It’s possible that if I even hint at the name “Melville” to begin a piece anyone who sojourns here will click the “close” button and be well on their merry way. (Though surely there are intrepid adventurers among us willing always to hear more of the greatest American writer–yes, I said that.)
But, all I’m going to say is that Melville, in his great book on the mind of of America(ns), has Ishmael say that a “whale-ship was my Yale College and my Harvard.” Melville, who in his first book, Typee, seems to this reader to be using every verbal muscle in his body–or better, seems to have stepped onto an Island of Hungry Words and is attempting to harvest as many as he can without be eaten up by them–learned to write by writing. Likewise Van Gogh learned through so much painful failure to draw and paint by drawing and painting, almost without cessation. Recall the Jesus Prayer must be repeated without cessation until it inhabits you–even remember that a trendy New Yorker writer has said that the Beatles, as an example, became the musicians they were through incessant playing. We become unconscious artists in this way. In this way, we ARE art–it flows from us.
I just wanted to relate stories I read this morning that seem connected to the above.
1. A neighbor who’s children attend elementary school with our kids offers her children and a few friends a kind of “daycare” “Geek camp” where they “do something cool.” Last year, movie-making even with green screen tech. This year, electronic circuitry…but also, whatever the kids decide floats their fun boat for the week.
2. This piece in Slate, “Learning by Making: American kids should be building rockets and robots, not taking standardized tests,” by Dale Dougherty. I don’t agree on all the particulars but it seems to me a far better way to promote CREATIVITY than any school processes we have now. He brings up two very insightful points. Our standardized tests seem to be “teaching tools” because they must first acquaint test-takers with the material–a diminished form of “experience”–before they ask questions or offer answers, and so substitute a weak form of knowing for primary experience; and he answers the assessment question: “Making is evidence of learning.” Easy.
3. In this piece at Salon, “Your Words Matter,” there is a whole raft of ideas and issues to discuss. Primarily, we don’t listen and don’t communicate because: A) we CAN’T process very much at one time and B) sometimes people talk at us TOO MUCH and C) we respond emotionally to trigger words and then do not REALLY hear or listen to what is being said.
4. Too many kids in classes and not enough teachers (parents, adults, older kids, to assist) means you won’t communicate, you won’t make, you won’t think, and you won’t experience LEARNING.
5. We’re really fat. Not sure how that works in there (sodas and sugars in schools), but this is an interesting “way back” thought. Fat then and Fat now.
photo credit: wolfgangfoto’s photostream