RSS

Tag Archives: Arts

I Got Another Puzzle For You*

geneandjack

Software has been developed to assist school principals in policing the online behavior of students; online behavior outside of school facilities and hours that is. Pointing out the folly of such a pursuit or the obscene waste of resources of such an endeavor is disheartening. As our public education system is eroding in rigor and well roundedness, do we really need yet another distraction? At what point are we Willy Wonka warning of yet another bad decision with hushed weary intonations of; “No. Stop. Don’t”?

The notion that a child’s behavior outside of school is the school’s business/problem is absurd. Unless the school is part of an orphanage it is not the school’s problem. The very idea that there could ever be any software program that could police all the children, in all electronic realms is simply science fiction. Children do stupid stuff. Kids can be mean. How they do this stuff is beside the point. Generations ago principals did not police finished basements, railroad tracks, bowling alleys and soda fountains. No doubt some principals at some point have cleaned graffiti off a bathroom wall, but they didn’t crouch in a corner ready to pounce upon the scribe (or at least I hope they didn’t.) Most of us of voting age were either bullied, a bully or a mix of the two at one point or another. It’s what kids do. Siblings torment siblings, classmates tease classmates, and kids terrorize neighbors (Boo Radley anyone?) It’s not nice, it’s nothing any adult is proud of, but it is part of growing up.

The issue is how children and the adults around them respond to such goings on. Bullying and extreme response to bullying both come from the same place; insecurity. Children are trying to find their way in the world and to feel some sense of control. A bully feels better about him or herself when they lord over someone. Being bullied feels crappy but should not feel like the end of the world. It becomes the end of the world when the bullying is unrelenting and perpetrated by many OR when the bullied is fragile. Fragility can take many guises but should be recognizable to parents. A fragile child does not have close (age appropriate) friends, reacts disproportionately to disappointment, and demonstrates excessive anxiety or (inward or outward) rage. Children who have trouble connecting to their world around them can be devastated by the sense that their world hates them. Children, particularly fragile children, are best served by having their world expanded. Multiple social networks (e.g., scouts, dance class, religious school, relatives, etc.) are an insurance policy against ostracization. Feeling good about one area of his/her life can be the light at the end of the tunnel for a bullied child.

The very idea that a principal should spend money and time trying to police the (often elusive) behavior of children is absurd. If there is that kind of time and money available perhaps we could get the arts back into the school? For decades arts, particularly theater, has been used with vulnerable populations to explore issues of empathy and self-esteem. Prisons and juvenile detention centers have changed lives with their theater arts programs. Children engaged in writing or visual arts projects learn about each other and find common ground. A school experience not based on physical agility or extroversion creates a more realistic environment for children. (Few adults have to make their way through every weekday by being popular.) Bullying and extreme response to bullying is about a response to lack of control. Adding more external control (which has no hope of being effective) completely misses the mark. Strong children are not built with surveillance systems. Strong children are built by a sense of accomplishment and mastery. Schools can play a part in that but to do so they need to focus on education not on in loco parentis.

*Oompa Loompa Song (1971) – Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on October 29, 2013 in Childhood, Education

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

On The Second Day Of Shopping…

Today is Small Business Saturday. Yesterday was Black Friday and in a couple of days it will be Cyber Monday and Giving Tuesday. Yes, it’s a lot to keep track of, but we’re an odd/even day gas, opposite side of the street parking kind of people. If we were to create a timeline of seasonal consumer events; Black Friday would be on the far left and Giving Tuesday on the far right. Cyber Monday is more towards the left but is only as old as clicking technology. What is wonderfully fascinating/encouraging is that right side of the timeline and the recent creation of Small Business Saturday and Giving Tuesday.

Shopping local independent shops and artisans is always a great way to support communities and their individual residents. Local independent shops stock unique, lovely things that are often locally made. Many communities hold arts and/or craft holiday fairs and local restaurants and pubs are always happy for the foot traffic. Today (and for the next five weeks) we can shop meaningfully and give creatively. Giving (and receiving!) a framed watercolor, a glass pendant, a crochet miniature giraffe is more memorable than the exchange of a chain store gift card. If gift cards must be exchanged, consider a certificate to a restaurant or shop in the recipient’s neighborhood.

In the tri-state area, Small Business Saturday comes at the perfect time. Yes, there are businesses still struggling to open, but there are plenty that are up and running. Find a community (perhaps your own) that suffered in the storm and shop a little (or a lot.) (And while you’re there think about local restaurants for on-site holiday parties or catering.) Consider gift certificates to theatre companies and performing arts organizations forced to close for days or weeks. Is there someone who’s been particularly nice this year? Perhaps a season subscription to a downtown theatre is in order.

On Monday office productivity will plummet as workers click their way down their gift list. This Tuesday will be the day to take a closer look at that gift list and consider a charitable gift. You needn’t worry about sizes, makes or models, colors or cuts. Not for profit organizations large and small, international, national or local will be a grateful recipient. This is the best holiday grab bag opportunity ever created. You choose what to give to whom. The gift feels meaningful to you and the recipient and you needn’t pretend to love the bath beads or Santa coffee mug you receive in exchange. You can broaden the reach of your gift by giving in someone’s name. Is there someone on your gift list who loves animals? A gift to the The New York Aquarium will help to repair the damage of the storm and delight the ‘benefactor.’

We like to think of leisurely slow roasted family dinners, skating parties at twilight or evenings by the fire with a glass of port and a musty smelling Dickens this time of year. But the reality is that it’s mostly several weeks of frenzied shortening days. Our social lives ramp up (or sputter back to life), our workloads increase in preparation of days off and our to-do lists prod us awake at 3:00 AM. There isn’t much resting or merry gentlemen/women to be found this time of year. However an interesting thing happens to our innards when we feel we’ve done some good. There is an underlying tranquility beneath our frenzy. Things might not go as planned, crowds might wear us down but we’ve coated our soul with a thin layer of “I made a difference.”

Small Business Saturday and Giving Tuesday make it effortless for us to do some good for ourselves and for others. We needn’t limit ourselves to these two days but they are a great start to a wonderful habit!

 

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 24, 2012 in Holiday, Well-Being

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Please Have Snow and Mistletoe*

The sand is draining from the hourglass and the flying monkeys are on their way.  A sensible holiday shopper realizes it might be time to panic.  Just a bit.  Perhaps you spent this weekend (with the very best of intentions) perusing the malls and holiday markets?  Perhaps, like me, you awoke slightly exhausted, a bit dehydrated and with a mild pit in your stomach thinking something along the lines of; “I didn’t really buy that dancing troll dressed as Santa, did I?”  Before you indulge in a refreshing bout of robust self flagellation, let’s consider reassigning the blame.

The dancing troll is not (entirely) your fault.  You were probably tired, overheated and improperly fed.  In that weakened state you had trudged through the maize of malls and markets with layouts and repetitive merchandise like Escher drawings.  At every turn you were face to face with that same sequined scarf, knit cap, knock-off Van Cleef & Arpels necklace.  After an hour or so, you could be easily convinced that those items are really all there is.  In your already weakened state, your hopes dulled and dashed by the stunning lack of retail creativity, you found yourself in line, clutching your troll as if it were the bronze medal.

If you don’t want to spend the next few weeks feeling you are settling (and why in the world would anyone ever want to “settle” let alone during such a festive time) I offer you some tips:

  • Prepare.  Sit down with a nice cup of tea and a notepad (virtual or paper) and write a list.  Do not venture out (in December) thinking you will be magically inspired.  You may, but that’s not a plan, it’s luck.
  • Stay away from “Holiday Markets” unless they are specifically artist or craftspeople organized.  Often they are just outdoor malls, which will waste your time and deplete your stamina.
  • Authentic artist/craftspeople markets, antique stores and real vintage flea markets are a veritable pot of gold.  Unique, lovely and often reasonably priced items are just waiting for a good home.
  • Museum, library and arts organizations often have gift shops.  Venture carefully, and preferably with a membership card, as often items can be pricey.  However, you really can find some very special items, and support a favorite institution.
  • Memberships and/or tickets to these institutions can also make lovely gifts.  Do make sure the recipient is a fan and lives in proximity, otherwise you may fall into that “I’m giving to my favorite charity in your name” trap.
  • Food and Drink should always be considered.  A carefully chosen bottle of wine or spirits can be very thoughtful.  Perhaps a bottle of the wine your friends are still talking about which they had in Napa?  Maybe a lovely bottle of sherry to go with those vintage glasses you picked up for your sister at the flea market?  Chocolate lovers make the best gift recipients, don’t they?  There is no shortage of artisanal selections out there.  Strangely, the same can be said for salamis.
  • Music.  Anyone who can hear, enjoys listening to music.  Steer clear of any genre which conjures associated attire (country western, heavy metal) and stick to classics if you are not entirely certain of someone’s preference.
  • Books (electronic or paper) make splendid gifts.  You may want to stay out of the chain stores however, as their displays may lead you to the literary equivalent of a dancing troll.

Remember to bring a snack, stop and sit periodically, and don’t bring a shopping companion.  There are too many distractions as it is.  So have another cup of tea, and go find the troll receipt.  And remember, like most things in life, with gift giving; “I suppose this will do” shouldn’t be the goal.  Happy Holidays!

* and presents by the tree – I’ll Be Home For Christmas (1943)

 
2 Comments

Posted by on December 5, 2011 in Cultural Critique, Holiday

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,