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Tag: reading (page 2 of 7)

reading ken robinson’s out of our minds

This past summer I read Out of Our Minds: Learning to Be Creative by Ken Robinson. The cover of the book has been sitting in the “Good Reads” (formerly “Now Reading”) area of this blog for nearly a year, so I figured I should drop a few thoughts on the book and rotate the cover image to another book lest folks think me perpetually stuck in this text. Although, if one’s mind had to be stuck in one text perpetually, this might not be a bad choice.

For some time now, I have been fascinated by what it means to be creative, that is, to think and act creatively. Robinson’s book came to me just when I was ready for it. Robinson discusses what it means to be creative and offers a prolonged discussion of how academia and, by extension, many of the driving forces of our contemporary world are systematically stifling human creativity. He traces this matter back to 16th and 17th centuries when the Enlightenment and rationalism supplanted Romanticism along with intuition, myth, and felt sense. “The driving forces of the Enlightenment and of the modern world view,” Robinson writes, “have been rationalism and empiricism. The aim has been to see the material world as it is stripped of superstition, myth and fantasy” (71). This has been felt nowhere better than in the Academy, but by extension has been carried through most post-industrial western culture. “Academicism,” Robinson calls it–“the conflation of academic ability with intelligence” (80). An ability to perform well in school and intelligence are not the same thing, as academic ability embodies only the narrowest of views on intelligence. The Academy privileges above all else “a particular sort of critical analysis and short-term memory” (85). The academic illusion he calls it. This is the idea that all knowledge must be framed in terms of rational, critical, empirical analysis. The disconnect is no more obvious than in the arts, as approached by the Academy.

Professors of English are not employed to produce literature: they are employed to write about it. […] Producing works of art often doesn’t count as appropriate intellectual work in an arts department: yet, the equivalent in a science department, doing physics or chemistry does. So why is it that in universities writing about novels is thought to be a higher intellectual calling than writing novels; or rather if writing novels is not thought to be intellectually valid why is writing about them? (66)

So, regarding this academic illusion, Robinson concludes that it isn’t the subject matter that divides traditionally academic (i.e. privileged) work and knowledge; rather, it is the way in which one engages with the work. “You didn’t do art in university; you wrote about it,” he contends (83). This bugs me because the implications are huge. Our students are being educated out of their creativity (as Robinson states elsewhere). In the vast wake of the era of Enlightenment, we have become detached from what we feel in favor almost exclusively of what we can verify in the physical world. The cost is a division between intellect and emotion (not to mention between science and art), and this is a dire cost. The two are not incompatible nor can they be truly teased apart. The human experience and a more accurate view of human intelligence is one of both emotion and intellect.

This broader view of intelligence and of knowing is something I’ve been exploring with my students for a couple years now through the work of Gregory Ulmer and his mystoriography approach to learning and writing. Ulmer writes the following:

[Mystory is] designed to simulate invention, the crossing of discourses that has been show to occur in the invention process. Realizing that learning is much closer to invention than to verification, I intended mystoriography primarily as a pedagogy. The modes of academic writing now taught in school tend to be positioned on the side of the already known rather than on the side of the wanting to find out (of theoretical curiosity) and hence discourage learning how to learn.

The idea in Ulmer’s mystoriography approach is that knowledge and “the wanting to find out” can operate just as much on a sub-rational level as on a rational one–on an emotional level that is best conveyed through the juxtaposition of words and images such that a mood or a feeling is suggested. It’s messy, intuitive, emotional work that does not fit neatly into the compartmentalized world of the Academy or the rational mind. Robinson touches on this very point when he discusses E.M. Forster’s notion creating as a lowering of a bucket into the subconscious mind to draw up something that is normally beyond our reach (154). Emotion should not be dismissed. It is equally a part of our human experience as is the rational, critical mind. Why one is privileged over the other is a mere consequence to historical, social, and political forces. There is not an innate superiority of intellect over emotion. These are divisions and hierarchies of our own creation–and they are detrimental to human creativity. “A critical factor [in creative work] is intuition and a feel for the materials and processes involved. The relationship between knowing and feeling is at the heart of the creative process” (Robinson 137).

Many of the problems we face in the world today are unlike any we’ve seen before. To address them will take an enormity of human creativity–a dipping of that bucket deep into the wells of our selves to see what we might draw up. We must learn to re-frame our view of knowledge and human intelligence so that we can give proper attention to what is possible. This means asking the right questions. “The most important characteristics of an intellectual age is the questions it asks–the problems it identifies. It is this rather than the answers it provides that reveals its underlying view of the world” (Robinson 72). We must resist single-mindedness in the true sense of the word–and embrace our more complex selves that allow for the richness of our imaginations. “If our explanations are theoretical, our questions are ideological,” writes Robinson (73). We have to reconsider. We have to look again. “Creativity is not a separate faculty so much as an attitude: a willingness to reconsider what we take for granted” (Robinson 137). Everything is possible.

books, books, and more books

Aidan loves books; simply loves books. So we read all the time. While he does like doing his own reading he’s still learning so reading to himself goes slow, often slower [singlepic=775,350,350] Aidan with mom outside the librarythan he wants. But fortunately he still enjoys me reading to him! This is a time that I really cherish each day–snuggling together, him with his blue blanket me with a cup of coffee, and we read sometimes for hours a day.

While we read a lot all throughout the entire year, Aidan likes reading in the summer. The reason is because this summer, like summers past, Aidan has participated in the summer reading program at our local library. This program is one in which you record the hours spent with books–reading to yourself, having someone read to you, or listening to audio books. There are sheets to record your hours, and after each sheet is turned in kids get small prizes (e.g. a plastic ring, a bendable rubber alien, bookmarks, etc.) throughout the summer. At the end of the program “grand” prizes are awarded to the readers with the highest hours. Aidan has won larger prizes in the years past, and today we found out that he won again for his age range. Eighty-four hours of reading for the past month and a half! He was thrilled to receive a huge Indiana Jones Lego set, a t-shirt, and a few coupons to local places, but even more then being excited about the prizes he was very proud of himself. And Mike and I were also proud of him and very happy for him!

Now off to do some reading! :)

unschooling: the short answer

I was just doing a bit of reading and came upon this inspiring description of what it means to unschool your whole life. Of course, many folks understand that we “homeschool,” but no one in our immediate circle seems to get the fuller sense of how we live–and strive to live–our lives. It seems to be such a foreign concept to so many people. (Part of the problem might be that a lot of folks just don’t seem very curious, so they don’t ask us about it. If they do ask us about such things, seldom to they want to hear an answer that takes more than 15 seconds.) Anyway, this comes from the blog of Tara Wagner (aka “the organic sister”). She lives full-time on the road with her family of three and blogs about many fascinating things including mindful parenting and living simply. Please visit her blog at theorganicsister.com.

In the meantime, check out this excerpt from Tara’s post “Whole Life Unschooling: It’s for More Than Just Kids:”

To us unschooling is not only about our children, it’s about all of us. It’s about our life.

Unschooling your whole life means…

  • Seeing no division between child and adult, regardless of ability or experience. All should be treated with the same equal respect and consideration.
  • Trusting all people of all ages are natural learners, born with an innate curiosity and an earnest desire to learn, even if it requires a bit of excavating for some of us to rediscover.
  • Knowing that all people are inherently good. A learning curve on societal rules or boundaries, or a personal struggle due to past history does not make them “bad”. We all do the best we can with the tools we have.
  • Thinking all people, regardless of age, have a purpose and that that purpose may seldom, or often, or never, change. And the best determiner of that purpose is the person in question.
  • Believing in the wildly passionate pursuit of interests, supporting those interests wholeheartedly, and trusting when an interest fades.
  • Disbelieving that interests are only valid if they come with monetary or status gain. We do things for the love of what we do and trust how our needs are always met.
  • Not condoning the subjugation, squashing or criticism of individuality or diversity. We allow for difference of opinion, we see the underlying needs of others and we validate their particular experience.
  • Not creating division between various subjects or activities. All of life flows in and out of all of life. The subject of “math” doesn’t exist but we find numbers and patterns in everything.
  • Adamantly disagreeing that life should consist of unenjoyable work, that we should always follow all the rules or do things the same way everyone else does them. Feverishly questioning anything that tells us otherwise.
  • Trusting in ourselves first, each other next and all others last.
  • Respecting the boundaries of others and ourselves.
  • Taking responsibility for our choices and our life. It’s all about empowerment.
  • Seeking our own life and not settling for someone else’s. Supporting others who do the same.
  • Building off our individual interests, creating a rich, diverse and engaging environment in which we can all thrive equally.
  • Respecting one another’s personal Truths or choices. But drawing definitive lines where the boundaries of another are being crossed.
  • Standing up for the little guy, especially the one without their own voice.
  • Knowing that life is good. Messy. Imperfect. Wonderful. Sometimes heart-wrenching. And loving it anyway.

How can you possibly explain all that in one short answer? It’s impossible to describe what this looks like when someone asks. Because unschooling is just life and although you can define life and you can explain it, it’s still something that must be seen and experienced to fully understand.

Again, if you are interested in learning more about this. Read, be open, ask questions (and listen to the answers), take your time, don’t judge, and live your life authentically. (Oh, and among other things, visit theorganicsister.com for one cool point of view. Thanks, Tara.)

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