my challenge to be fulfilled as a teacher needs an area where the students are more likely to need/want/benefit from critical thinking skills.

**** This will be updated with the remaining chapters hopefully, so check back in a few weeks to see chapters 3 and on.  *********

A little bit behind

I'm still trying to work on things but am struggling with motivation and finding the time. Some of this is probably somewhat related to depression, which has been a factor in my life since just after finishing high school. I'm not trying to make excuses, but just acknowledging that it's a factor that does effect me sometimes, and quite a bit since I've come back to Korea. I felt quite a rush of homesickness upon coming back here. It's hard to believe I've been here since 2003. Also being back at work, and juggling that with the now masters work is a new challenge for me. I'm quite busy and am feeling the stress and strain from it. I am seriously thinking of quitting the band I play in as I think I just have too much on the table for it now. It feels a bit sad since it's a good band with lots of potential, and music is an important part of my life. But I figure I can always get another band down the road, and life is about making sacrifices sometime, and I don't feel I can really put the practice time into the band anyway, and they are fairly driven. I don't want to be the weak link.

I am reading on my commutes to and from work (about an hour and fifteen minutes each way, taking into consideration transfers I read maybe 50 minutes on the way in and the same on the way home. I'm also trying to keep going to the gym to keep myself healthy and fight depression. I spend about one hour of each gym trip on an exercise bike, and read during that time as well. I just finished reading Philosophical Foundations of Adult Ed, by Elias and Merriam and found it an interesting read. I'm reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed now and thinking of reading all of the "Contexts of Adult Ed, Canadian Perspectives" next and then keep on reading foundational material before moving onto more specialized stuff and articles. As I read I am highlighting things I think might be important or of interest. I'm a bit worried I'm not keeping close enough track of quotes and pages, but hopefully the highlighting is somewhat helpful. I guess what I'm trying to say is I'm trying, but realize that I'm perhaps falling short. 

Around the middle of last week I printed out a lot of the articles I had collected since starting the FI. I'm trying to get organized and change habits. One things I've learned about myself related to the depression and motivation issue is that seems to come and go in waves. Sometimes I'm reasonably motivated and seem to be on track and disciplined, and then I go though phases where I am not so productive. Having said all that and harped on depression, I can say that generally I've been a lot better in the last eight years or so. I've worked steadily since coming to Korea and have only called in sick once in all that time. There was a time before that where I had never held a job for more that about seven or eight months and pretty much escaped life with perpetual sleep.

Today I put the picture I made on my first day at the Foundations Institute up in my office as well as my study project "Goal, What, Who, Where, When, Why, How" from the FI project that I still didn't pass in. I did finally open it and look at it today as well as add one more annotation. I talked to my wife about making a study schedule and trying my best to stick to it. 

I've been feeling a bit reluctant to contact my advisor as I haven't gotten a lot done and have felt a bit guilty about it. At the same time, I should try to keep in contact. I did just send an email to her and hope to connect by skype sometime soon.

Monday, September 12, 2011


My wife started learning the piano. I decided to try a bit too. She learns a lot faster. I really struggle with it. I hate that feeling of when you want to learn something new but it just doesn't seem to make sense. It's like my brain is wired wrong. She sees things clearly and the concept goes into her head and out her fingers much faster than me. I suppose if I keep it up things will make more sense.

I'm just playing around with it, I'm a drummer after all, I've already got an instrument. So I don't need to take it seriously. It would be cool if I could pick it up to any degree of playability though. It's a humbling experience and I think a good one for a teacher to do once in a while. Trying to learn something you are a complete beginner at reminds us of what it must be like for our low level students. That hopefully culminates in us being more patient and understanding.

She's still practicing and doing well. I was pretty much stuck on Do, Re, Mi, perhaps a Mi, Re, Do, she seems to be getting a lot more notes in there, and using both hands at the same time. Good for her. If she gets any good maybe we can start a family band. What a can of worms that could be.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years since Sept 11th

I just watched a Discovery channel program on the building of the Sept 11 Memorial area at ground zero. It made be reflect a bit about that day. I was a student in my undergraduate studies at Mount Allison University, walking along campus when someone told me to go to the east lounge and look at the TV, that airplanes had hit a building. I went and saw and like most people on that day, saw something that would never be forgotten and would somehow impact life for all in the future.

For me it was an eventual reflection of the problem of religion as a factor in violence and terrorism. It was and still is a depressing fact of life, that bronze age mythological worldviews can play such a powerful role in war and terrorism. I think it was a wake up call for secularists all over the world, that although criticism of religion has had a taboo attached to it, that we unbelievers have as much right as the religious to voice our viewpoints as well, at least in secular democratic countries.

Let me make it clear that I don't think all religious people are bad or evil, but that a worldview based on superstition and myths can sometimes be dangerous, when morality and ethical systems are built on foundations of shaky reasoning and logic. I do hope that we as a species move away from superstition and metaphysical worldviews, and focus instead on an ethics and worldview based simply on love, reason, a healthy dose of skepticism and compassion.

I think education has a lot to offer in achieving these goals. I don't believe we will ever live in a perfect world, or a world without any violence, but hope that we can grow and become more compassionate as we seek to find truths in that which we can back up with reason and evidence rather than arbitrary beliefs and superstitions which often conflict with others superstitions or proven facts. Basically I hope we evolve into a gentler society before we destroy ourselves though war, greed or environmental disaster.

This of course seems too simplistic. There are paradoxes that must be wrestled with. As an educator I want to find that balance between being true to my own values and allowing the freedom of others to believe what the want. I do believe however, if we commit violent acts, or criminal acts in the name or service of those belief then we crossed a line and must be challenged. If you are killing people don't expect to stifle criticism of your religion by playing the respect religion card. If you are telling flat out lies because the truth of something offends your religious views then don't expect to silence me from my right to voice my beliefs. We all have the right to criticize and research in order to seek knowledge. That, at least should exist in free societies.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Dark horse

And the reason I may have to quit my band or ask them to be patient or understanding with me, the same reason I fail to practice with a metronome, or memorize the lyrics to a song I wrote myself, or practice songs, the same reason I may never complete this Masters degree - depression.

I have for years now privately thought of depression as aids of the mind, or perhaps the soul, though that's going out on a limb since I don't believe in souls, at least not in the metaphysical sense. Perhaps in the metaphorical sense, or the mundane sense, soul as simply emotions, thoughts, ruminations, what have you. Certainly hard to define, yet within the laws of nature, not violating the laws of non contradiction. Aids attacks the immune system, the very defense needed to fight the disease. So it's not aids one dies of, rather a cold, or flu, that can't be fought off. Depression works in an analogy of aids, attacking the passion needed to enjoy life.

It's for this reason I fail to spend time with a metronome or nurture the talent I have. Musically I get by. If I had motivation and drive I could go to another place. Depression that takes away the strength or drive to really study hard, even of things that matter greatly to me. Depression that will see me stay in bed waiting for life to go away and leave me alone. So I'm doing the best I can with what I have. I'm trying to get exercise because that combats depression. Trying not to quit my band because at times it does feed my soul. Well, I could quit the band, I could always get other projects, but it's depression that would try to make me seek failure, seek to bail before I really reach someplace special, whatever that means, wherever that may be. I don't believe it necessarily means that I won't succeed, either at study or music, marriage, or life itself for that matter . . . but it doesn't make it easy.

Even when it has a the weakest hold on me in a long time. It's still always there whittling away my resolve. Even in this period of my life where I no longer call in sick to avoid facing life. I've only missed perhaps one day of work to that old trope in the last eight years. It's the Beast, to steal a phrase from Tracy Thompson, the name of her book actually. I could choose not to write this, keep it a secret, or at the very least not broadcast it in such an over the top manner here on this blog. I could pretend I've no cracks in my coating, but it wouldn't make it fail to exist. Acknowledging your foe is paramount in having any hopes in hell of walking away from the fight still breathing. Studying your foe may teach you when to swing, when to feint, whether to rush in swinging, defensively block, or run away, to employ guerilla tactics or march towards the fire firing with honor hoping for the best. Its a puzzle indeed.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Multi tasking and Seoul Station Homelessness

There are two things I missed or didn't get to in my last blog. Seoul station, which I'd thought about before, and will explain is one. Multi tasking as a way to get things done when the schedule heats up.

Multi - Tasking

I'll start with the multi tasking first as it's fairly straight forward, not very emotionally laden, and of a practical nature. In my last entry I was talking about being overwhelmed, not having enough time to do everything, or not getting as much done as I wished or thought I would. One of the things I feared would go by the wayside was getting enough exercise and still finding time to study.

I was going to go to the gym around 5 today then come home and study. Also I had to take my wife to a government office today so couldn't stay home and focus %100 on study. First, this afternoon while my wife was in her meeting/information session that took about 2 hours I spent a large part of my time in the waiting room reading my Philosophical Foundations of Adult Ed book. I'm enjoying the book and making progress on reading it, even though I'm busy and not finding lots of time to just sit and read yet. I'm doing it though multi tasking. On the subway to work. The nice thing about books. They are portable.

At five a new student came. My wife had forgotten that she had made the appointment, and I did too. I had just been planning to go to the gym when my wife came back home and told me about the student. Things like that seem to happen often. I think I'm going to get work done and something comes up. Of course I can't blame it all on that. Procrastination is also a big factor, but that's a topic for another post. I want to stay somewhat on track.

After the new student left at 6, I decided that I wasn't going to blow off the gym. I spent two hours at the gym. The first hour I spent on an exercise bike, and that hour I also spent reading and high lighting. It's possible to let the body go on auto pilot for some types of exercise, while the mind is spent in other endeavors. I've known this for awhile, but haven't always used that knowledge.

Seoul Station

Another thing I've wanted to mention in my blog is my reflection on Seoul Station. I take the subway to work and always transfer at Seoul Station. I actually have to leave one station briefly and walk to the other line. If you have ever lived in Seoul or even visited and been outside Seoul Station there is something that would be hard to miss. There is a very large congregation of homeless people that spend their time at Seoul Station. They are often seen sleeping in the sun, baking the days of dirt on them. I'm often the kind of person that has a hard time waking up in the morning. Sometimes I'm depressed and don't feel like going to work. Seeing all the homeless people makes me think and realize how lucky I really am.

What does this mean to me as a teacher? I'm not sure. Maybe that I should be more grateful to have my job as a teacher. Maybe to take seriously my responsibility to my students. I'm not egotistical enough to think that my teaching will have a direct result on whether or not my students end up on the streets. It is, however a striking reminder, that choices in life do matter. The things we do affect other people. The things we do affect ourselves too.

I don't know the particular circumstances that drove these people to a life on the streets, or perhaps deposited them there in a way that they had no control over. I do feel confident that choices made by people probably had some influence in the matter. People have made choices that affected some of these people. These people may have also made some bad choices themselves. Perhaps their experience with education, lack of education, or access may have had some effect as well. Mental illness is probably at play in some people's circumstances. I know from my own history with depression, a depression that is fairly mild compared to others, that it can really effect your lifestyle and ability to hold down a stable job, let alone find one.

Maybe I seem like a person of empathy for covering this topic, but let's be realistic. I usually just go about my day, and walk past. I do think about it, but the thing is I'm just not sure what I should be doing.  At the same time I don't want to beat myself up or feel guilty because I don't do enough. The thing, is I really don't know what I should or could do. When I searched for a photo of homeless in Korea I first saw some articles. Perhaps that's a place to start, educating myself somewhat on homelessness in Korea by reading some of those articles on homelessness in Korea, and perhaps even looking for some stuff in adult education journals. I suspect it's maybe a bit off track of where my research has been heading, but reading one or two articles probably won't hurt before I rule it out as relevant to what I'm doing. Even if I don't use it in my research per se, it's still likely good for me to educate myself on a problem that I see everyday.

I can think of one angle that fits with where my research is going. I am interested in identity formation in adult education. Every time I walk by and ignore it I have to question my self. Who am I? Am I a person who cares about other people in pain or not? Did choosing this topic set any kind of events in motion for myself or others? I don't know honestly, but at the very least I found an interesting blog to follow called Korea Real Time when searching for a photo. http://blogs.wsj.com/korearealtime/
I also found some articles. Here's a PDF of "A Study on the Homelessness in South Korea" by Il-Seong Yoon at Pusan National University.

In a brief skim before reading I did catch something about education being a factor and noticed the words "cultural identity". I look forward to reading the article.

Here's another blog post about Sociology of Homelessness in Seoul.


Some staggering numbers of homeless people it claims (1 million in Seoul, 24.5 million population in greater Seoul so 1 in 25 is homeless) I wonder if these stats are accurate?


Here's a blogpost about someone who found a homeless Korean in the US who has his own blog

And here's the actual homeless man's blog
There's a lot of anti gay stuff in his blog, kind of disturbing. I still think taking a look at what actual homeless people are saying even if there is some insanity or prejudice inside, is a useful endeavor. I think reading the academic stuff is good, but probably also revealing to hear some stuff straight from the horses mouth, actual homeless people.

I wonder if there are many homeless blogs out there? I think I want to watch The Fisher King, The Soloist (true story of homeless schizophrenic, who had attended The Julliard School, violinist, Nathaniel Anthony Ayers) and Pursuit of Happyness (also based on a true story, Chris Gardner's year of being homeless) again. What are some other good movies that feature homelessness? If you can think of them let me know.

Edit after the fact, response to a blog

I read the blog called 'Sociology of Homelessness in Seoul' from above and left a comment. The comment is somewhat critical of one thing he said, but on the whole I found it to be an interesting read.

Here's my comment

"Interesting post Daniel, especially how you break down the different types of lifestyles and reflect on it. I pass by Seoul Station on my way to work because I transfer there.
I did however have a possible different reading for one of your reflections. You wrote
"A few minutes after giving one of our blankets to the small-community “lifestyle” homeless, I saw him scratching out the bible verse that we had taped on the case.  It almost seemed as if he was concerned with the “presentation” of the blanket because he wanted to sell it."

I think it's somewhat of a hasty assumption that he wanted to sell the blanket. This may be the case, but it seems not so likely to me, as a blanket could very well be more valuable to a homeless person than money because of the usefulness to survival as well as level of comfort. Another possible reason that he wanted to scratch out the bible verse might be that he is not religious, or belong to a different religion. It's even possible that he found it offensive or that is just slightly rubbed him the wrong way. He  might interpret it as taking advantage of his bad situation to try to recruit him. If he didn't really really need the blanket or food he may have rejected outright if he was not religious. This is of course not the only possible explanation, but is a possibility. It's just food for thought. At any rate I think it's commendable that you were giving out blankets and food to the homeless."

Monday, September 5, 2011


I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed as the title suggests. I already had a busy schedule before starting my masters, and now it feels busier. The first few weeks of my teaching semester always seem like swimming against the tide to stay ahead of things. Of course the good thing about this job is that I get huge vacation time through the year. So the semesters are like sprints but I get long rests in between. Feeling the pressure financially, like I should be doing more private lessons, but I feel spread thin. I haven't managed to spend much time working on my masters. I have done what I can, and have read everyday on the commute. I read on the subway with a high lighter in hand. I think I highlight too much. I'm not great at just picking out those few choice quotes. Well, I guess as long as I'm doing a little bit and trying what more can I do? Is that a cop out? Not sure. I've only been into the gym once since getting home, twice if you count the time at the sauna when I woke up this morning. I feel staying in shape is important, but it competes with time for other things. It's already 1pm today for instance. I've just got up, taken a shower and my wife needs me to take her to some government office. It seems that every time I get a day off like today something magically appears that needs to be done. I gave my students a questionnaire asking them some basic introduction type questions. One of the questions was "What kind of ice cream flavor would you want to be?" Most of them didn't really understand the metaphor aspect of the question as it's not their first language, and just answered things like "I like chocolate because it's sweet." without personifying themselves as an ice cream. One student, however, understood the metaphor twist and she wrote "I want to be poo flavored ice cream so nobody will eat me.". Maybe I should strive to be poo flavored as well so life doesn't eat me up. Seriously though, I'd rather be sweet and attractive to others, maybe a vanilla, not too sweet but a great base to mixed with other things like strawberries or bananas and chocolate. I do however, need to keep trying to keep some balance in my life.