Looking Educated

Education is and always will be a hot topic. Everyone has an opinion on what and how to teach. I was a victim of “New” math, the open concept school, and also rote memorization. My sons experienced “Whole Language” approach to reading which didn’t hurt or help them as they were reading before Kindergarten (I taught them phonetically). But more to the point there are fads and trends in education. Some endure and others fade. In the western world, the US particularly, there is a focus on learning logic, building on previous knowledge and making connections through inquiry. This makes for wonderful scientists and nurtures those with an aptitude in hard sciences and practical applications. However it also creates a deficit in emotional intelligence, expression of a poetical soul, and the natural song of life. Hence we have the actuary making six figures and the poet in poverty – at least when you compare tax returns. If we assume that Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a valid theory of motivation, and agree that the five categories of human needs dictate an individual’s behavior, then it would seem that many very successful, wealthy people would be writing poetry and music to fulfill their self-actualization needs. It is my opinion (and I’m not an expert in the field of education) that the US system of education has neglected the education of the creative spirit and failed to nurture the tender heart. There are severe cuts to art and music education. Theater and Drama programs are soon to be nearly invisible. So here I am, a scientist, writing poetry. I have had to choose which road to take and the one that ensured food on the table and enough money in my pocket won out over the starving artist. Is this the way it is now or has it always been this way? Do the poets and artists, musicians and actors, always struggle to find a way forward to express their inner life and their soul songs?

Educate my heart
Teach me love
Leave my brain alone

This is a Lune, an American form derived from Haiku, created by Robert Kelly. It is a syllabic form with a single 3 line stanza. The syllable count per line is 5/3/5.

67 thoughts on “Looking Educated

  1. Many of my family members come alive in artistic expressions more than anything else. My nephew teaches band as does his wife. I’m going to enjoy seeing how their (now 2 years old) daughter expresses her artistic flow!

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    1. I just saw my nephew perform in a stage production of Willy Wonka (he was Willy) and all the kids were wonderful. The sad part is that it is a civic theater group and not part of the school curriculum. The school has cut almost all the fine arts – the band survives as does beginning drawing and choir since our core curriculum from the state requires 2 semesters….

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  2. In the way back when, artists needed patrons. This idea has returned somewhat. Musicians and writers appeal to patreons to provide funds in turn providing first access to the fruits of their creative labor. The rest of us schedule or carve out pieces of our daily lives to create. You’re good at that. Your ability to post new, interesting content every M/W/F impresses, but does not surprise, me.

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    1. Carrie, if I couldn’t blog I’d be filling volumes of notebooks. I might as well share some of my thoughts with the world! hehe! My mother always said that all of her daughters got the “talking gene”. Of course in person I’m usually quiet – until I get to know you. Then you’ll be lucky to shut me up!! I have a lot to say. The idea of patrons has its place though for many there were some unpleasant strings attached…

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  3. I think artistic expression and nurturing should come from the family and the community. Although there are many charter schools, a few public, and several private schools in our area which definitely cater to nurturing the arts.

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    1. Parents do play a big role. Although it is difficult to do a stage production as a solo venture. Just like school team sports, theater requires focus, practice, learning to work together, and reliance on each person to give their best. Sadly sports are always well funded but the drama classes have to make due with whatever they can scrape together… If the schools can educate and provide sports, they should be able to educate and provide theater.

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      1. Maybe they have a difficult time finding teachers to teach their main subject and then also theatre in some schools. In our area, there is a big emphasis on drama and the arts, many well known theatre people have actually gotten their start in the Tampa Bay area. I do think at some schools if they are underfunded or in rural areas they might have trouble finding a teacher able to have two subjects to teach. I don’t often see drama or theatre come up as openings….

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        1. I imagine the openings for drama/theater instructors don’t come up because most schools have cut them from the curriculum. In many schools there is one fine arts instructor who wears the hats of art teacher, music teacher and in her spare time is the drama coach for the “theater club”. As for revenue, the middle school production of Peter Pan we attended prior to the pandemic was $10/person. It was well done but all the students were required to make/provide their own costumes and all the parents helped build the sets and props. We just saw a production – sold out at $15/person and the parents made the costumes and sets in addition to working the sound and lights. I doubt a HS football ticket costs near that and that the parents aren’t required to mow, stripe, and maintain the football field!

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          1. I am not too familiar with ticket cost for football and if there is a cost. Often as a high school English teacher in the past, I was asked a page of questions about the clubs I wanted to volunteer for including drama, book club, yearbook, etc. Much weight falls on the teachers but you might be right about drama falling under music or fine arts. Last year, my school district ran out of monies and are still now working on the ‘budget.’

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  4. This post speaks to my inner child and my educator’s souls/ love languages! And you did it poetically!

    Have you seen Sir Ken Robinson’s passionate and most famous TED talk on this subject?

    Adam Grant’s book The Originals: The Art of Nonconformity also touches on how all of the world’s most creative people were very well-rounded. They could do speak several languages,
    science, math, whoop everyone at chess and play several instruments. He gives specific examples of famous people such as Nobel prize winners.

    I believe the US does better than many countries at providing a thorough education to create creatives that change the world. The problem is lack of equity. The schools where the arts and sports are cut are the ones that need it the most, the ones where parents cannot afford to help, where property tax is low and the school to prison pipeline is very real. Meanwhile, there are areas with higher property tax and private schools, parents with means and time to further enrich the education of their children. We have a world class education in the US but we also have a terrible education system in the US because education is not equitable. There is no equal access. There are kids who start school knowing how to read. They had books since before day 1 in their homes. There are other kids who have no idea what a book is, that foods outside of what their family can afford exist. They start school at least two grade levels behind the students who have access to millions more vocabulary words.

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    1. Yes! My mother taught 1st grade for many years. She would get students that had never used scissors, had no idea how to color with crayons, and had never held a book in their hands. Many were able to catch up to their classmates. Some were never going to… This of course was in times long past when there wasn’t any Special Education or Title I reading classes. Instead she had a class of 32 children and had to attempt to educate them all without that mythical being – a teacher’s aide. If she was lucky there would be one brilliant student she could pair with one of the slower students to help them “get it”… The lack of equity is very real. And it is very sad too.

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      1. 1st grade is a good grade to teach. There are still big classes out there and designated title I but having the energy to teach elementary is a great starting point for a new teacher. I wish I had taught more elementary classes as they are so eager to learn. Learning begin again in the home.

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      2. I think you would be surprised at the resources offered today to title I’s schools. It is incredible including salaries. There are many resources for those with a perceived lack of equity. Sometimes I wonder what happens to the middle class as you either have to be at a certain income or low test scores to gain benefits and special accommodations.

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        1. That must be a Florida thing. Our Title I programs are in each school and they pull kids from the class rooms for special assistance while others are in their reading groups etc. I don’t think I would be surprised at the resources. But I’m curious why the low income/low achieving students would be concentrated in specific schools.

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          1. We have school choice. Some of the title 1 teachers are in the more challenging schools. It can be a very challenging population in many ways, so you must have the heart and stamina for it.

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            1. School choice makes the bad schools worse. Sadly the charter schools here are not highly regulated and their curriculums are often lacking resulting in some of the HS students being unable to gain admission into colleges and universities. There is a serious question about the robustness of the education… I hope FL does a better job of that.

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  5. After 35 years as the teacher of the kids at the end of the system (university and college) I’ve seen the result of many different educational theories. NCLB and what followed resulted in university students who were afraid to take risks or be wrong. Everything in NCLB and the following theory was geared toward a test. Since I taught skills not subject matter that could be regurgitated and graded via a Scantron machine, toward the end of my career my students hated my classes and were terrified. To solve business problems in real life, a person has to think, assemble facts and consider human beings. There are methods and strategies that are better than others, but a person has to be able to think independently to know what to do. I had to teach this. The first 10 years were fantastic. The last five years were horrible. My students really believed I wanted them to fail. I understood this had a lot to do with the kind of student/teacher relationship that is formed in a structure that focuses on testing. Testing is a process of eliminating people from a future. Of course in that scenario the teacher is the enemy and the “average kid” is “less than.”

    As for fostering poetry and the arts — I don’t know of any educational system that really nurtures those things, but the liberal arts education at least requires students to be exposed to a larger world. Jefferson said “My father was a farmer so I might be a lawyer. I am a lawyer so my son can be a poet. (Paraphrase)

    I also don’t buy the divide between science and art. It’s arbitrary. I don’t think there are two “kinds of minds.” A sense of wonder at natural phenomena has inspired both science and poetry and stimulated the big questions. Our system channels kids into specializations that cut them off from so much that could nurture curiosity and investigation.

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    1. My sons were of that era – well they were in middle school when NCLB was instituted. It was irksome when they had weeks of testing and it was always at the beginning of the school year. It just didn’t make sense to test on what they should know in 8th grade at the start of 8th instead of at the end… Anyway I have seen some of what you describe – the fear of failing a test. Of course the college students I dealt with were over achievers and very driven (the cream of the crop) but also driven to perfection and if they didn’t achieve it on the first try would beat themselves up. The rate of alcoholism I’m guessing was pretty high.

      As for the 2 minds – I think all people are capable of some form of art and that there are not 2 minds. However when forced to choose a career it seems arts tend to lose out. Not enough prestige, not enough earning power, not enough encouragement. One son considered music and decided to go for chemistry. The other considered music or statistics opting for music. Both are happy. I agree that there is a systemic sorting where the children are channeled into fields of study based on aptitude at such a young age that many of their creative talents are ignored.

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      1. They’re tested at the beginning of the grade to validate the learning objectives. Then, at the end of the grade, the system can prove the students met the learning objectives. I believe in teaching to objectives, but not in the way it is done in NCLB (etc.) I believe in learning objectives as a way to tell students, ‘Here’s where we’re going in this class.’ That’s useful.

        As for alcoholism, I had students who drank in class. I LOVED how they actually thought I didn’t know they mixed vodka with their Red Bull. I even built a PowerPoint show about alcoholism as part of my business communication class. It was to show persuasion, but a few kids got the subliminal message. I was happy for that.

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        1. The state exams are silly here – they have to pass them for the grade level at the beginning of the year or the kids are required to attend summer school! It is kind of backwards. I had a kid nearly pass out in class. His friends confided that they hadn’t seen him eat any food for 4 days – only drink (and it wasn’t water). I managed to get him to sit in the hall and eat some granola bars and an apple I happened to have in my office. He was in bad shape and I’m certain he was well down the road to alcoholism. His classmates were concerned but they were also shrugging saying that it was his life and his choice. They needed to give him a wakeup call instead of condoning his behavior.

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    1. Sometimes a topic will take on a life of its own! Hehe! I don’t mind an interesting discussion. I do however have to agree that the life skills are not being taught at home nor at school. If everyone could learn the art of compromise, negotiation/détente, and throw in some tolerance and empathy too. Too many are selfish and thoughtless toward others which is a recipe for disaster! Now I need to go clear my thoughts and do a little deep breathing….

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      1. and how to save/budget; how to rent a flat; save for a mortgage/travel … there are so many useful things in life! I’ve taught as many as possible about budget travelling … but compromise and kindness go a long way making us better beans!

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        1. I was very lucky to have parents who modeled financial responsibility and taught me how to save and to be frugal. I marvel at some of my peers who looked down their noses at me shopping at thrift stores and using coupons for groceries. Kindness is personally an unlimited supply yet there never seems to be enough out in the world….

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                1. That seems to be the catch. If I’ve posted it here I can’t submit it. I hope your publication dreams come true! As for me I guess I just don’t crave publication…

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                    1. I’m enjoying my retirement but I’m busier than ever! Who knew there were so many things to do?! Hope you are not culling people… I’m not quite to the point of down-sizing but when I do there will be a massive yard sale!!

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                    2. Wow! I my followers total only 452 (I suppose that’s why I don’t get any spam – I’m small potatoes and not worth the effort)! Of course there are only a hand full that I regularly interact with…

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    1. That is the way of the world – many a child in the US is steered away from the idea of art as a career. Though during this pandemic the arts did experience a little revival as people discovered that writing and painting were of more personal value than previously thought.

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    1. It is the same all over the world. Money is king and those who produce art are not considered as valuable (unless of course you are a long dead European Renaissance painter/sculptor).

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  6. In the past, one was considered vain if they spent all of their time on writing. Plus, from work and school, we learn our stories and poems. I think that is the major problem with Hollywood as it tries to be one for all. They take stories they can’t relate to and twist them around, adding nude scenes and loud music. It’s becoming gibberish with latex gloves.

    Heaven’s Desire

    Show me your clouds, lightning!
    And make for me golden trees,
    The fire, I will…

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    1. Perhaps true but I think many writers would love to have a story optioned for a movie. And I’ve read way too many stories where the author did exactly what you have suggested – they add gratuitous sex and violence just to appeal to a specific audience. Sometimes it is seamless and other times it is comical. I read a story that was about a religious man and his search for himself. It was fascinating but smack in the middle of the book was a sex scene that had nothing to do with the story, was completely out of character, and was obviously inserted at the request of a publisher. It could have been omitted and the book would have been improved 100%.

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  7. wow, Val you sure made a point and talk about an issue many of us never speak or afraid to talk about. from where I am the standards of education is the same as yours. and the standards of monetary compensation is also the same as yours, as a result, many of us wanted to become nurses and doctors, when we barely have hospitals for them to work (pre-pandemic), many wanted to become engineers when we don’t have enough construction companies to accommodate them after graduation, hence the imbalance of graduates versus the job opportunities.
    we have enough (more than enough) farmlands, and no one wanted to concentrate or study farming, we have enough schools and other creative institutions yet very few wanted to be a teacher – sigh.

    and the funny thing is from where I am in grade school children are taught A – for Apple when we don’t even have an apple tree here…

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    1. This makes my heart so sad. Right now hospitals are begging for nurses. My nephew graduated from university with a degree in computer engineering. He couldn’t find a good job and after 4 years of working part time in his field, he went back to school. He is now a Registered Nurse and works in an ER making lots of money. He joins 3 sisters in the nursing profession and follows in the footsteps of his mother and grandmother and an aunt! We have so many nurses in the family! The family farm around here is becoming the corporate farm which is run like a business… sad here in many respects too.

      Maybe the next book you write should be one for beginning readers with the alphabet illustrated – with a more regional twist? We were always taught E is for Elephant (even though there are absolutely no elephants roaming around the USA)… Perhaps it is a simple device to expand the world view? Or perhaps something sinister? I have no idea.

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      1. That is a brilliant book idea/concept Val. But guess what even book publishing here is a dying industry too…that’s why we outsource from foriegn publishing..

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    1. I’m glad your SIL is happy and employed. So many schools are cutting art and music from the school programs because funding is drying up… I’m so happy to see you commenting here!! Hope this coming weekend is a relaxing one.

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  8. In forty-five years as an educator, most of it spent in “The Test is King” Arizona, I was largely the person who focused on the hearts of children. A child’s experience in life informs that heart and I can honestly say that those who had a glimmer of hope saw what I was trying to achieve, and clung to me like glue. Those who were raised to be narcissistic hated the ground on which I walked.

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  9. Hi. I think this must be some malaise in the Western World. Presently, our British govt. is planning to cut Arts courses in Universities by 50 %. I was lucky. I had a happy career as a Drama Teacher In England. However, I don’t think we boasted enough! We achieved but it doesn’t seem we left an inheritance. It will return, as these things go in cycles. But it is a shame that someone has to rediscover and preach when the benefits of self-realisation, empathy, mental health are apparent. You know, all those things which you can’t quite capture in numbers. That doesn’t negate their value and its what people pay money to gain in later life. Pleased you reach out for quality!

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    1. Hi Michael! Thanks for the visit and comment. I’m saddened to hear that England is following the trend here to cut the fine arts. Yes, there is a cyclical nature to education but the children who are caught in the deficit years are the ones who suffer the most. I have a nephew who dreams of the Broadway stage. I hope by the time he gets to college he won’t have given up on the dream due to lack of opportunity.

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