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

 

Thoughts on Individulal VS Community

Are we defined by our  own individualistic interpretations, or by those of the community?

This was the question that lingered over my consciousness while reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s famed novel, The Scarlet Letter, which takes place within a Puritan society in colonial America during the mid-17th Century.

I personally thought the answer to be our own individualistic interpretations because a community is crafted to represent a certain ideology, and is therefore biased when it comes to defining a specific person.

The Scarlet Letter is an ignominious ‘A,’ which is stitched upon the bosom of a Hester Prynne, representing her adulterous affair with another villager (Later known to be their own Reverend, Mr. Arthur Dimmesdale), and for this very transgression, the towns people scorn her a heretic, labeling her as a “brazen hussy” who had chosen to “make a pride out of what they, worthy gentlemen, meant for punishment”  (Chapter 2, Paragraph 12) by embroidering the ‘A’ in so bold a fashion as she had done. These are obviously the community’s interpretation of Hester: A sinful, deceitful woman who is no more than a common hussy, thus is their view of her in the introduction.

What I find peculiar is Hester’s reaction to their scorn-She accepts it! As shown in Chapter 5, Paragraph 3, “she compelled herself to believe-what, finally, she reasoned upon, as her motive for continuing a resident of New England-was half a truth, and half a self-delusion, here should be the scene of her earthly punishment; And so, perchance, the torture of her daily shame would at length purge her soul, and work out another purity than that which she had lost; More saint-like, because the result of martyrdom”.

It is an interesting arrangement; Rather than on many occasions, here the interpretations of the community and the individual intertwine. The community sees Hester as a sinner, and deserving of public shame and acknowledgment of her ‘Satanic’ ways, and she accepts her punishment. However, their perceptions soften gradually as she shows herself to be a healer for those in need. They even reference her to “A self-enlisted Sister of Charity” who has been “so kind to the poor, so helpful to the sick, so comfortable to the afflicted (Chapter 13, Paragraph 5)!” What we see here is an interesting shift in community opinion; This emphasizes the sway in community thoughts, but can those of the individual be persuaded so easily?

Apparently not, according to Hester, who firmly declines this hand of friendship, even while : “Meeting them in the street, she never raised her head to receive their greeting. If they were resolute to accost her, she laid her finger on the scarlet letter, and passed on.” -Chapter 13, Paragraph 5.

image

 PhotoⒸ2006by Monceau (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) 

Rather then follow up with their viewpoint, however, the narrator chooses to depict Hester in a sort of saintliness, as noted when describing her from a quote which I had taken previously in this analysis, to being “more saint-like , because the result of martyrdom.”

Although I do admire Hawthorne’s striking depiction of the Individual VS Community, I feel that he comes off a little extreme when referencing the protagonist to a saint while the townspeople deem her a heretic-Therefore, lacking a middle ground, which would be ever the more beneficial for the readers in determining where Hester stands.

In addition, there lays speculation over Hester’s choice in categorizing herself as a sinner rather than flow in the direction of the community’s changing views of her. I believe this illustrates a prominent relationship found within our own lives;  An individual who is the object of the community’s grievances accepts their criticism with a heavy heart, yet when they turn an approving eye upon her, she does not transition accordingly.

Why? Why does she insist on wallowing in her regret when she could be reclaiming her reputation by socializing amongst her neighbors?

Simple. Let me explain by drawing a rhetoric triangle. I’ll label the three angles as Speaker, Subject, and Audience. The Speakers in the introduction are the townspeople, the Subject their condemnation of Hester’s adulterous affair, and the Audience is Hester herself. This a relatively affective triangle;  The townspeople are perturbed by the scandalous affair that has shaken the threshold of their Puritan community, so they broadly state their views on Hester and that ignominious ‘A’ stitched upon her bosom  to her face, and Hester acknowledges her sin and holds herself accountable.

As the novel proceeds, however, we find the rhetoric triangle to be, well, a line in fact, rather so. This line, which connects the Speaker (the townspeople) to the Subject (Hester’s disposition, which is her newfound ‘saintliness’) stands alone. The Audience (Hester) has chosen to sever ties with choosing to be cordial to the Speaker by refusing to admit to the Standing Subject. Hester has integrated herself  so far into the contemplation of her sin, the community’s interpretations have receded substantially within her beliefs to the point where she is expected to comply with their previous assumptions. In other words, the rhetorical triangle was a little too effective, to say the least.

This is unlike the experience from an essay I have read, titled Just Walk on By, written by Brent Staples.

Staples, a black man, discusses his experiences while suffering under the prejudice of being labeled a criminal in various circumstances.

He writes:

“The fearsomeness mistakenly attributed to me in public places often has a perilous flavor. The most frightening of these confusions occurred in the late 1970s and early 1980s when I worked as a journalist in Chicago.

One day, rushing into the office of a magazine I was writing for with a deadline story in hand, I was mistaken for a burglar. The office manager called security and, with an ad hoc posse, pursued me through the labyrinthine halls, nearly to my editor’s door. I had no way of proving who I was. I could only move briskly toward the company of someone who knew me.”

As Staples continues, it is relevant that he is set on proving this prejudice false rather than comply with the image it has depicted of him; Which is completely incoherent to who he really is.

He says: “And on late-evening constitutionals, along streets less traveled by, I employ what has proved to be an excellent tension reducing measure: I whistle melodies from Beethoven and Vivaldi and the more popular classical composers.

Even steely New Yorkers hunching toward nighttime destinations seem to relax and occasionally they even join in the tune. Virtually everybody seems to sense that a mugger wouldn’t be warbling bright, sunny selections from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.It is my equivalent of the cowbell that hikers wear when they know they are in bear country.”

Obviously, Staples is not another Hester; He defines himself from his own interpretations, which is more definitive of his character than the first impressions the community has on him. Therefore, it is clear that in this case, the individual’s viewpoint is more accountable than the community’s, which I admire in him tremendously, especially since he does that in a way that is comforting both to him and those who may be wary of him on the streets.

This theme  of prizing the individual over the community also stands in Judith Ortiz Cofer’s essay: The Myth of the Latin Woman.

This ‘myth’ of Latin women is that Latina women, she finds, particularly Puerto Rican ones, are subjected to sexual harassment and are demeaned on a wide scale, often branded as “hot tamales” who are “sizzling” and “smoldering.”

She writes: “From conversations in my house I recall hearing about the harassment that Puerto Rican women endured in factories where the “boss men” talked to them as if sexual innuendo was all they understood and, worse, often gave them the choice of submitting to advances or being fired.”

Cofer, like Staples, is determined to abort this disgusting practice in which the community unfairly judges the women of her ethnic group based upon a stereotype that belittles them to either as a “whore, domestic, or criminal.”

She says: “We cannot change this by legislating the way people look at us. The transformation, as I see it, has to occur at a much more individual level. ”

In other words, Cofer sees that the way to raise awareness against these prejudiced beliefs is reverse the roles of the Speaker and the Audience on the rhetorical triangle; She believes that Latina women must combat this myth assume the definitive role, to speak of who they really are, and to have the rest of society listen to them. Only then, will they be respected and treated equally.

The Scarlet Letter has answered my question in the sense that it provided me a base for comparison among other Community vs. Individual Relationships with the rhetorical triangle, but to rely on that source alone for uncovering the truth is difficult; With the public saying one thing, and the narrator preaching another. Therefore, reading other works of literature  that illustrate a concrete stance on the question, such as the essays I have listed above, allowed me a greater clarity in formulating my response.

So Are we defined by our  own individualistic interpretations, or by those of the community?

I believe we are truly defined once each party is given an equal slot of time as a Speaker and as the Audience. The community and the individual must be hear on an equal basis, and only then, is it necessary to compare the third corner of the triangle, the Subject (Which is the definition of the individual or a group), to see whose analysis matches up fitter. More likely it is the individual’s though, I’d say, because then again, who knows yourself better than you?

-Heather

A Reflection on Society, Nature, and How We Think

It seems to me that there is a growing rift between intellectualism and the factualism-The difference standing that intellectual thoughts are derived from a disciplined mind that absorbs knowledge and makes it his/her own, whereas factualism is concerned with the one-time attainment of  (often times meaningless) facts, which in today’s world, takes place on the internet, primarily social media sites. Forth over, this undermines an appreciation for what little intellectual sources are left in this increasingly connected world, where topics are made known of, but are not, in the truest sense, known to the very core. These sources, from my experience, have been found continuously by entering an intimate relationship with solitude; One area superb in furthering this relationship between the abstract corners of the human mind (Wherein, creativity is likely to reside) and one’s own self is found in nature, which I will delve into a particular instance by demonstrating this complexity  below……….

The murky silence hung thick in the air and had enshrouded the campsite in a layer of fog that seeped through the overhead pine tree branches, and descended to embrace the damp soil.

Here I sat on this rock on the edge of a dry bank, with moss clinging to its scraggly granite surface, and observed the sun drowsily awake from its slumber, heeding the divine call: “Let there be light!”

It was 5:45am at Blooms Creek Campground, Big Basin Redwoods State Park. Unlike my hometown, to where I am greeted daily with an outpouring of selfies, twitter fights, flashes of the latest IPhone and luxury cars-here they remain unknown, an alien presence.

There are those who may attribute  my choice as an undertaking to what they perceive to be as loneliness-the unthinkable fate of being deprived of these so-called “necessities”- as a sign of social abandonment.

Phrases such as “I couldn’t live without twitter” or “Why go if there’s no wi-fi?” are  commonly used in rejecting this apparently absurd notion of there being some beauty in seclusion.

My difference of opinion therefore labels me as an outcast among today’s herd of millennials. I am in my element full-throttle in nature; It remained obvious as I sat upon that scraggly granite rock a few feet from a dry river-bed where foliage covered it, a blanket of scarlet, gray, and a variety of shades of green, that my views of serenity differed from those of my peers.’

With no one else  in sight, no depiction of social activity deemed hereditary to anthropogenic nature, I remained by myself.

‘Alone’ is stitched upon my breast, visible to naught the naked eye, but to my present disposition amidst the flora and fauna.

There were other campers residing soundly in their sleeping bags, but they remained foreign-lifeless-in my eyes amidst the bountiful  array of nature before me; Where  birds  flitted to and fro amongst the tree tops, where sunlight peeked out through the cracks and crevasses from the tufts of silver-tinted clouds, and kissed the moist soil, where the squirrels peered out in acknowledgment of  the new day, whose morning rays ignited their chestnut fur ablaze in sheens of fiery copper.

Within this Garden of Eden, I am alone, yet with my thoughts beside me. They sing with the meadowlark high above the leaves that litter the forest floor,  from the top of the steeple-crowned tops of the redwood trees and beyond: “Finally, I am here.”

Within this small plot of soil, isolated from any worldly desires and influences, I had entered a portal unbeknownst to anyone, from my understanding, other than myself.

And I haven’t the slightest regret over my preference to nature.

All is calm. There lies no need to  rush, to lord over momentary interests and trivial matters such as a celebrity’s wardrobe malfunction or the latest Apple product; areas that consist of a superficial exterior envelope a dim, lifeless core.

This forest, within this small plot of virgin earth is unstained, untamed, and pulsing with life; My thoughts are left to wander amongst Her creatures freely as if I were Daedalus and given wings to fly, far away from the obscure tower that constrained my spirit.

With a whisper of a smile wreathed upon my face, I inhaled the sweet air infused with  pine sap, damp soil, and that musky scent of bark from the redwood trees, which lorded over the expanse of wilderness as if proclaiming their natural rights to it, flaunting the enormity of their attributes to the gods among the clouds.

Suddenly, a cool breeze danced by their quivering leaves, which were swept away, and drifted,

down,

——–down,

—————–down,

————————–to the forest floor.

One lands upon my face. Its fall leaves an imprint of a smile across my countenance; I am Alone, yet have been given the wings to fly-and fly I will. Toeing the granite bricks o’er the valley that meets the rising sun- I take the plunge.

Now gracious reader, I would suggest watching this here video

Before reading this, you may have viewed it with an air of boredom. Or you may have not. But I wish that by watching it now, the serenity I felt intertwines with your sensitiveness to the content presented, and that you attain the admiration and peacefulness I had felt that morning in that very area (Which I, by the way, highly recommend visiting! :D)

-Heather

An Apology by the Writer and her Narration

So before I give the audience  my English narration, there is something I’d like to say. First of all, if you’ve come to read this post, congratulations! Over the last summer, I’ve scarcely  (If at all) showed a morsel of dedication for this blog or its followers. And when school came around, I decided to pass off my AP English homework as an interesting  to read about. Unacceptable. If anything, my followers are only repaid in long, droning paragraphs with the speaker (me!) ordering them to find a motive or any literary devices within its content. For that, I am truly sorry. I do not wish this to be a student/boring teacher relationship, but rather of one between friends.

Secondly, I apologize for the lack of photos. Squiggles of ink on the computer screen alone do not constitute a story that would spur on creativity and divergent thinking. I will try to obtain (original) photos in the near future, but it will take some time.

Lastly, I’ve noticed how most of these posts are about me; boring, insignificant, me. This is not only disrespectful towards the audience in failing to acknowledge them, but to the purpose of using a blog in general: Which is to share something meaningful to the world. And I have utterly failed in accomplishing that simple task over the last few months. I will plan on improving on this in the near future, if I have any followers left.

Now with that being said, here’s my English narration essay.

“Ignorance is bliss,”- Thomas Gray

 

“I felt ______ when………..” is the topic of this week’s essay, which is to be a narration.  Times New Roman font, twelve size, and double-spaced? Probably. Use “I” as a speaker? Obviously. So what should I write about? Maybe my vacation to the redwoods, observing a foggy morning in solitude?  Sounds good. With a sound agenda in mind and a plan to format my essay, I set to work.

 

“The murky silence hung thick in the air and had enshrouded the campsite in a layer of fog that seeped through the overhead pine tree branches, and descended to embrace the damp soil…..”

 

“A poetic introduction is always a good start,” I think to myself, sipping a glass of  iced tea, gazing at the  various squiggles of ink on the computer screen.

 

After a half an hour, I take a break by checking up on one of my favorite Christian  blog sites. There’s a new post. One glance, one tap of the mouse, and the subject is all too obvious to comprehend; ISIS, the so-called Islamic State of Iran and Syria, has struck again, with its gruesome beheadings, rapes, and mass shootings of thousands of innocent people, Christians and Muslims alike,.

 

This time however, its victims are children.

 

One little girl, who looked to be approximately six years old wore a white lace dress and Mary Jane shoes. She looked ready to go to a party with her friends, where they would spend the day giggling, playing games, and munching on sweets.

However, she can’t anymore-her head has been hacked off her body- leaving a bloody, rotting stump in its place.

There are many like  her, as I soon find.

Yes, many more have been posted to numerous sites online by the Islamic State, who proudly parade these photos, these atrocities to humanity, all across the internet.

 

I can hardly bear to stomach it. Let alone mindlessly view films of these barbaric crimes. So I click out of my tabs-leaving only my essay draft open- I resume writing.

 

“Momentarily, a meadowlark bravely defies this solitude by emitting its casual yet eloquent song…”

 

After an hour, I only get as far as a few words.

I am writing a narrative, an instance meant to capture so small of an occurrence in so great detail.

 

A narrative is an essay designed by the speaker, and naturally, writing is meant to reflect the speaker’s thoughts and observations. Though with this in mind, the image of the headless corpse of a child continually haunts me-while I am here-devoting my time and effort to romanticizing the western meadowlark.

 

There are other reasons for writing, I realize- and in dire circumstances, such as the genocide of thousands of innocent people in Iraq and Syria by Islamic extremists, it is often times more useful as a tool to speak for others, rather than of personal interests.

 

“For the dead and the living, we must bare witness,”- Elie Wiesel

 

“I will not stay silent, nor, will I remain silent,” I say to myself. Courage to those depraved of ignorance! Ignorance of suffering, of hatred, of utter remoteness and terror, there is no puzzlement over the truth of the old saying: “Ignorance is bliss.”  In ignorance, I realized, we are masked from reality, and therefore remain oblivious to horrendous crimes. They say history repeats itself and its true; Our world is tilted on an axis towards repetition, and sooner than later, we can expect to see another Crusades.

 

So I began to write. Into the wastebasket goes my former draft; my fingers fly  across the keyboard in a blur of whizzing thoughts and emotions that soar through the intergalactical dimensions of my consciousness. I will lend my voice, I will lend my writing to those without a witness. I will speak out of the injustices that have been inflicted upon my fellow Christians, my fellow human beings, whom live in a country so far away, yet whose message urgently demands it being known. I refill my glass of iced tea, take a sip, and began typing away. A profound introduction is always a good start.

 

“I felt_____when…..”  was the topic of this week’s essay, which was to be a narration, a type of essay defined by the speaker’s personal thoughts and observations; I however, aim to accomplish the exact opposite. When people read this essay, they may think that it’s a story about me, a girl passionately against ignorance and crimes against humanity. Yet I don’t think that it’s a story about me; I don’t think it’s a story about me at all.


-Heather

AP English Rough Draft Revision

So if you’ve looked at my previous posts, you’d have seen my rough draft blasting our nation’s education system. Since that date, I’ve gathered critical feedback from my peers, and have decided on revising, implementing some changes there, and needless to say, it looks a whole lot better!

And now ladies and gentlemen let me present………THE ESSAY: Coming to a computer screen near you

I find it pitiful that our social and educational upbringing is hammered down, polished, and coated with a fresh layer of Economical Red. We are not teaching humanity; how to conceive a greater understanding of the human race, to develop into a divergent thinker, or discover passions. In fact, it is quite the contrary of a strong emphasis on intellectual areas. Instead, we are churning out the economical prototypes of the next generation by abandoning the arts, skimpering over history, ignoring English altogether, and leaving math and science to preside over the intellectual ruins.

And so to what extent do our schools serve the goals of a true education?  Very minimally, in fact. To delve into this issue, let’s face the bigger question: What does it mean to be educated? By academic standards, it is defined by three things:  Your GPA,  ability to know a subject/lucky-guess your way across multiple-choice tests, and scoring high on the SAT. And what may fuel the drive to succeed in those areas? Oh yes! The widespread obsession with math and science at a global level to fulfill the goals our economy needs to compete with contenders in the global market, primarily China.

In a 2010 New York Times article, school systems in China are compared to those we have in the United States, primarily concerning student performances in areas of -you guessed it-science and math.  China’s academic curriculum maintains a primary focus towards these subjects, and that is noticeable in various occasions concerning academic performance. For example, Chinese students fared significantly better than their foreign counterparts in those subjects on an international standardized test against 65 other countries. According to the article, this instance was only one of many indications of China’s growing competitiveness in the marketplace, thanks to basing their education system off of “discipline, rote learning, and obsessive test preparation.”

However, this also leaves creative thinkers, which, later noted in the news piece, difficult to find. Alas, a lack of creativity is the Achilles Heel of our educational system, leaving us reliant on technology, dependent on our abilities to calculate numbers and to measure the heat enthalpy of a sodium bicarbonate reaction, and our prevalent expectation in succeeding in those areas by surpassing the marks of millions of others with the same idea in mind. Our idolatrous devotion to mathandscience is the general idea of a “true education,” and one that will eventually backfire as we turn the cogwheels in this Sisyphian cycle.

I came across a study conducted by a book called Break Point and Beyond while reading an essay by Sir Ken Robinson on the lack of intellectualism in schools. It stated that the study tested 1,500 people on their level of divergent thinking.  Of these 1,5oo, 98% of kindergarten children who participated in this study scored as a divergent thinker. Five years later, the percentage was 50%, and five years after that, the percentage was even lower. As the trend continues,  we can also point out a parallel relationship here; the more educated these individuals become, the higher the deterioration of their creativity and divergent thinking.

Let’s face it; We’re whittling spears into staffs by leaving our kids a half-baked education. Too often is emphasis placed on facts and logic  ( Primarily in areas of math and science) rather than developing creativity and divergent thinking (Which is taught when learning of the arts) , and I find that  rather ironic since our academic layout is supposed to be geared towards logistics. Economical benefits aside,  there is a widening gap of those of intellectualism being taught. And that’s a shame. In an increasingly technologically advanced world, there seems to be less and less wiggle-room for the humanities, crammed in the corner as we direct our academic curriculum on logic and polished vocabulary, but not the skills to use them. Thus, we chip away at the very core of what individualizes us as a species. In the words of Edward de Bono: “There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.

Using SOAPSTone on Barbara Lazear Ascher’s ‘The Box Man’ essay

So today in English we read a story called ‘The Box Man’ by Barbara Lazear Ascher, a piece in which she shared her thoughts and observations of the  homeless man in her neighborhood who sits around all day and collects boxes which he creates furniture and a shelter from, with the reader. ‘The Box Man,’ whom she comes to call him, prefers solitude instead of social interaction, and shows no signs of vacillation, even when  the New York City mayor approached him, he backed away, “keeping a car and paranoia between them.”

So for this piece, we were required to use SOAP STone, which is Subject, Occasion, Audience, Purpose, Speaker, and Tone. I haven’t finished Tone yet, but I will soon! Feel free to view my analyzation! 🙂

SOAP STone for “The Box Man” Essay By Barbara Lazear Ascher

Subject:  Many may perceive the Box Man to be the center of this essay, yet it is not solely his activities that Ascher alludes to; It is his stark contrast to the millions around him, who are reliant on their connection with others to achieve contentment.  One cannot not fully comprehend the darkness of the night without seeing the stars, and in retrospect, one cannot fully understand the faults in our own behaviors without presenting one that is its polar opposite. So Ascher presents the Box Man, a secluded individual who scrounges the streets and alleyways of New York City for boxes to construct his cardboard furniture and shelter. He prefers solitude to the complicated, stressful relationships that exist between the millions around him, one of these being  the woman who visits Ascher’s local coffee shop every evening. According to the author, “You can tell by the vacancy of expression that no memories linger there….When she opens her black purse to pay, there is only a crumpled Kleenex and a wallet inside, no photographs spill onto her lap.” This woman, unlike the Box Man, resembles more of an incomplete puzzle than a single unit; Her manner conveys an air of vacancy, as if her de-attachment from social interaction has grounded any hope for  her to regain her footing into dust.

Occasion: The majority of us, who are apparently qualified to deem the limits of human comfort, when presented with the idea of being homeless, consider only what has been taught to them at a local standpoint; That it is a completely undesirable, wearisome prospect, that leaves its participants longing for the luxuries enjoyed by the higher classes on the social pyramid. However, according to Ascher, this is not always the case. From what she has observed, the Box Man being her example, there is always a completely different approach to circumstance; The circumstance being the Box Man’s homelessness and his approach to it being his self-reliant, secluded attitude. This  behavior may be puzzling for some, who might wonder: “Doesn’t he ever get lonely?” Ascher responds to precedented question, stating that “The Box Man knows that loneliness chosen loses its sting and claims no victims. He declares what we all know in the secret passages of our own nights, that although we long for perfect harmony, communion, and blending with another soul, that this is a solo voyage.” Let’s face it- our drive for our one true match, our dependence on families and friends, and the constant outpoar of headlines and advertisements from the media promoting the seemingly endless ways on how to adjust oneself in order to meet social criteria goes largely unrecognized, yet when fully comprehended, it is truly daunting of our obsession in achieving this one particular goal. The examples are truly unimaginable in scale. Take Romeo and Juliet for instance;  A Shakespearean classic, the heartbreaking tale of two lovers who would rather die then imagine a life without their beloved. Their acts of suicide are meant to powerfully convey elements of passionate love, which the audience, unawares, gobbles it up in great gasping sobs and heart-wrenching soliloquies for the tragedy. So eager are we to be swept up by their circumstances and extremely intense feelings for one another, that we fail to consider it to be a mere act of unfathomable lust, an outpoaring of obsession. The fact that their dependence (Survival really) relies solely on the well-being of the other is more worrisome than romantic. And God knows their namesakes live on in the millions today who consider solitude (Or loneliness they would rather call it) to be an infliction.

Audience- The group of readers to whom this piece is directed to are to those unaware of there being an alternative outlook towards social seclusion. This may include a family outcast, religious minorities, self-proclaimed rebels, and of course the heart-broke, rejected lover. All of these examples include a separation of ties with another person or group, and Ascher wants to address those who shared in these experiences. However,  at some point in our lives, we are all involved in this dilemma. She states “The first half of our lives is spent stubbornly denying it. As children we acquire language to make ourselves understood and soon learn from the blank stares in response to our babbling that even these, our saviours, our parents, are strangers. In adolescence, when we replay earlier dramas with peers in the place of parents, we begin the quest for the best friend, that person who will receive all thoughts as if they were her own. Later we assert that true love will find the way.” It is an interesting notion; As we transcend from childhood years to adulthood, one would typically expect to see a far  greater display of self-reliance. On the contrary, the more adapted to civilization one becomes, the greater the difficulty in contriving to extract one’s self from it altogether.

Purpose- The Greek philosopher Aristotle had quoted in Politics:

“Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual. Anyone who either cannot lead the common life or is so self-sufficient as not to need to, and therefore does not partake of society, is either a beast or a god. ”

By Ascher’s claim, this assumption has already been proven false by the Box Man, who is neither beast nor god, but a simple mortal. In addition, she says that “by judging from the bandages and the chill of night, if is of his choosing.” Thus, we began to look at the reason for his circumstances not from cruel dettachment from his peers, but by his own choosing. And why may he choose to live in such a fashion? Because the Box Man is self-sufficient, and prefers solitude and harmony within himself rather than the commotion that arises from relying solely on others’ support. We are so keen on finding the other half, yet forget to look within ourselves, and  realise that “this is a solo voyage.”  By drawing references to Ophelia, Juliet, and other classical lovers who faced tragic ends, she decesively concludes upon this that in comparison to the Box Man, their strong social attachments had caused their downfall. In short, Ascher wants her readers to understand that solitude should not always be confused with devastation.

Speaker- Ascher, who draws the line between the lonely and the self-reliant in her essay The Box Man, holds herself with noticeable nostalgia when referring to the adventurous, self-concious pastimes of the protagonists from The Boxcar Children,her favorite book as a child. For example, she says: “…I long to live like a Boxcar Child, to have enough open space and freedom of movement to arrange my surroundings according to what I find. To turn streams into iceboxes. To be ingenious with simple things. To let the imagination hold sway.”  Ascher presents herself as an individual who has not lost the longing to retain self-efficiency; She wishes to live in solitude and discover the voice within herself rather than live off of the status quo.

AP English Rough Draft

So here’s my AP English essay! Please read and comment! I would really appreciate any feedback 🙂 Shout-out to Mark Slouka and Ken Robinson for #inspiration while writing this.The prompt was: To what extent do our schools serve the purpose of a true education?

My  Essay

I find it pitiful that our social and educational upbringing is hammered down, polished, and coated with a fresh layer of Economical Red. We are not teaching humanity; How to conceive a greater understanding of the human race, to develop into a divergent thinker, or discover passions. In fact, it is quite the contrary. We are churning out the economical prototypes of the next generation by abandoning the arts, skimpering over history, ignoring English altogether, and leaving math and science to preside over the intellectual ruins.

And so to what extent do our schools serve the goals of a true education?  Very minimally, in fact. To delve into this issue, let’s face the bigger question: What does it mean to be educated? By academic standards, it is defined by three things: Your GPA, your ability to know a subject/lucky-guess your way across multiple-choice tests, and scoring high on the SAT. Anything else I forgot to mention Oh yes! The widespread obsession with math and science at a global level to fulfill the goals our economy needs to compete with competitors in the global market, primarily China.

In a 2010 New York Times article, school systems in China are compared to those we have in the United States, primarily concerning student performances in areas of –you guessed it- science and math. For example, Chinese students fared significantly better than their foreign counterparts in those subjects on an international standardized test against 65 other countries. This instance, according to the article, was only one of many indications of China’s growing competitiveness in the marketplace, thanks to basing their education system off of “discipline, rote learning, and obsessive test preparation.”

However, this also leaves creative thinkers, which, later noted in the news piece, difficult to find. Alas, a lack of creativity is the Achilles Heel of our educational system; Reliant on technology, dependent on our abilities to calculate numbers and to measure the heat enthalpy of a sodium bicarbonate reaction, and our prevalent expectation in succeeding in those areas by surpassing the marks of millions of others with the same idea in mind. Our idolatrous devotion to mathandscience is the general idea of a “true education,” and one that will eventually backfire as we turn the cogwheels in this Sisyphian cycle.

I came across a study conducted by a book called Break Point and Beyond while reading an essay by Sir Ken Robinson on the lack of intellectualism in schools. In it, it stated that the study tested 1,500 people on their level of divergent thinking.  98% of kindergarten children  tested as a divergent thinker, five years later the percentage was 50%, and five years after that, the percentage was even lower. As the trend continues,  we can also point out a parallel relationship here; the more educated these individuals become, the higher the decayment of their creativity and divergent thinking.

Let’s face it; We’re whittling spears into staffs by leaving our kids a half-baked education. Too often is emphasis placed on facts and logic  ( Primarily in areas of math and science) rather than developing creativity and divergent thinking (Which is taught when learning of the arts) , and I find that  rather ironic since our academic layout is supposed to be geared towards logistics. Economical benefits aside, however, there is a widening gap of those of intellectualism being taught, and that’s a shame. In an increasingly technologically advanced world, there seems to be less and less wiggle-room for the humanities, crammed in the corner as we direct our academic curriculum on logic and polished vocabulary, but not the skills to use them. Thus, we chip away at the very core of what individualizes us as a species. In the words of   Edward de Bono: “There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.”