Archive for February, 2011

February 22, 2011

An Art Lesson

I hated math and science classes when I was in school.  I hated them a lot.  My math and science teachers were dull at best, condescending at worst.  I hated the subject matter, that it was so black and white and so, so dry.

I loved art classes when I was in school.  I loved them a lot.  My teachers loved what they were doing, and were thrilled to share it with us, regardless of our level of talent.  I loved that there was no black and white, no right or wrong answer.  I loved that we were graded on how well we expressed an idea, regardless of what that idea was, on how well we expressed ourselves.  My art classes were what made me opt to pass up an early graduation, because I wanted to stay and learn more about drama, music, painting, and pottery.  Without art classes, I likely would have dropped out of school the instant it was legal for me to do so.

Today, having been out of school for a couple of decades, I can say honestly that I have yet to find myself scrambling to remember the formulas and theorems of algebra and geometry or the mass of the elements on the periodic table.  But every day, without fail, I find the need to think creatively.  Every day, I have a need to express myself in one form or another.  And every single day, I find cause to appreciate the beauty around me.

Seeking to eliminate the arts from a standard school curriculum is hypocritical.  We all enjoy movies and television.  We like good books.  We have prints and paintings hanging on our walls.  Without art, we have no actors, no cameramen, no script writers, no authors, no painters, no photographers, no public speakers, no musicians… the list goes on.  Look around you; your home was designed by an architect– an artist.  The car you drive?  An artist decided how it would look.  The magazine you’re reading, from the photographs to the layout is all the work of (say it with me, now) artists.  And most artists find their passion when they’re young; they find it in art classes.

Without art, we lose a lot of what makes life so enjoyable. And where does it end?  Creative writing is an art!  Get rid of it!  Literature?  Nope, that’s art, out it goes.  In fact, get rid of Language Arts altogether; it’s even got “art” right there in the name, so it’s gotta go.  Wait, those cheerleaders… are they… dancing?  Oh dear, dancing is an art form; we’ll miss you most of all, cheerleaders.

There’s a reason why we start school with crayons instead of compasses and paints instead of protractors.  There’s a reason why, as children, we loved to play dress-up, and why we loved pretend games like cops and robbers.  Imagination is a vital part of what makes us human, and it’s so very important that we nurture that instead of doing such a great disservice to future generations as teaching them that the world is composed entirely of dry facts.

Life isn’t black and white.  Education shouldn’t be, either.

February 11, 2011

All the World Loves a Clown…

I’ve been thinking about my late mother a lot recently.  I think it’s because, as I get older, I see more and more of her in myself.  I did a blog post awhile back about the funny things we remember in our lives, and that absolutely holds true with my memories of Mom.  Most of them are just random things about her, like the slight “mm” before she said “hello” when answering the phone, or the goofy look she’d get on her face when she was swing dancing in the living room.  But my favorite memory is one that I can’t even retell without laughing out loud.

My oldest nephew was around six years old at the time.  His birthday is in late December, and the family was gathered for the Christmas holiday.  My mother called my nephew into the kitchen to give him his birthday gift.

Oh, how excited he was as he came running in!  A gift!  One just for him that wasn’t part of the holiday festivities!  Oh, how quickly excitement can turn into fear, and fear into sheer terror.

Mom called him over to her, and reached around and picked up the gift… a clown doll.  If one wasn’t already creeped out by clowns, this doll would have done the trick, with its big, red nose and dead, staring eyes and maniacal, blood-red grin.  She held it out to him, and his eyes grew wide as he slowly backed away, shaking his head.  Mom insisted it was adorable and kept waving it at him, and his little head shook faster and faster as he backed up against his own mother and found he could go no further.  Eyes huge, he stood his ground and tentatively reached out his tiny hand…

And then Mom pulled the string.  The string that made the clown laugh.

It was the laughter of every wake-up-screaming nightmare you’ve ever had, the cackle of a thousand mad scientists in a thousand old horror movies.  Vincent Price at the end of Thriller couldn’t touch this laugh.  It was the laugh of a dead-eyed clown that wanted to devour your soul.  My poor little nephew shrieked, turned, and practically climbed up and over his mother in his attempt to get away.  I suppose it didn’t help that the adults were all shrieking with laugher by that time, too.  I can only imagine it from my nephew’s viewpoint, all these bigger people cackling like insane hyenas as the Laughter of the Damned rang out above it all.

To this day, I have no idea whether Mom really thought that was an appropriate gift for a six year old, or if it was just her own brand of hilariously twisted humor.  I like to think it’s the latter, but that’s mainly so I have an excuse for my own warped mind.

So, thanks for the memory, Mom, and for every wonderful thing you did for all of us.  And thanks, especially, for saving that clown trick for the next generation instead of me.

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