Dismantling the Cogwheels

 

“More people are learning despite what they learned in school,”

Seth Godin droned on as my pen scratched against paper, meticulously recording every participle of thought that crossed his lips, as he answered questions concerning his intellectually-driven business habits with Tippett, an well-known radio interviewee.

Godin is a recognized intellectual, a best-selling author, and a blogger in free time, and all this  conversation as a whole was intriguing,  though this particularly quote  had a considerable grasp on my attention, myself enrolled as a student in a school highly competitive in academics.

This statement is entirely contradictory to the mindset of a typical high school student, by disregarding what they had been taught from childhood in that school was the center of learning, the building base for success.

As Godin continued, he referenced the Industrial Revolution, or the period in the mid-1800s that marked the transition to quicker, more efficient manufacturing processes with the explosion of factories designed to churn out a certain product.

Thus was the beginning of workers being demoted to a specific task, he had noted, each assigned a role in the manufacturing process, like cogwheels in a machine.

Since then, he continued, the prevalence of “worker bees” has continually risen through today, noticeable in schools and the workplace alike, where many recite and follow, yet do not develop the independence necessary for creativity and imagination, which are essential components in leadership.

This  had led for me to question my position as a student: Are we taught to take the initiative to define ourselves, our interests  in school to develop into leaders, or are we forced to undergo entirely repetitive, restrictive practices, to be no more than cogwheels?

 

cogwheels

PhotoⒸ2007by Maarten (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) 

I believe that the latter is more relevant in today’s era, and here is why:

Like the cogs of a machine, modern educational standards  have designated students to perform a certain role, to participate in the orthodox cycle of learning: To absorb a large quantity of  information as fast as possible in a specific format, then purge it out to fill in more. This practice is quite an  infamous contraption; it swallows the potential creativity and abilities for students to develop their intellectual capacity, and churns them out into a lumpy, inedible paste that barely resembles what they may have been if they were not repeatedly restrained by the status quo.

I have seen examples of such restraint in the English department, where passion for a certain subject (Which transcends into art overtime) is restricted, often times in substitute of the sadistic dictator: The 5- paragraph essay (Which evolves cogs out of artists).

 

Artists VS the Cogs

How to define a 5- paragraph essay? Simple: A rigid structure taught from grade school to high school, in the traditional order: Introduction (Basically state thesis here), Point 1 (Define your point), comparison (Tell why another viewpoint is incorrect), Point 2 (Define another point), and Conclusion (Restate your thesis).

 This practice is so astoundingly common, we may already correctly theorize the following layout of the entire paragraph based solely on the introduction!

Take for example, the introduction of my persuasive essay from freshman year:

     “Without a doubt, when  parents exhibit careless behaviors such as lying to their children, it can lead to consequences that will affect them later on, such as distrust, regret, and children following their parents’ example. To avoid facing these consequences, parents should not resort to lying to children. Once parents lie to their children, it could hurt the child and the parent once the truth is uncovered, which can damage their relationship and may even affect the child’s own habits growing up. In the following paragraphs, the research collected will explain the effects that can occur as a result of adults lying to their children.”

I  wince at its transparency; it does scarcely more than simply state the obvious (Yes, parents lying to their children may prove detrimental to their relationship), the “hook,” that spark that serves to capture the reader’s eye in encouragement to proceed reading is non-existent, the extreme lack of pronouns (‘Parent(s)’ is used five times and child(ren) eight times), and the diction is utterly un-intoxicating.

Though  however uncreative and unimaginative my introduction has shown itself to be, I had reserved the worst for last:

“So far, this essay has explained the reasons as to why lying to children can hurt relationships, future personalities, and habits, and why parents should not do so. The risks of doing so are too great, for they can influence children into becoming liars themselves, disappoint the children when discovering the reality behind holiday fantasies, and cause distrust between the children and adults when these lies are done on a short notice. From this information collected, it should remain obvious that the lies adults tell to their children do more harm than good, hence the Old Testament “Thou shalt not lie.”

I had followed the transgressions made in my introduction,  lamely summarized what I had weakly argued in the previous paragraphs (Which I will not list to the viewer in an effort to avoid triggering further repugnance), and limped through the final clause by once again stating the obvious and had ignored further emphasis on the Old Testament to support my argument.

Rather than design my own format to best represent my viewpoint, I had stripped away the potential creativity and imagination that may have taken root was I not so heavily influenced by my teachers and educational standards at the time to strictly follow a select layout. No wonder I had received one of the highest marks in the class for my obedience; a poor substitution for what may have occurred if there was a higher emphasis on being an independent learner, to find some hidden passion for writing by allowing creativity to take hold within my abilities as a writer.

However, I did that very year, also begin to truly develop my love for writing and the joy it has brought me since then, as I began to strengthen my abilities as an independent worker in that field.

This admiration for language as directly led me to regarding it today as the driving force of my intellectual character, although I must admit that my twist on this subject is different from my peers, as I prefer a classical approach.

For example, from a  few recent essays that I have written, those critiquing my work are well-aware of the writer that I am from my  ‘poetic’ diction. One of a few pieces include my definition essay, in which I had redefined joy as a parasite, of a sort.

“It may seem queer to place joy  under such a distasteful  category as a  parasite,  an organism that feeds off of its host,  depriving it of necessary nutrients for self-benefit. However, as it will be further explained, it is a suitable classification, in which this advantageous pathogen falls under a specific category of this infamous breed : Viruses, or miniscule agents that replicate themselves inside  the cells of living creatures by inserting strands of their own  DNA into an organism’s nucleus, henceforth summoning an army of dopplegängers that repeat this process until inoculation .

And how dutifully joy follows this behavior!

It is untamed, un-reigned, festering within the bosom of its host, quenching every morsel of satisfaction that is savoured upon thy tongue, until it bubbles up from the bowels of that one particular individual, until it froths at the tips of their pearled crown, until it finally emits that piercing cry, exploding into a frenzy of excited passion: Let it be heard! Let it be felt! Let it ravish the heart in its wild embrace!”

– From Joy: A Favourable Contamination.

Though of course I have a classical preference, this style was contrived on its own accord; I have drawn inspiration by myself to further my abilities in this area from various well-known authors: Mark Twain, Lord Alfred Tennyson, Virginia Woolf, Maya Angelou, Charles Dickens, and Charlotte Bronte.

Bronte has proved especially influential in my writing as I write my first novel [*Spasms of excitement*], which I have not yet named, though the setting resides in the late Victorian era, and is composed of an orphan, Jack the Ripper, romance, death, etc. Here is one passage:

“Are you a gardener, Miss Avery, by any chance? Pray you are not, as you would prove to be quite a poor one at that. Rather than tend to your stock, you allow them to grow  (Or rot, really) in such contradictory circumstances. Maybe a drop of water one day, a flood the next; You’re extraordinarily unpredictable, yet perfectly hypothetical to an alarming degree, wild and untamed as a bird that soars to the heavens yet as docile as a newborn lamb, joyous and merry one moment, sorrowful and heartfelt the next. Thus so, any seed you sow in hopes of blossoming into success or friendship seems to wither and die, or left so unattended it has been greatly overshadowed by some foreign weeds that were given the means to flourish without reprieve; Such  would be your crops if you were a farmer, as is your standing position in regards to your tendency to repeat deleterious habits, which have contributed largely to your poor handling of relationships.”

– The writer’s novel, which has yet to be named.

And here’s another:

“Draw not a sword of steel, yet one of wit and zeal; for any battle you fight, and any conflict you face is always a mental one. You may be told other wise, dear [INSERT NAME], yet remember this: The limbs are lead by courage, the brain by wisdom, and the heart by devotion. Pay no heed to your physiognomy; for it is an irrelevant factor. Show no hesitation or doubt–Seize the day! Pay no mind to standard expectations for success. Do not wait for time; time does not wait for you. Do not wait for satisfaction or approval from you peers, for life is too short as it is.”

-Another passage from the writer’s novel, which has yet to be named.

I am well aware that although I have applied certain areas of my life to branch off from being labeled a “cogwheel” by taking the initiative to enhance my passion in writing on my own accord.

In addition, I have, while doing so, found my “tribe,” or community of people who share my thoughts and views by finding my niche within that field, as Godin had referenced to later in the interview, to be that of a classical sort of penman. However, as Godin continued, he repeatedly referenced to the internet as a designated source in finding one’s tribe; I disagree. The internet may at some times build a community, yet is it not more effective to find one’s tribesman in the flesh, to feel the thrill at having looked at them in the eye and recognize that they share a part of you within themselves? That, I believe, is never substitutable.

 

Though in spite of what I have accomplished, I know that I have a considerable range to attain more training in influencing others to do the same as I have, to severe  ties with the 5-paragraph essay, the Jane Schaffer format (Less widely known, but it is an essay format governed by the classification of details in order to master the best way in providing an “effective paragraph”), clichés (Words, phrases used too often), in hopes that they know the passion and excitement that courses through my veins every instance whenever I etch my thoughts, aspirations, dreams, concerns, or even a story in ink or lead.

Whether they apply this to their routine is ultimately their decision however, and one that I completely respect.

Yet I know that I should focus on defining myself out from among the herd, to expand my levels of independence not only to writing, yet to the other aspects of my life, in other organizations, clubs, hobbies, etc., and I will keep this mind for the future.

Last Words

Godin had also mentioned  Daedalus, a figure from a Greek myth who had assisted in the creation of the Labyrinth to contain the Minotaur. Though rather than reward him for his service, King Minos had locked him and his son Icarus in a tower overlooking the sea. Overtime, however, Daedalus had fashioned out a way to escape by creating two sets of wings with feathers blown in from birds flying overhead, and he and his son began their flight. Icarus however, young and foolhardy, flew upt too high to the sun, which melted the wax on his wings, and then swooped down near the water where the sea foam soaked up the remaining feathers, causing him to fall in the sea and drown.

This story is parallel to the present day, where the ‘cogwheel’ mindset has lowered the standards and potential of the majority, so flying too high is not a concern at the moment; for we are flying too low.

So that brings up the question: Do we either fall to the waves and sink to that forgotten Atlantis below the surface where  lies today’s intellectual ruins,  or do we battle out the gale, and rise to heights we had hardly dreamed of before, and lord over that watery expanse in full glory of our triumph  as we soar towards the rising sun?

For me, it is not even a  question; for I would only choose the latter, without a second of reconsideration.

-Heather

 

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4 thoughts on “Dismantling the Cogwheels

  1. Ali Rios says:

    Let me know when you finish that novel of yours and get published; if not published then I hope you post it on here. Besides the point (not sure if that’s correctly used, currently taking ap land and comp for more practice) great essay. Love your last words as well. 10/10 would read again.

    • candy9201 says:

      Thank-you so much! I’ve been so busy lately, but your comment put a smile on my face. 🙂 Who knows? Perhaps I will eventually write that book….anyway, have fun in AP land! Personally, what I have seen is that those who are most able to do so are those who are unwilling to have their hopes drawn down by the sight of its gray, cold paragraphs or static sentence structures. They see those misshapen, lifeless forms and squiggles as un-germinated seeds rather than trashy weeds; blobs of clay that need a bit of sculpting and a hefty splash of paint rather than disintegrating ashes fading away into the literary obscurity of the “typical.” At the end, if they are considerably taken with their own voice, the dark, glistening seeds of ink have finally blossomed into a story, embracing the glancing rays of the editor’s meticulous stare, steaming in that heat with the sweet scent of that pure, undaunted Writer’s Voice. The clay has also risen, from sludge to stature, cloaked in wild colors that sing to the multi-layered, multi-colored picture of that Voice unleashed and unrestrained. The final result I mean to say, of course, from both analogies, is true art. I’m confident that you will sow the seeds of your own story and mold the clay of your own voice because you ARE an artist–now go get e’m. *mic drop*

      • Ali Rios says:

        Once again another master piece written. To me it seems as though you know what you’re writing about and how, then again I’m still learning and cannot tell the difference from what “AP readers long to see” and your works of art ; whether those analogies mean I shouldn’t be too afraid of perfecting sentence structure and write freely or what I currently write will get better if I try to learn the sentence structure by being fed spoonfuls of AP knowledge. Although I still can’t process whether I should be at ease or stay up until 5 am (currently 10 pm) trying to learn all that has been piled upon me. If you know of anything that I could possibly use to help me through this struggle that is AP land please do let me know.

      • Ali Rios says:

        Once again another master piece written. To me it seems as though you know what you’re writing about and how, then again I’m still learning and cannot tell the difference from what AP readers long to see and your works of art ; whether those analogies mean I shouldn’t be too afraid of perfecting sentence structure and write freely or what I currently write will get better if I try to learn the sentence structure by being fed spoonfuls of AP knowledge. Although I still can’t process whether I should be at ease or stay up until 5 am (currently 10 pm) trying to learn all that has been piled upon me. If you know of anything that I could possibly use to help me through this struggle that is AP land please do let me know.

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