REBELS WITH A (DAMN GOOD) CAUSE
For my blog today I’d like to share part of a poem by the late poet Charles Bukowski. He writes in his poem called Style
“Style is the answer to everything. A fresh way to approach a dull or dangerous thing To do a dangerous thing with style is what I call art … Bullfighting can be an art Boxing can be an art Loving can be an art Opening a can of sardines can be an art Style is the difference, a way of doing, a way of being done”
Artful resistance IS dangeorus style. And just when we need MORE of it, the “powers that be” (i.e ed deformers) are aligning themselves to shut it down. Why? Because they know the power of the arst in the hands of communties to change things.
Not that the push for education deform and a new world order led by coprorate interest is anything “new” these days. Some of us have seen it coming from miles away, and are fighting it tooth and nail. But whenever I see it edge just a little closer to home, I become a little more deeply frightened. This time it’s the Rebel Diaz Arts Center in New York City.
You know things are getting worse when they come for the artists. Why? Because it is the arts, and our capacity to create, that empower us to know what is possible, to envision a world created by democratic communties rather than shoved down our throats by marketers, publishing companies and hedge fund coprorations. Through community-centered, socially conscious, and culturally centered arts movements we have the power to fight back. And, well…. the corporate deformers know this.
I am reposting an blend an older blog entry here with parts of a book chapter from The Left Handed Curriculum: Creative Experience for Empowering Teachers in honor of the Rebel Diaz Artists, and artists (and creative educators) everywhere struggling for their very existence.
As a reminder to us all about what is happening HERE and NOW, I wanted to share it again:
Most people think of the “arts” in education as something they do once a week in related-arts classes, or that fun activity a teacher pulls out on a rainy Friday afternoon. But the importance of encouraging creativity and imagination through artful experiences goes well beyond Howard Gardner’s (1999) application of Multiple Intelligences. While multiple intelligences, related-arts, and “fun” in learning are all indeed valuable and worthy of our attention in education, something much more valuable is being lost in the race toward standardized curriculum, accountability and high stakes testing.
The imagination … our capacities to be creative (and equally innovative) are central to identifying and solving the variety of crisis we face in the world today. We will not find the solutions to ending problems like poverty, racism, war, or global climate change on a standardized test. We create them in the worlds that do not yet exist. The solutions lie in our capacities to imagine, in the words of Maxine Greene (1998) “things as if they could be otherwise” (p. 54).
Naomi Wolf recently published a book and made a documentary on the book, both entitled The End of America (2007). She argues that there are ten things needed in order to create a closing society, one that is not supported by democratic beliefs and policies. I might suggest to her to add one more item to the list. Number 11 of things needed in order to create a closed society would be: Putting an end to public education that is creative, meaningful, and rich in the experiences it provides for everyone in the school community.
You see, in order to close a society you have to close the minds of its people. As we erase our children’s capacities to wonder, to question, to create, and to imagine, we close off their minds from the possibilities of seeing their world as anything other than the one that is being handed to them. In order to close a society one must have a people who will cease to challenge the decisions being made or to question those in power making the decisions. Saltmarsh (2007) contends that “The widespread retreat from participation and direct experiences (my emphasis) tend to limit political action to a narrow definition of procedural democracy …” (p. xix).
We want schools where students, teachers, and communities are collaborators in their efforts to provide learning experiences that have meaning for students. I argue for a creative approach that embraces culturally relevant pedagogy (Robinson & Lewis, 2011); artful ways of being that bring marginalized voices and experiences back to the foreground of our curriculum and classrooms. We want schools to be places where children can create the world they wish to see, rather than simply be tested on the world as it is.
The elimination of the arts and imaginative thinking from every classroom will confirm or solidify our fate as people dependent on those in power (at the top) who historically profit at the expense of those beneath them. These are the same people to whom we will be completely reliant upon to make decisions for us. The capacity to critically challenge or imagine a “way out,” created for ourselves by ourselves, will have been educated out of us.
The knowledge and ideas of students, teachers, and communities are being erased from the classroom in favor of a sterilized, technical, rigid, and homogenous approach to learning. We need to fight for creative and artistic educational experiences that encourage collaboration, community centered-ness, intercultural exchanges, and diverse perspectives. Through creative and artistic engagements, new voices can be heard and the faces of cultures and communities rendered visible. The imagination not only entertains. It is a powerful means to making cracks and fissures in the massive wall of educational policies which see students merely as consumers of text-book knowledge –knowledge that is pre-scripted for them. Our children are not commodities to be mined, as Sir Ken Robinson once said, “the way that we mine the earth for a particular commodity” (2007). And education is that commodity, through a process in which textbook companies and corporate billionaires use high stakes testing as a way to profit from both the success and failure of children in public schools.
The arts, as a collaborative community-based effort to transform ourselves, are the most vital tool we have to create a sustainable revolution. It’s not what we know, but what we can imagine that will save humanity from the self imposed crisis we can no longer evade. In the words of Grace Lee Boggs (2011), “Students are crying out for another kind of education that gives them opportunities to exercise their creative energies because it values them as whole human being” (p. 145). She also argues that revolutions are made not to prove the correctness of ideas but to begin anew. We need to begin anew, and we must educate our children with the capacities to engage with their own humanity and with one another.
Art, Boggs (2011) suggests, can help us envision a new cultural image we need to grow our souls. When we lose our imaginative capacities to envision and argue for social change, and to face an unknown future, I indeed fear for the end of our democratic society. We cannot let that happen.
Creativity and complacency cannot exist in the same space. Which do we want for our children and for ourselves? A world that is constructed for us by others, or one in which we possess the tools to make one for ourselves? What is our choice to be?
“Originality is dangerous. If you want to increase the sum of what is possible for human beings
to say, to know, to understand, and to therefore in the end, to be, you
actually have to go to the edge and push outwards …This is the kind of art
whose right to exist we must not only defend but celebrate. Art is not
entertainment. At its very best, it’s a revolution” Salman