Friday, September 23, 2011

"Every school was participating in the suppression of creative genius"

Here's a classic story from "Orbiting the Giant Hairball: A Corporate Fool's Guide to Surviving with Grace" by Gordon MacKenzie (who held the position of "creative paradox' for his's THAT for a  pastor's title/job description?):

Arriving early in the morning, I’d set up shop in the school’s art room or gymnasium.  Most commonly, the schedule had me visit with one grade at a time, spending about 50 minutes with each.  As I was putting on my welding goggles and scarred leather apron, the teachers would heard the children in, barking orders at them to sit cross-legged on the floor in rows facing the semi-circle of sculptures and equipment arranged at one end of the room.
Chatter!  Chatter!  Chatter!  Chatter!  Chatter!”
“Quiet, children, quiet.”
“Chatter!  Chatter!  Chatter!  Chatter!  Chatter!..."
“Quiet.  Joel.  Cindy!  Quiet!  Now!”
“whisper whisper whisper whisper whisper whisper”
With the coming of silence, the children’s faces took on a certain solemnity.  Satisfied that order had been attained, the teachers would retire to the back of the room to lose themselves in grading papers, leaving me, for all practical purposes, alone with the children.  I always began with the same introduction:
“Hi!  My name is Gordon MacKenzie and, among other things, I am an artist.  I’ll bet there are other artists here, too.  There have to be with all the beautiful pictures and designs you have hanging in your classrooms and up and down the halls.  I couldn’t help but notice them when I first got here this morning.  They made me feel wonderful!  Very energized.  So many bright colors and cool shapes.  I felt more at home when I saw them because they made me realize there are other artists here, besides me.  I’m curious.  How many artists are there in the room?  Would you please raise your hands?”
The pattern of responses never varied:

First grade:

En mass the children leapt from their chairs, arms waving wildly, eager hands trying to reach the   ceiling.  Every child was an artist.

Second grade:

About half the kids raised their hands, shoulder high, no higher.  The raised hands were still.

Third grade:

At best, 10 kids out of 30 would raise a hand.  Tentatively.  Self consciously.
And so on up through the grades.  The higher the grade, the fewer children raised their hands.  By the time I reached sixth grade, no more than one or two did so and then ever-so-slightly -- guardedly -- their eyes glancing from side to side uneasily, betraying a fear of being identified by the group as a “closet artist. "

I would describe to the sixth graders  the different responses I had received from the other grade levels.  Then I'd ask:
"What's going on here? Are all the artists transferring out and going to art school?"

(Usually, in recognition of my little joke, the students would laugh.)

"Uh-uh. I don't think that's it. I'm afraid there's something much more sinister than that at work here. I think what's happening is that you are being tricked out of one of the greatest gifts every one of us receives at birth. That is the gift of being an artist, a creative genius."

They could reclaim their creative genius, I'd tell the students. It may not be easy, but it will always remain doable. We'll get further into that later on.

The point now is:

                                     Every school I visited was participating m the suppression of creative genius.
Why would anyone want to suppress genius? Well, it is not intentional. It is not a plot. Genius is an innocent casualty in society’s efforts to train children away from natural-born foolishness. 

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