Tuesday, November 8, 2011

thoughts on thinking ...

Two years ago, Zach and I attended a talk by Bill Ayers at Purdue. Only a select group of less than a hundred were invited to attend and we were stoked to be invited. That evening, a group of area residents came out to protest his appearance on campus. People were outraged. News teams were on the scene. Security was tighter than usual on campus. The crowds that gathered picketed with signs that read “Purdue is Un-American,” “Bill Ayers equals terrorism,” “Swine Flu Better for Purdue than This Guy.” We got booed as we entered the building but that only fuelled my excitement … I was gonna get to meet and hear from a revolutionary. How awesome.

student protest signs, some referencing Ayers' involvement with the Weather Underground group

The very fact that there were protesters delighted Ayers who said although he will have to “speak over the pitchforks,” he admired the proactive courage and conviction of people who would take to the streets to voice their unhappiness. Ayers was on campus that night to talk about educational reform. He spoke about the need for teachers who cultivate students’ creativity and curiosity instead of obedience and conformity. He lamented the current state of education and the lack of divergent thinking. Since Zach and I teach, this issue was a pressing one for the both of us.

But just what exactly is divergent thinking and why is creativity and curiosity important? What happens when education becomes a commodity? Zach and I left the talk with our minds spinning in our heads. We decided that perhaps an artistic education was the way to go. Knowledge acquisition is worthless without the ability to use it. An artistic education encourages children to be creative, original, and promotes complex critical thinking skills. When we emphasize the experience of learning and the activity of making art instead of the “final product,” we allow children to grow their imagination. 


Art is experiential. Art is about problem solving. An aesthetic thinker is an authentic thinker. If you're curious why you think the way you do, you might be interested in the New Thinker's Index (and while you're there, check out the clip of Joseph Fiennes rapping Shakespeare's Sonnet 129!)

p.s. also check out the Journal and Courier's write up of Zach's Christmas ornament project with the 6th and 7th graders at Battle Ground Middle School. 24 of those ornaments will represent Indiana on the White House Christmas tree!
p.p.s. my cousin Bernice will be reading our blog for the first time, so HI BERNICE!!!

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