Blowin’ in the wind


The anti-war song on our title is familiar to many, either out of love of country and/or disdain of conflict and violence as an official foreign policy. The ’60s was a divisive and a decisive time for the United States, a period when no one tolerated the fence sitters on Civil Rights, racial prejudice, and the Vietnam War. We quite literally wore our political sentiments up our sleeves, if not boldly emblazoned in blouses and t-shirts.

Where is it that we get our passion these days?

SIOP@ is a classroom protocol adopted by the NMI school district as a model to attain universal literacy started at K-3. Initiated in the ’60s, it has since become formalized (protocol is an agreement on rules), its eight iterative components consists of lesson preparation, background building, comprehensible input, strategies, interaction, practice and application, lesson delivery, and review and assessment, commonsensical enough to be manageable.

Not too many in 2016 are comfortable with the imperial style of rules dictated from the top. This is true of even of the most rigid of structures, and having recently just taught in China and its formal structures, we might be forgiven if we speak forcefully more than usual.

A related example is the immigration category of “resident visa” that in the U.S. gives someone permission to work wherever they want to and whatever they can manage to perform. A “resident visa” in China simply means one can stay, requiring a “working visa” to be employed, and the visa is applied for by one’s employer.

U.S. residency is based on the freedom of the individual, and the right to work is a right rather than a privilege. China operates out of a planned economy, and the reason extreme wealth is escaping out of the country is the mistaken notion that money cannot be sustained in an economy where the planning is formally controlled. We do add that ill-gotten wealth desperately wants out of China, particularly out of the real estate deals in Shanghai, Hainan, and Shenzhen.

We condemned Mao Zedong for promoting conformity over a country and culture in tatters after foreigners tried to sub-divide the country, while Obama is vilified as being a “weak” leader for allowing too many of us to make hard choices and decisions already overwhelmed by the task of determining what color of toilet paper to buy!

Deng Xiaopeng loosened Beijing’s formal rein on procedures, and Xi Jinping insisted on going by the books, which maintained judgment by an external order rather than the whims and wishes of the Beijing technocrats. It is in the books!

The weird ascendancy of The Donald shows many in the U.S. long for strong leadership who sets clear rules, imposes it, and the country will follow. Fortunately, those who live by the stringent rules of imperial dictates from the top, on a climate of fear and the methods of “scare”, are offset by those who will insist that the freedom to choose shall abide and prevail.

Many on Saipan find their theoretical stimulation from speculating how one lives the lifestyle of Armageddon in the last days! Programs from island radios abet this, holding the image of the End of Times. It is the arrogance of finitude not wanting to be hemmed by time. I wonder how their belief structures evolved.

The “protocol” ambience of SIOP@ deviates from our style of pedagogy that zeroes on the learners rather than the teacher. PSS emblazoned in all its buses and its regular publication the sign “Student First”, a guiding principle. It means that the student as an individual takes precedence in the learning process rather than a religious adherence to rules of protocol on instruction. My WSR recruiter assures me that!

That teachers need to have the discipline on knowing their objectives in a timeframe (SIOP insists on daily objectives) is understandable but the expressed function and role of the teacher is subservient to that of the learning student. The teacher’s discipline is to be a methods’ guru so the learner can learn to learn.

This is common sense, like the example in one of the SIOP books where sometimes, a class activity deteriorates into simply the folding of paper to make airplanes and miss out on the lessons on aerobics and wind drafts in the blowing of the wind.

This is not to suggest that we skip PSS Standard Core curriculum, rather, we be in a “dialogical” relations with the team teachers, all the teachers, and the administration that insures logistical support, not so that the “protocol” rules are followed, but for the sake of student whose role and function in any school system is the primary value.

We might also go beyond the students being just “attracted, persisting, and delighted” in learning, stuck in the emotive level, heartfelt wanting without the sensual, cognitive, and imperative levels of knowledge. Academe focuses on how a child thinks with words and numbers that describe senses, express feelings, articulate thoughts and formulate plans, a human process. I blow with that wind.

Jaime R. Vergara | Special to the Saipan Tribune
Jaime Vergara previously taught at SVES in the CNMI. A peripatetic pedagogue, he last taught in China but makes Honolulu, Shenyang, and Saipan home. He can be reached at

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