Friday, January 11, 2013

Response to "Schools Kill Creativity"

Upon seeing an amazing video from, Ken Robinson's critcism that "schools kill creativity" inspired me to respond to such a troubling statement. Ken Robinson lectures on his view that schools are outdated in how they teach and that they essentially industrialize generations of children. He starts by discussing the extensively imaginative capabilities of the human mind. Noting several stories of young children, Robinson claims that all humans enter the world as creative individuals, yet the emphasis on classic academic subjects over the arts eventually destroys this spirit.  Criticizing this point, Robinson finds it necessary to reform the public education system so that it emphasizes creativity as much as literacy. He suggests that all students not only thoroughly study math, science, and the humanities but also explore a broad spectrum of artistic areas.  Ken Robinson postulates that the current education system produces one person well; college professors, and to some degree, I agree.
            Halfway through my sophomore year, I really feel like a part of the “education machine”, an exhausting stretch of answering questions right that all American students work toward for admittance to a university. I find myself looking at school as a numbers game at time, working to play the system rather than actually learn. In all my classes except band, I find myself trying to determine what the teachers wants me to recite back to them rather than how to process the information in a beneficial way for my future. From day to day, I try to produce something that pleases my teacher according to their curriculum standards rather than my educational vision. I often force myself to refocus on why I attend school, and I question when school turned into this guessing game of how to impress the Columbia University admissions board. Is it not important that I explore a positive means of expressing myself or synthesizing ideas? Some schools go as far as to cut their art programs, making a student's educational journey entirely drone-like. While I concur with Robison that children need exposure to each area of the arts, I disagree that someone who hates to draw take art class in high school. In this thought process, the responsibility falls on the elementary schools to encourage students to find themselves early in their lives. If a child discovers their creative niche in second grade, this passion will inspire them for the remainder of their life.  We need to stop telling our children their inhibitions are wrong. In his lecture, Robinson said “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original.” During my elementary education, one of my art teachers allowed us to act very freely in class, using any materials available to create what we envision. On the other hand, my teacher for the same class a few years later envisioned how a project looked before we began our very own creative process. Students deserve more teachers like the former, but they learn from more of the latter type. In addition, regular academics contain creative possibility that teachers currently ignore. Who said math class needed to follow a sequence of notes to practice problems to homework or that English go from novel to brief discussion to test or essay? Teaching can involve art, music, drama, or even dance. Teachers need to open their minds so that our brightest students are not just the college professors. The brilliant mind is not necessarily the one who can answer one-hundred difficult math questions correctly or memorize the steps of photosynthesis. We should shift the focus from fact retention to fact usage or expression. Such fact expression extends beyond the analytical essay or the corny video about the quadratic formula, students need to reflect on what they learn and understand it in a way that emphasizes the material more than a numbers game. This new schools expands the mind, and it molds individuals rather than singularly these Renaissance-talented demigods the Ivy League desires.
            On the other hand, seeing myself as one who knows to work the system I wonder how truly flawed it can be. Is America suffering from a broken system or a broken work ethic? One of the greatest qualities of public education is how it gathers people from all backgrounds to put them on an equal playing field. Before the nineteenth century, heredity determined one’s future. A quality education, as we know it today, allows the poorest student monetarily to rise to a better quality of life and earn their way out of poverty. In a more creative school, that equality disappears. Whether one lives in Massachusetts or California now, he or she needs to know that the four nitrogenous bases in DNA are guanine, thymine, adenine, and cytosine. With the new system, one's grades are based on how well one expresses such a fact in an enriching way. One expands the mind, yet this system relies on much more subjective teacher in nature where bias comes greatly into play. 
In my opinion, we require a more balanced system that both allows for free expression and factual knowledge. First, we need to establish an elementary school process that introduces the student to him or herself, exposes them to all forms of expression, and encourages their technique in utilizing these forms of creativity. Why teach a six-year old how to draw a puppy? They know what one looks like.  The "new teacher" exists for suggestion and advisement rather than criticism. Second, we need to reduce the amount of wrongness in our schools. The word “reduce” suggests that yes, we keep certain elements of school that serve as a great equalizer. However, in the “new school” one’s unique ways of tackling a subject are no longer incorrect. Third, we must diversify the experience in the classroom so that we grant students greater choice. Perform plays in math, and write raps about the election of 1800. Ken Robinson lectured about how schools kill creativity in 2006. Seven years later, I think it is time we start changing the system so that we form more than just college professors.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Shakespeare Series: Othello

"Othello" stands as one of Shakespeare's saddest tragedies, toying with an audience's hearts as Othello plunges into oblivion and madness. At the play's start, the Moorish general marries Desdemona, the daughter of the wealthyBrabantio. Instantly, Brabantio and a man swoon with love for Desdemona, Rodrigo, detest Othello as an outsider due to the color of his skin, and they claim their racial differences as a substantial obstacle of marriage. Coming into this situation, Iago languishes in his own pity, for Othello promoted Cassio to Lieutenant over the play's villain. As with all Shakespearean tragedies, Othello's life seems quite nice in the first two acts. His love for Desdemona only grows, and he wins a war against the Turks, returning safely to his wife in Cyprus. Iago hatches a plan to both destroy his enemy and obtain the position occupied by Cassio. He incorporates the Desdemona-seeking Rodrigo into his plan as his puppet, promising Rodrigo's crush to him at the plot's completion. In this plan, Iago seeks to gain the complete trust of Othello, break the trust between the lieutenant and the general, and perpetuate a lie that Desdemona cheats on her husband with Cassio. When the sad story unfolds, Iago beautifully wields all the characters into his trap. Subplots surrounding Rodrigo's questioning of Iago, Desdemona and Emilia's (Iago's wife) debates over the roles of women, and Cassio's longing to gain the trust of Othello again add a new layer to the story. In "Othello", a cruelly natured man devises and implements a nefarious plan to destroy Othello, his wife, and their livelihood. 

Throughout this story, Shakespeare uses this brilliant play to express subject matters relevant to both the Renaissance and the present day. Othello's downfall, though tragic, illustrates a belittling that gnaws at all humans from time to time. He transforms into what Iago describes as a green-eyed monster, yet the Moor's experience differs very little from most humans. Jealousy strikes at the core, making another's possession more appealing their one's own. Even today, extremely strong relationships end because envy strikes one of the members. It sparks high tempers, makes people Iago-like madmen, or creates an uncomfortable passive aggression that erodes a relationship. From "Othello", the reader learns to convey their thoughts in a manner opposite that of the Moor. Instead of asking Desdemona about her status with Cassio, Othello acts bitter toward her. In addition, the play shows how the subordination of women often leads to unnecessary suffering. The source of such disaster stems from a sense of duty for wives to obey their husbands. From beginning to end, Desdemona opts to remain silent, even as Othello inexplicably acts rudely toward her. By refraining to speak against Othello as a loyal wife, Desdemona faces the most preventable verbal and physical abuse from Othello. In a reversed manner, Shakespeare invokes his audience with a message on women's equality. While reading "Othello", one finds himself or herself immersed in an applicable world, where the character's actions dramatically mirror that of modern society. 

Though difficult to read at times, I recommend "Othello" to any experienced Shakespeare reader. This play showcases what seems in opinion as the best villain in literature. Iago excellently manipulates everyone around him, in such a way I find myself unable to describe in this short summary. Only in watching or reading the play, one sees how magnificently Iago gains the trust of his peers and slowly incepts the ideas of his plot into their heads. Without ever accusing Desdemona of cheating with Cassio, he sends the Moor into a jealous rage. Contrary to most of the plays I read, I believe it is easier to understand and more enjoyable to watch Othello rather than sit with the book. In a theater, the characters and their emotions come across clearer than the words on a page. Still, I find exposure to this play necessary for anyone who enjoys devise characters and clever literature. Shakespeare brilliantly develops his characters in "Othello", making the change in all of them quite striking. From Act I to Act V, the reader experiences a quick sequence of events that change the gentlest creatures into brooding monsters. Although "Othello" seems to difficult for anyone's first Shakespeare, I encourage those with a grip on the bard's words to read over this exquisite depiction of character change, truest antagonism, and enriching thematic work.