This blog has been created to discuss the topics covered in my book : Beyond Discouragement-Creativity.
My goal is to post relevant news articles which both reflect and refute my opinions and observations. As a visitor, your comments would be most appreciated. - Bienvenue. À vous la parole.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Type! Don't Write!!!

A lot of food for thought in the press these days., No, I am not talking about SDK or Rupert Murdoch scandals.  What really strikes home are contradictory yet complementary articles such as :

“Workers Unite! You Have Nothing To Lose But Your E-Mail Chains” - (Harvey Schachter) Globe and Mail - 11-07-11.

vs (and yet not. . .)

“The Handwriting On The Wall At Public Schools In Indiana”
(Laura Baziuk) Ottawa Citizen - Post Media News - 11-07-11.

The first article encourages individuality and creativity in professional life. It does so by offering up rules of engagement re: emails and an understanding and  respect for a “Doodling Manifesto”. And what has one to do with the other? The e-mail rules of engagement encourage a more humane use of this tool - a less mechanical acceptance of it as a be-all-and-end-all contact medium.

Regardless of e-mailing’s potential as a quick (and even flippant) form of communication, its overuse and abuse are reaching epic proportions throughout business and even personal worlds. And so, the article includes (as a compensation?) a Doodling Manifesto”. It highlights the creative potential of visual thinking - through the productivity angled, yet seemingly “nonsensical”, art of doodling. What is doodling? It is the physical act of rendering concrete a thought, emotion or concept through (from abstract to realistic) renditions of brain pattern playing. In essence, doodling stimulates the brain into action. It neurologically enriches our ability to analyse, formulate and implement solutions to problems - which otherwise could remain unsolved. Doodling is sited as nothing short of miraculous in its capacity to stimulate visual, auditory and kinesthetic abilities. And this is ironic since we live in times which do not consider thinking things out important. Our technical wizardry does that for us - (at least as long as batteries, electricity and oil allow us to depend on them. . .) What is troublesome is that we are gradually shutting down our brains - much as couch-potato-ing is gradually shutting down our bodies.

Not specifically stated in the article is that doodling is like an inexpensive and self-recharging battery which stimulates lazy or misused thinking patterns. But then. . .  contemporary academic,  productivity minds and other authorities don’t really consider it a viable “tool” since it is one of those things whose specific attributes you can’t really ascertain or pinpoint in mathematical or scientific terms. Even worse. . . You can’t market or “buy” what it offers - so. . .  Of what use is it?

And so, this article (not in so many words) reminds us that with the shutting down of brain exercises we are increasingly showing signs of a new ailment - roboticism - where tech tools handle most of our thinking processes in order that we profit from the contemporary “beingness ” of our anorexic mental lifestyle (i.e.: a slowing down of our ability to move forward creatively). Encase this individual inability to thrive in an increasingly obese physical shell - and what we have is a gradual slowing down to a crawl - and dead stand-still of anything and everything which has ever been created.

This first article - left to its own devices - could simply be a whimsical “à côté”. But fear not. . . It seems journalists are becoming more and more interested in our gradual mental and physical demise. . .

Doodling has always been the realm of creative, of thinking peoples. . .  Maybe it is no longer common because we are doing exactly that - increasingly not thinking. And so, maybe we are even encouraging the “not” thinking side of us all. . .  Not-thinking makes the world a less messy place - a “neater” and more predictable place. But mostly it offers us a less stressful state - an environment in which we don’t have to cope with what life imposes upon us. To simply let “others” think for us - and, to simply let things be is so much “easier”. . .

The second Ottawa Citizen (Laura Baziuk) article (inadvertently related to the above) is in regards to Indiana schools. "The Handwriting On The Wall At Public Schools In Indiana". It seems that starting in the fall, children in this school system will no longer need to learn cursive writing. . . (one of the last vestiges of individuality left in our increasingly homogenous world of sameness).  Writing is out. "But they do, however, have to sharpen their typing skills" - states an academic memo. .  . Just think. . .  a million little busy fingers tip-tapping away . . .  All the letters the same - neat, uncomplicated, simple, homogenous. . . readable. . .  NOT one unique scribbler in the bunch. . . . Just a horde of carpal tunnelled 6 year olds wincing in pain for approval. . . No more “curlicues” or hearts doting “I’s” or fancy swirls encasing capitals. . .

One teacher  even poutingly states that there are more important skills to be learned than writing - such as critical thinking, problem-solving, teamwork and literacy. . .  Am I missing something? Aren’t these individual items the exact skills few if any of our children possess today - because over time we have taken away any of the acquisition exercises which trained our children’s minds to assimilate these attributes?

Aren’t these the very skills that Universities and colleges say are totally missing in our entitled children? Aren’t these the skills that are falling by the wayside because school boards consider killing recess, shortening school days and putting a computer on every desk more important than giving our children the opportunity to become the best they can be as INDIVIDUALS - rather than cloned patsies of a faltering system?

But then. . . Maybe writing is simply the last skill we are ripping away from the system in order to take oppression away from the heavy task of “discovering and learning things”. And anyway, kids would rather type than write. Writing is hard. . . (Sigh).

But then, possibly the goal just may be to not teach skills to children. . . And such a statement begins to make sense when we look at recent statistical evidence which shows that more and more “children” continue to live with their parents beyond their 20s. Between 1997 and 2006 the age of “stay at home children increased from the late teens to the late 20s and mid 30s. Percentagewise stay-at-home children have also risen from the low 20% to 42.7%. Now this does not mean that most are helping their parents pay off the mortgage or are buying groceries. . . No, we must realize that many are being fed like fledglings without wings, dependent on laundry services and room and board, to which - like the expected passing grades in school - they feel “entitled”.

Oh am I on a roll today. . .

But please, dear reader, be assured that if I add a third article in the area of school “progress” in today's blog I am not going out of my way to search these things out. All of the mentioned articles were blatantly obvious  - on this same day - in various national and local papers - from international media sources.

And so. . .  Bear with me. . .

“British Teachers Told To Use Force To Restrain Unruly Pupils”
(Graeme Paton) Ottawa Citizen - The Daily Telegraph - 11-07-11

Well, well. . .  Many years ago, the child-centered worlds of specialists insisted that we allow children to call teachers and other adults by their first names. That, they said, would make the school environment more friendly - more learning oriented. . . Actually, it was a primary crucial step in the disintegration of school and parental authority. Why? What we forget, is that a first name only communication has always been used with "subordinates" - especially children. For centuries it was the lot of the indentured and enslaved. We allowed them a “base” name BUT with no connection to anything other than their status. . .  And so Miss Henry - the teacher - who is a daughter of the Henry clan (and everything that name historically implies) and linked to other Henrys and known by her clan affiliations - is now. . . no more than “Sally” - "a" generic kindergarten teacher, identifiable (for convenience sake) by a single name.

Such is the power, for example, of a promoter who wishes to call you by your first name in order to impose his product upon you. It's basic psychology. It takes away your authority and hands it over to another. It demeans the stature of any and all people to a "nametag" - an identifying series of letters of no consequence beyond the reading of them. Slaves never had last names.  They were not respected as individuals born of a collective and therefore neither their past nor their future were ever taken into consideration. In essence, "first" name only environments use this tactic to "render lower" the position of an individual. This is how people, whether children or adults are mentally and emotionally subdued.

To this new “democratising (!)” practice we began taking away all authority from teachers and academic institutions. Children’s demands became pre-eminent. To this we began gazing upon any and all adults as enemies of childhood. The village helping to raise a child concept was tossed into the trash as strangers became dangers.  And so, community values were gradually diminished and eventually added to the pile of  “traditional” trash. And with the elimination of anything and everything we had learned from our elders, we eventually handed over our capacity and authority to raise our children as we saw fit. These rights and privileges were handed over to “specialists” and private enterprise who then quickly determined us incapable without their “help” and products.

And so. . .  several generations later. . .  Our kids are now telling us all what to do (or is that : where to go). And they’re doing it aggressively. And suddenly we are frightened of our own offspring. . . And now, elder abuse increases and we wonder why. . . And so, we suddenly react. We think we are going to make everything well, make everything OK by giving now powerless teachers the authority to grab our kids physically and tell them to “STOP!”  But we fail to see that the whole environment needs to change before this can ever be possible. And at this point. . .  will those entitled children allow us?

It seems we now feel compelled to call upon brute force to reinstate calm and eliminate abuse and bullying perpetrated by the very angelic children gone wild that we have sculpted. Definitely more grown tall, more powerful and ever more demanding of their “rights”, we suddenly find ourselves crying out in disgust at the not so petty antics of our “conscienceless?” broods. And they, just as suddenly, have no idea what "our problem" is.

I am generally a smiling individual, despite my words. I love the world which offers me so much to be creative with. If not the irreverent creative clown I wish to be considered by my children, I do find it difficult to grin for pleasure rather than cynicism today. That is why I write. I don’t think we are all going to hell in a hand-basket. But I do think we need to get off our butts and “think” about what is going on - before it does get to be too late.

All of these constantly being referred to articles on human behaviour, added to my observations over the years goaded me into writing Beyond Discouragement - Creativity. I wrote things I (sadly) believed to be true. I just never thought that the world media would so consistently concur with those self-same findings.

Nonetheless, Happy week all!

PS: School is out. . .  So where are the thousands of children we’re supposed to be being careful about as we drive around town going to work and doing our shopping? (Does the absence of children riding bikes and running around outside their homes mean we should now consider Nintendos and Gameboys “child-safety” equipment?)  

Monday, July 4, 2011

Same Old, Same Old

I've skipped a few weeks of reading and reporting on pertinent news items. Sadly, things haven't changed. (dreamer that I am) The ill health of individuals and family life are still in the forefront of daily news items. Same old, same old. . .  This week an article in Le Droit newspaper had as a title: "Une surveillance à l'américaine". Loosely translated : "Surveillance, American Style". That's a rather arrogant title, since parenting styles in Canada are not much different than those in the UK, the US and Australia - i.e.: Each "style" is on rather shaky ground sanity wise. Nonetheless, this particular article presents us with a fait accompli : i.e.: a nursery in Gatineau Québec has installed a full time surveillance system. All adults working in this environment and children in care. . .  will be videod at all times. . . Parents can "visit" virtually their children, at any time. I wonder whether this plan of action is based on a real fear of staffers being "not kosher" around kids or whether the plan is to satisfy the hovering needs of contemporary parents. Either way, it feels sick. . .  Certainly not something a healthy child would agree to. . . having his or her every "picking of nose goo" and elbow scratch recorded. Bizarre behaviours we "normal" adults consider to be . . .  normal. . .

On another note - another article which does not say anything new but emphasizes how drastic an old situation has become : "Will Young Men Ever Grow Up?"

This article in the Ottawa Citizen (July 4, 2011) mentions the problem of boys not really wanting to become men anymore. Patricia Cayo Sexton reported in the 60s (in her book : The Feminized Male) that schools were detrimental to the physical, mental and emotional health of boys. North America's reaction to her research findings? Nothing. Why bother. If little boys can't sit still for a few hours every day being bored into a stupor than  there's something wrong with them - not the system. And so, the encouraged lowest common denominatior life styles males embrace today shouldn't be a surprise. Life without passion has become the norm. Living at home, having their laundry done by Mom and being fed like wingless chicks who refuse to leave the nest - (while feeling entitled to all manner of their freeby lifestyles) - is now the norm. . . Between 1981 and 2006, the numbers of males living at home - and failing to embrace "growing up"  - between 20 and 29 have risen from 27 % to 43.5%. . . There's literally nothing out there to excite men to become men - to take on the world, to get excited about possibilities. So they might as well stay home and remain the boys they have always been. Why bother with growing up? It's been disappointing to be male all this while anyway. . .  Why  would it suddenly change? So. . . "Who gives a damn about tomorrow."

But then. . .  There's always the encouraging article filled with discouraging data. . .  "Go Outside and Play" is a new mantrra that doesn't seem to be catching on. It simply isn't being stated with much enthusiasm. School days are shorter and that means no time for recesses of any consequence. Parents have been taught that there are strangers around every tree - so children can't go out and play "safely".

An article witht that exact title : Go Out And Play appeared in the Globe and Mail (July 4). It announces to the world that children have a hard time playing. . .  They don't know how. . .  My reaction : So what's new?. . .   Children haven't been allowed to play on their own for the past decade. Organized sports, where there are some, are so adult oriented in content and goals, they fail to meet the creative pursuits of healthy children. The results? Unhealthy children in mind and body and "willingness" to achieve or even attempt anything on their own. And so, "specialists"  (they're always there. . . . ) are finally coming to an umpteenth conclusion. . .  Maybe they should slack off and let children be children. Hmmmmmm. Isn't it amazing how an intelligent conclusion always crops up after so much time and energy has been spent ruining good child lives for generations - a period which can only be judged as abusive and neglectful? Well, I guess we can do what we always do when we don't want to accept responsibility for having caused so much pain and damaged so many lives. . . We can simply chalk up those children unable to do anything on their own as "collateral damage". . . .

Sorry to be so cynical, but I don't see anything moving forward at any healthy pace which might be of service to present generations of children and adolescents. 

On a more positive note: I've decided to congratulate parents whenever I can - wherever I am - when I see them "allow" their children to grow and become "individuals" rather than clones of the world. I am doing this in shops and grocery stores and even on the street. I simply step up and tell these parents how wonderful they are doing as parents. - for allowing their children to become the best that they can be. . .  without hovering and constant reprimands to "be careful". I can tell you. There are some surprised and even blushing looks when this "stranger" posps up to tell them how wonderful they are as parents. The kids standing next to their parents?  Their smiles are beaming with pride for these adults who are constantly being told by "specialists" that they're too dumb to know how to parent.