Common Core

Once again, it takes a question that confuses my 5th grader in her homework to provoke me in to a rage about Common Core. Something seriously needs to be done about this completely inadequate system of learning materials from Pearson Education. Each year it seems to be a different subject whose curriculum is laid out in an incredibly shoddy manner. In 1st and 2nd grade it was math, 3rd grade it was science, 4th grade I didn’t see anything glaringly wrong and this year it is Language Arts. The question my daughter was confused by was multiple choice under the heading of “word associations”:

-Which is easiest to navigate?

a) bicycle

b) a hot air balloon

c) a bucking bronco

d) a sailboat

I am assuming that the answer would be a bicycle. The wording is awful for this question. If they want to use the word navigate, they need to add more words to this sentence. They should reword the sentence:

Which is easiest to navigate with?


Which is easiest to control? (Although they wanted to use the word navigate).

But the sentence does not make sense the way they word it. One cannot navigate those objects, one can navigate WITH those objects….the editing is awful in these books. They also, all too often, have two answers that can be correct, but only one that is technically correct. But it can be a subjective answer depending upon the logic of the person answering, and that should not be left up to chance. There should be one definitive answer only. Especially in elementary school.

I sincerely hope I see the end of Common Core within my lifetime. It is one of the biggest downfalls of the modern educational system.

Signing and Singing

Today I have two songs of the day and they are inter-related in my world And childhood memory. And today, as my energy connection to the universe worked it’s magic as it often does and has been doing quite often lately, it radiated and coalesced to happy memories from my childhood today.

When I walked in to teach today, there was someone in the music room and she had music playing while she was working. She was playing the Carpenters station on Pandora on her phone. She asked me if I grew up listening to the Carpenters. I told her that I had and that my favorite song by them was the song “Sing”. Though I didn’t share with her why, I was reminiscing in my head as to why I had fond memories of that song. I remembered that some show I watched used to sing that song and also do it in sign language. I was then immediately reminded of another song from my childhood that I loved for the same reason, one from a show I watched that they also did in sign language. And that song was “Sunshine on my shoulder” by John Denver. When I got in the car, what comes on my playlist but “Sunshine on my shoulder”. How uncanny. But this has become commonplace these days in my world that it’s losing it’s fascination.

After I got home and researched which shows these two songs were on, I found that “Sing” was actually written for Sesame Street, and then popularized by the Carpenters. And it was indeed shown in sign language on some of the episodes. And then “Sunshine on my shoulder” was from a short educational series that was focused on sign language called “Signing with Cindy”.

For whatever reason, I was enthralled by sign language when I was younger apparently, and that made me like songs that much more. It is a bit ironic, because a few years ago, a show that had a lot of impact on my life was “Switched at birth” which dealt with sign language and the deaf community. I particularly followed the show more because of the theme of genetic identity crises based on them being raised by non-bio parents in the same way I was, though I was adopted and they were switched. But many of the situations resonated with me. But as I watched the show, I felt alot of empathy towards the deaf community.

My husband and I were just discussing something regarding the deaf community as it came up during the Nascar race on Sunday when there was a little interlude showing, I believe it was Denny Hamlin, who was corresponding with a young fan of his who was deaf and hoped to become a race car driver some day. My husband and I were trying to ponder out how that might be possible and how bad we felt for their limitations. We were trying to think of any possible solution that could be feasible.

So below are You Tube videos of the specific versions of my two songs of the day. A stroll down memory lane from my childhood today.


Music or Philosophy?


Music is the art of combining tones to form expressive compositions, any rhythmic sequence of pleasing sounds (Webster’s Dictionary 1990). Philosopophy is the study of the principles underlying conduct, thought and the nature of the universe, the general principles or laws of a field of knowledge, or a particular system of ethics (Webster’s Dictionary 1990). John Cage, a 20th century American Composer, has been most widely known for his experimental compositions and philosophies on music in general. His most notorious work is 4’33”, otherwise known as his “silent piece”, in which the performer of the work remains still for four minutes and thirty-three seconds and does not produce a single note. Through this “silence”, Cage intends for the audience to take in the surrounding natural noises and treat them as music. Is he, then, simply stretching compositional techniques as did his groundbreaking predecessors, or is this piece a demonstration of philosophy rather than a musical composition?

Music is a form of self-expression, according to Langer. This connotation is the most widespread to this day. But John Cage had his own purpose for writing music. He adopted the Indian idea that, “the purpose of music is to sober and quiet the mind, thus making it susceptible to divine influences”. He also agreed with Coomaraswamy that it was “the responsibility of the artist to imitate nature in her manner of operation” (as cited by Revill). With his new insight into Eastern tradition, Cage’s purpose to quiet the mind was anything but achieved through initial performances of 4’33”.

The first performance of John Cage’s 4’33” created a scandal. At the premiere some listeners were unaware that they heard anything at all. People began whispering to one another, and some people began to walk out. They didn’t laugh-they were just irritated when they realized nothing was going to happen, and they haven’t forgotten it 30 years later: they’re still angry (according to Solomon).


Cage knew before the piece premiered that it would probably be taken as a joke, but he knew that it was pertinent for him to do so because he felt it was the highest form of work. He stated that he did not write shocking pieces in order to receive that reaction. But despite the audience reaction, Cage remained hopeful that 4’33” would eventually have the impact he intended. He had come to realize through his Zen studies that one hardly ever learned or understood anything right away, but that understanding would come later, or perhaps not at all.

The underlying conflict with 4’33” is that for one to accept the piece as music, one must fully accept Cage’s philosophy of music. In order to accept this philosophy, one must abandon the traditional definition of music. For as Cage saw it, there was no such thing as silence. He came to this conclusion when he subjected himself to an abechoic chamber at Harvard University. He actually had expected to hear nothing, but instead he heard two sounds. When he asked the engineer about these sounds, he was told that the higher pitched sound was his nervous system and the lower pitched sound was his blood circulating. In an attempt to redefine silence as the absence of intended sounds, rather than the absence of all sound, he wrote 4’33” in order to heighten the awareness of the audience to surrounding noises. Cage was concerned with humanity accepting all noises of nature as music. But in order to do so, Cage had to change the world’s views, since this was not an accepted practice up until this time. Cage felt that music was a means of changing the mind, and thus his goal of composing was to change minds from the traditional usage of music as a form of expression to one of being aware.

Cage’s music must be subservient to his views and philosophies since his music dissipates all former views of music and is reliant on the acceptance of his philosophies. “Cage does not argue with the premises if traditional music. He rejects them wholesale for reasons which can only be inferred from his own position.” Cage believed that “everything is permitted if zero is taken as the basis. If you’re non-intentional, then everything is permitted.” Yet he knew the audience was “intending” to hear music in the traditional sense when he premiered 4’33”. In order to accept 4’33” in the way he ‘intended’ it to be taken, one must first change one’s method of thinking, which was the purpose of the piece. But if the purpose was to change the audience’s mind, then was it music when it was first experienced, or, was it an example of a philosophical groundbreaking work in action?


Cage described his own position as a composer to be one where he changed his responsibility from making choices to asking questions. The answers are found in the content of the music (as noted by Kostelanetz). Cage was interested in what he did not know, and that is why his music is intended to ask questions. Cage insisted that music is not meant to be understood hut ht is about being aware and freeing oneself from likes and dislikes. However, in order to accept outside noises as music in the sense Cage is seeking, one must understand his logic and his philosophies before one can be aware of those things that he wished the world would see.

Cage believed that “if the composer has any function at all, it should be teaching people to keep attuned to all the implicit music that their environment offers.” Cage became more of a teacher figure with the performance of 4’33” than he was a composer. He set the framework and taught his unsuspecting audience a lesson in awareness.


“Instead of a music of definable identity, we have conceptions whose essence is a lack of identity” (according to Pritchett). Cage stated that his favorite piece is one that is heard anytime, all the time, if we simply open our awareness and listen. But this requires no composing since it simply exists in nature. Although Cage did teach people to be aware of this ongoing ‘silent’ music, he, by no means, composed those sounds heard in nature. He gave up all control, with the exception of how long the audience was subjected to this ”silence”, and this denounced his position as a composer of a musical work with the composition of 4’33”. When Kostelanetz interviewed Cahe and asked him whether he still viewed his compositions as his own in the sense that he created them, Cage responded that he did. He explained that instead of exercising his control to compose, he asked questions that were answered by the process and within the process. But this is precisely the type of work done by philosophers, not musical composers. To compose, as defined by the Webster’s New World Dictionary, means to put into proper form or to create, this to exercise control over the content of the work at hand. Control, however, is precisely what Came gave up with the inception of 4’33”, because the sounds within the four minutes and thirty-three seconds we’re not under his control.


Because Cage left 4’33” to nature to truly compose the content within those four minutes and thirty-three seconds, he has essentially given up his position as a composer. Because the “philosophical underpinnings are clearly more significant than any more sound”, the ideas become the content of the piece, which are thusly not musical. Though Cage had a strong musical training, his music became more conceptual than an auditory experience, which is the essence of music. “Conceptual music is either musicless music or it requires the reinvention of music” (according to Kostelanetz). Obviously, this was precisely Cage’s purpose, to reinvent music. However, if his purpose was to reinvent music through 4’33”, then this piece could not be considered music upon first experience because people’s minds would have to have already been open to 4’33” being music. Music had always been an immediate experience, not something that had to be contemplated after the fact. Though the audience may have accepted Cage’s point that all sounds are music, they could not have done so until the premiere of 4’33”, and thus, at that point in time, it could not be considered music. After the first Performance, the effect of the piece disappeared because the word spread about the piece and people were given the chance to ponder the issue without hearing the piece. This, the lesson could be taught without the performance of 4’33”.


After the premiere of 4’33”, people were able to perform the work at any time in their lives. Yet, people were able to do so before 4’33”, if one was learned in the Eastern tradition of meditation. Cage felt that 4’33” was a “musical work that went on constantly, an invitation of the ultimate unity of music and life”. Cage was simply demonstrating to his audience, and the world (particularly Western cultures), what he had learned by way of his Zeb studies. He formulated what he discovered and put together an active demonstration which forced people to experience what he had learned, rather than by telling them in a traditional manner. Though he did use a musical setting (the use of a performer, a musical instrument, a concert audience, and a notated score), he was merely demonstrating the lesson he had learned. Although he used the subject matter of music (as he defines it), it was essentially an uncomposed work.


Suzanne Langet, a leading philosopher contemporary with Cage, described the usage of natural sounds as musical material or models which composers may reconstruct into symbols to be used in a composition. But those unintentional sounds, utilized in an unconscious manner, are not art in and of themselves. She also believes the composer is the original subject of the symbols depicted in a composition. Yet Cage was not the original subject because the “music” to be heard in 4’33” was composed by nature, this making nature the subject. Even though Cage vehemently opposed the use of symbols in his compositions, he used them in 4’33”. The performer of the work served as a symbol, as did the composition itself, because no piece ought to be composed or performed for something that is naturally occurring in nature since the sounds are of nature, Cage had no hand in composing those sounds. He was only responsible for people’s awareness of those sounds, which was the concept of the piece, not the content.


Kostelanetz describes Cage as a polyartist or one who “finds new media for his signature.” He describes how Cage used several medium (including visual art, theatrical productions and writing) to express his underlying thoughts rather than using just one medium. With this statement, Kostelanetz is classifying Cage as a jack of all trades, master of none. It is true that one must study music in order to compose, and Cage had composed several standard works aside from 4’33”. However, someone with no musical training could have composed a piece exactly like 4’33”. A Zen philosopher could have used music as his medium in order to awaken an audiences awareness to natural sounds just as Cage did, but he would not, therefore, be considered a musician. Buddhists, in fact, perform 4’33” daily, with the exception of the time frame of four minutes and thirty-three seconds, but they call it meditation.


Even though Cage did compose pieces that utilized his musical training, this should not automatically categorize everything he composes as music. Cage also wrote poetry that is not counted among his music compositions. Yet, according to his philosophy that all sound is music, would not the speaking voice this be considered music when his poetic words are spoken? But still his poetry is not categorized as music. In a conversation with Cage, Kostelanetz referred to Cage’s work “Empty Words” as a literary work as it is deemed by all resources, but Cage labeled it as a “transition from literature to music.” Yet “Empty Words” is not listed as a musical work by Cage.

George Kubler observed that “the work of many artists often comes closer to philosophical speculation than most aesthetic writings.” Cage even admitted that he “intellectually programmed himself out of a musical career.” Yet he continued to compose because of the promise he made to his instructor Schoenberg to dedicate his life to music. Donald Henaham thinks that Cage perhaps redefined his position as a philosopher of modern music after he decided he would not be one of the worlds greatest composers.


Philosophy is the general principle or laws of a field of knowledge. The philosophy of music is that which John Cage sought to change. He attempted to do so through his work 4’33”. Though that piece contained music as it’s content, it was through that work that Cage defined music as all sounds. If an audience listening to 4’33” is not aware they are listening to music, it cannot be music until the point when they accept that they are listening to music. Since the piece itself was the vehicle for this changing of the mind, it cannot be music until the change of mind has occurred. Rather, it is a work of philosophy in which the ideas are demonstrated instead of written. The setting of a musical composition is the medium used in 4’33” to open people’s awareness to Cage’s new principles of music. But the work is significant because of it’s underlying concepts, not because of it’s content. The content of the piece is uncontrolled by Cage and can be experienced in every day life. Thus, Cage transforms his philosophical ideas into the medium of his self-prescribed definition of music, making the work one of philosophy rather than of a musical experience.


(Take notice of this last meme and that Cage is listed in the 4th level)- I wrote this paper when I was in college in 1999. Considering memes are a new commodity, it looks as though in the 21st century, since laying out my ideas in this research and opinion paper that was current and progressive during that time frame, that Cage has come to be accepted as one of the more socially accepted composers, or at least not one of the least disattached from social dogma. There are others who are more wholly disenchanted with the social norms than John Cage was. Society has evolved, and it has been due to pioneers like that of John Cage!!!!

Get a grasp on true education necessities

Common core.

The bane of my existence in motherhood since she was in first grade. In theory, it sounds like an excellent ideation. A standard to uphold all of our educational system to in order to ensure that all children, no matter what neighborhood they live in or what their societal status is, will all be literate and able to pass a certain minimum requirement across the board, equivalent at all grade levels.



But the reality became that all the teachers began fearing for their jobs because their job security became dependant upon the standardized test scores of their class. And sometimes, no matter how good a teacher is, there are some students and classes that just won’t do well on standardized tests. PERIOD. The teachers, who are in it for the love of their career and the love of their students, are now having to sacrifice their unique creativity and are forced to “teach to the test”. They have a constant anxiety about them and they are micromanaged by administration in what materials they must utilize to teach their class. They have very little freedom to impress their own unique methods upon the children. Our educational system is attempting to turn out a deluge of little robots who are unable to think for themselves, because they were all taught under the same methodology.

And to go one step further, the tricks that we all figured out on our own that worked for us individually in subjects like math for adding things faster by grouping things a certain way etc…The children are not allowed to be creative and come up with this on their own anymore. Every single “trick” is now taught. Which actually ends up causing confusion. I liken it to trying to give someone directions from point a to point b and instead of just giving them the most efficient way of getting there, I give them 5 different options when they are from out of town. Now tell me, how would that person not end up getting lost?


Having visual displays such as this pictured above would be a very creative way to imbed fundamental concepts in to children’s minds in school, and would also free up a lot of class time to work on other fundamentals that are being grossly overlooked.


While I firmly believe in the intrinsic value of an academic education, and I would never want to eliminated any of the core curriculum that is mandatory, I do believe that there is a gaping hole in our educational system that we need to get a firm grasp on very quickly before our world inplodes.

While it may technically be the parents job to teach children things such as manners, social skills, financial skills, hygiene, psychological mechanisms, and to prepare them for when they leave the proverbial nest, the stark reality is that many parents are not upholding this part of their job. This lack of preparedness now falls on the shoulders of society in more ways that one. Children are not able to navigate the trials and tribulations of school, much less the great big world once they turn 18. Anxiety and depression have risen in numbers exponentially in recent years. For some it is because the parents don’t care enough to teach them these skills and that they are wrapped up in their own world. Some parents are very busy working multiple jobs to make ends meet in a very tough market and don’t have the time. And for some, the parents themselves don’t have the skills.




It is sad that many children don’t know how to pack their own lunch, or how to make themselves some basic meals. Many children don’t understand what bullying really is. Perhaps if they had it truly laid out for them, in demonstration formats, some might realize how much they can hurt others, some might report it more, some might realize how much they really are being bullied and real solutions can start to be developed. If  Butchildren were taught tolerance for the differences in  theseothers, perhaps they could learn to appreciate others rather than cutting them down all the time. These things need to be taught, not just assumed that they are being taught by the parents (even though that’s the way it SHOULD be).

I have ideas for a way to help prepare children for the real world, and all it would take is one class that would run throughout their entire schooling called “Life Skills”. It would prepare them for how to take care of a baby, how to handle finances in a responsible way, how to go grocery shopping economically, how to change a tire and change the oil in a car, home ec, how to use a drill, at the younger ages how to resolve conflicts between people, time management, general manners and courtesy, decency and unspoken rules-such as waiting until the person is done bagging at the self checkout before sending your stuff down, apologizing if you accidentally bumping in to someone etc… There are so many topics to cover that can prepare children for the world in practical ways and that can also make people more peaceful and able to get along with one another, with the hopeful result of less fighting and conflict. The topics of this one class would change constantly throughout the year and from year to year as the children mature. I truly believe that this vision would help the upcoming generations get a grasp on reality before being turned out on their own. I have plans to draw out a very specific curriculum from K-12 and eventually propose it to some education boards.