I grew up in the 80s with Ronald Reagan and the War on Drugs. My English class was comprised of diagramming sentences taking spelling tests. In math, I had pages and pages of algebraic equations as homework. I dissected gerunds and memorized prepositions in alphabetical order: aboard, about, above, across, after, against, along, among, around, at, before, behind, below, beneath, beside, between, beyond, by. . . This still clutters my brain with its mindless nonsense.
I doodled on the corners of my notebooks, wrote poetry, hummed the Clementi Sonatina I was learning on the piano while my history teacher droned out a lecture about what he claimed was proven textbook fact. After all, it was in the textbook, so it HAD to be fact. I didn’t question anything then. I chewed my Grape Ape gum quietly since I was breaking the law, kept my head down, turned in my assignments with my name and date written in the top right hand corner.
I took multiple choice tests and yearned to write. I waited for that moment of opportunity to be creative, outside the box, to actually think beyond the walls of our classroom and make a difference. But that opportunity in my standardized education never came. Do your work, make sure your name is on it, be sure to turn it in on time, get the grade, move on. That’s school.
When I became I teacher, I pushed against the system and sprinkled creativity into my curriculum. My students wrote poetry in my English class. We put on a Poetry Slam with their original work and explored edgy young adult fiction that made my students not only think beyond a textbook, but transformed them into lifelong readers. They were thirsty for more, requesting authors just like that one, bringing books to show me before the morning bell even rang. My class attendance was high. Students didn’t miss an opportunity to be in the safe zone, to allow their creative flow to do just that, to be themselves. Even gum chewing was allowed.
Our current educational system has no room for teachers like me. That’s why I left. My books were raided from my classroom by administration. My teaching practices were challenged. I was eventually bullied out of the system and replaced by Common Core–because common is what is accepted in our society. Common, not Creative, not Individual or Rare. Common is a good thing in our current educational system. It maintains order. It keeps students “high performing” and in their seats. It’s a measured construct.
I think of e.e. cumming’s poem where he says, “i swear by all flowers. . .” In Common Core, there would be a multiple choice option of guessing the meaning of that phrase. In an ideal world, though, our individuality would produce thousands of interpretations of those words. e. e cummings, I’m certain, would want a thousand interpretations as diverse as the flowers he was swearing. Can we truly take raw creativity and intelligence and cookie-cutter it into a system that churns out brilliance? What exactly are we creating within the current constructs of our schools? How are schools any different than the expectations of our behavior in society?
We are preparing our children to check the box, clock in and out, eat lunch quickly, take orders from others, spit out information, pass tests, and be common to the core. Common to the Core. Think about that. Common to the Core is easily manipulated, unaware, following the masses, against individuality, identity, mindfulness, and awakening. Common to the Core is a controlling mechanism as dangerous as fluoride in our water, chemtrails in our skies, pesticides in our food, and chemicals in our healthcare. It is another type of poisoning many of us haven’t uncovered yet. It’s the demise of our free will, free thought, and our future.
Swear by all flowers! Start tomorrow. Before you hit those “back to school” sales and plow through those teacher supply lists, think hard about what education truly is. Shouldn’t it expand the mind? Shouldn’t it allow for questioning? Education and creativity MUST go together. We need to explore our strengths as individuals in order to truly understand our purpose. Purpose equals bliss. Purpose is not a skill. It’s not a mathematical equation and it’s not found at the end of the preposition. Allow your children the ability to be creative, expressive, to question, to journey in order to find their purpose. Then, provide them with the freedom to develop it.
And remember this, it’s never too late to swear by all flowers. . .find your purpose at any age. Don’t just clock in and out of life and believe that this is it. There’s always an opportunity to awaken and journey on another path. But if you chew gum, be sure to read the ingredients.