art and creativity

Danger of Passion

Posted on May 20, 2010. Filed under: art and creativity, classroom related, leadership related, thinking aloud |

To converse with my husband, you must desire a straight shooter, a born and bred New Yorker who does not soften his honesty to suit the audience. Often, Joe is relied on by folks in his industry.  They ask him his opinion because they know they will get exactly what they asked for and no less. He speaks what he thinks and feels, and  you know he means it by the way his neck clenches and his eyes light up. My daughters rely on their father’s honest approach as well.  If they really want to know whether a dress, haircut, or set of shoes work, they ask Dad.  (If they need a softer, gentler approach that might be stuffed in diplomatic cotton, they ask me.)

You might be asking what does this have to do with passion? And what does this have to do with education? Here is what I am thinking:

When we feel passionately about what we are saying (and so by default what we are teaching), it comes across as a frank sort of honesty. It FEELS more believable, trustworthy, and real. Have you noticed when we begin to talk about “engaging” students inevitably emotion-laden words enter the conversation: belief, charged, excited, drama, and so on? Emotions connect and bind us together.  A passionate person is much more likely to speak with emotion and thus keep us interested and connected AND ENGAGED (though sometimes they might make us feel challenged and angry during our engagement).

Passion is also scarier. People who talk with (and teach with) emotion can sound like ideologues, over-attached to their own ideas, unable to see a new idea, and too fired up to listen to others.  The present political climate is filled with passionate people who do not seem to know what they are talking about, their evidence is often emotion-built, not facts. Over time, this approach can beat you down, make you tired of talking.

On the other end of things, academics rely on facts and evidence.  Not a bad thing, and it keeps them from falling into passionate ideology.  It tends to help them see and present the gray areas, understand the different points of view to an argument, and demand evidence. It is more diplomatic, and provides safer haven for easier dialogue. Nevertheless, academic talk is dry, and boring, and people do not trust that you mean what you say. Academ-eeze is not engaging. It lacks passion.

I believe in education we need to recognize the need for passion and emotion in what we do, but we cannot allow our passion to undermine the need for evidence and reason.  How can we build the skills to do both?

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Right Brain vs. Left?

Posted on May 1, 2010. Filed under: art and creativity, classroom related, right-brained, thinking aloud |

Is it just me?  Or do folks in education tend to espouse extremes on edu-issues? I am thinking whole language versus phonics, arithmetic versus “new math,” and now standards&testing versus whole-child&inquiry. Once the end of these false continuums have been selected, they get bifurcated into our two political parties: Republican and Democratic (does that happen in other countries, too). Lest you think I am exaggerating, try this completely unscientific test for which side of these education ideas are Republican versus Democrat. Select below which party you think is best identified with the following edu-practices/issues:

  • Phonics?
  • Whole Language?
  • Math Concepts?
  • Arithmetic?
  • Grammar?
  • Creative Writing?
  • Whole Child?
  • Content Standards?

I am guessing, perhaps incorrectly, that folks placed Phonics, Arithmetic, Grammar, and Content Standards in the Republican camp and Whole Language, Math Concepts, Creative Writing, and Whole Child in the Democratic Camp.  Although today, given the ed-policies of our current federal government, perhaps people found the division less distinct, more muddy than they would have 4 years ago.

In any case, it is the “either” “or” of splitting these ideas that drives me a bit bonkers.  I call these false continuums: whole language vs. phonics; math concepts vs. math procedures; grammar vs. expression; and so on.  I am unclear why I am advised to pick one or the other as if these edu-topics are sides in an issue or ends of a continuum, when I know they are parts to a whole, an integrated universe in the classroom. I would never want to participate in a writing class that spends every moment identifying parts-of-speech and where to put commas.  Nor would I want to participate in a writing class that ignored the role of grammar in my ability to express myself. Is higher math accessible to children who learn only concepts or who learn only calculation?

I bring this up because right now the bifurcation appears to be testing vs. learning.  Really?

  • Does testing mean we do not bother learning anything but what is on the test?  Everything important will be on the page?
  • Learning?  Really?  Students cannot really do any deeper learning if testing is included? Testing somehow removes our ability to teach creative and critical thinking?

Frankly, I do not see these as polar, and I become worn on the debate.  I guess they need to appear polar to make the discussion clear?  Is that it? Maybe I am just too obtuse to see why these are sides.

It reminds me of a decade back when I was really “into” right brain versus left brain reading materials.  Being an art major turned math methods instructor, I was probably trying to figure myself out.  I finally ran into some brain reading that stated that the splitting of these two brain regions into “artistic/creative” versus “linear/traditional” were very incorrect ways to perceive the two roles of the brain hemispheres.  The left brain is better equipped to deal with logic, sequence, and calculating, and the right brain is better equipped for spatial awareness, music, and facial recognition.  But the point is, these two hemispheres work together to allow us to create, express, learn, and so on. They do not, and really cannot, work alone, not even in the minds of creative people.

I suppose critical and creative thinking in the classroom can happen without tests, so I am choosing an inadequate comparison here.

I am also reminded of the qualitative versus quantitative research in my doctoral classes. Both forms of research together, constructed over time and in various sites and studies, were much more convincing and powerful to me than either form of research alone. Of course, scientifically-based has somehow come to mean quantitative, so I am back to the same conundrum.

Why do we polarize? Maybe that is my real question?

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...