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Tag Archives: Dr. Seuss

Not Alone In The Universe

Everyone likes to feel a little special sometimes.  When the man arriving at the available cab (at the exact same moment,) gestures to you and backs away; that’s nice.  Not just because you’ve had a long day and those shopping bags are not going to carry themselves, but because another person is acknowledging your existence.  We go through our days almost unnoticed, unless we are part of that small cluster of very recognizable people, who in fact go through their day trying not to be noticed.  We are regularly reminded of our Whoville-like stature when navigating customer service automated phone trees, chain pharmacies, education and health-care bureaucracies and banks.  We walk down the street having people barrel into us while they intently type. We are pummeled by double-wide strollers, rolling briefcases and backpacks.  We sit in restaurants shielding our food from the (repetitive) hairstyling of the woman seated at the next table.  We sit through symphonies, theatre, and religious ceremonies with the blue light of mini-screens shining intermittently.

This phenomenon; of craving to be acknowledged in a self-absorbed world, can turn into quite the carousel of fright.  The more we desire to be seen as something more than cellophane, the more we risk turning into them.  By them, of course, I mean the gentleman who sits on a jury after lying about his relationships with law enforcement (“hey, that rule doesn’t apply to me!”)  I certainly mean the schemers of Ponzi and traders of the inside.  Most of us aren’t exactly as bad as all that.  But at the root of that behavior is arrogance and entitlement, no?  Is that particular brand of motivation all that different from the “letting the dog off the leash” “bullying and tantrums on airplanes” “parking in handicapped spots” behavior?  These more minor infractions are probably even worse as they are the most contagious.  At some point taking one’s place in line, while others ignore the queue can make one feel a bit of a schmendrick.  Slowly, even the most civilized will start to experience “what about me?” syndrome.  Before you know it, the victim becomes the perpetrator.

Perhaps we could take a baby step in breaking the cycle, and start with simple semantics.  Let us take back the word “special”  We use it euphemistically and we use it to the point of meaninglessness.  We all want to feel special but none of us is special.  (Unique and special are not the same.) We are all entitled to the same respect and civility, and yes, the rules apply to all of us.  A person is a person no matter how small.  I propose a teeny tiny movement: Instead of talking about someone’s “special day” call it what it really is; It’s Your Birthday!  It’s Your Wedding Day! It’s Your Sentence Commutation Day!  It is not “their day” anymore than it is anyone else’s day.  It’s a bad mindset to indulge, even if it’s only annual.  Let today be the day we don’t confuse how someone should be treated with how someone should behave.  Let us shower the celebrant with good wishes and love because they are who they are, which is the best thing by far, because you-ness is better than being a star.

 
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Posted by on March 31, 2012 in Cultural Critique

 

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Reading, Writing, Rigoletto

There is enough bad news (or at least, not such good news) about the state of education to go around.  When a story comes out, no matter how small, I feel like a Who shouting loudly, for one and for all.  Imagine my joy as I woke to discover, that teaching of arts has edged out Red Rover.

According to a piece today by Kyle Spencer there are city schools offering arts “electives” during traditional recess periods.  Music, art, dance and theatre are being taught in elementary schools.  Adult volunteers are creating mini-book clubs.  Yes, it is only a handful of schools (for now,) but it is so very encouraging, no?  Before anyone gets all “what about their unstructured playtime of recess” on me.  One need only consider the climate of primary education, to realize there is not a whole lot of unstructured activity being encouraged.  I don’t think (and I could be wrong) there is a lot of creative organic play happening in the school yard during recess.  I think what’s happening are the same dull or painful games of my youth (including standing around in clusters determining whom to ostracize.)

Having children exposed to music is invaluable.  Even if one doesn’t see a value in culture, there is no denying the mathematical component of music education.  The same cross-disciplinary benefits can be had in visual arts (science) dance (biology) and theatre (history, English.)  I would argue that we can no more afford to raise a generation without math, science and language skills than we can, without a cultural education.  Future doctors, business people, public servants and parents, need more than test scores.  They need to understand the world in which they live and those that lived before them.  There is no better vehicle than the arts to make all of that come alive for a child.

I grew up during a glorious time of robust educational resources and an engaged artistically oriented community.  It is because of that great fortune, that I champion the same for children today.  My 5th grade play was The H.M.S. Pinafore.  Are any schools still performing Gilbert & Sullivan?  Do children even “get” the Simpons’ Pirates of Penzance references?  Are any schools still mounting any production that doesn’t involve head microphones, hair extensions and copious amounts of make-up?

Art is substantive.  If we want a generation of people who can discern between quality and clever marketing, we need to expose them to the real thing.  There is nothing wrong with fluff, but it is the peanut butter beneath it where the nourishment lies.  Ideally the arts should be integrated into the curriculum, and not seen as an “elective.”  Until that time however, I will shout from the rooftops with glee that children are learning embroidery!

 
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Posted by on December 7, 2011 in Childhood, Education

 

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