Monday, November 8, 2010

Linking life, laughter, and learning

This morning, I've pondered writing the serious academic critique valued in the Academy.  And I'm not going to do it.  There are far too many (easy) opportunities to find fault with education in general, my academic institution in particular, and, while we're going there, anything and everything.  It always seems helpful and instructive to point out what could be better, which, in fact, is the rationalization of choice used by curmudgeons.  I'm not arguing whether the commentary of curmudgeons and critics on the human condition has value; I'm just not all that interested in seeing what's wrong today.

Finding the way(s) in which we resonate with our world, so that we can be productive, is one of the goals of education.  For many of us, joy and laughter (kin to optimism) are required for maximum productivity. From Norman Cousins' belief in the value of positive thoughts and behaviors on human healing, to the amazing Raspyni Brothers (whose 2002 Ted Talk is laugh-out-loud funny), to myriad poems, cartoons, puns, and ad libs, I need the occasional reminder that combining learning, life, and laughter creates a near-magical confluence of joy and creativity.   And therein is the source for taking the next step, forging the next river, climbing the next mountain....and writing the next blog.

Choosing to see the positive in my students, my colleagues, my university, and my life does not mean I am unaware of the ways those things fall short of some ideal.  It does means, though, that I believe we make choices about our focus.

Maybe better folks than I can focus on the things that need to be improved without feeling overwhelmed, as it's pretty strong medicine.  With that particular strong medicine, a little goes a long way.


  1. Wow, go away for a bit and come back to three posts, all delightful in their candor and wit, each again making me remember and think. The diversity of topic makes my head spin, and that is a good thing for one who tends to focus on a tunnel.

    Life is learning and without laughter or at least the ability to find humor in amongst the thorns, it's impossible to stop and even see, let alone smell the roses. Finding and identifying the ways in which we resonate with the world and in it, and especially with on another and in your case in the classroom, is a life long journey. That used to be what education was about. It wasn't how much information can we put into the hands of our students but how can we teach them to think, to find both matter and purpose in the information.

    The stories that we create on that journey, and how we share them, is a reflection of our focus. I think it's Blatt who talks of stories that enhance life, and others that degrade it and the importance of being careful about those we tell and the ways we define ourselves and other people in them. That focus in and of itself is a way of improving the world, your world.

    And in a very rough transition for which the intellect in me apologizes, creativity can't be taught, it can only be demonstrated, shared and nurtured. From the sounds of it, you teach in a business school so I dare to say that only a business school would assume that it could be taught, I would bet through case studies, and textbooks. Most of the creativity that we gain is through the arts, literature, music, art, the liberal arts as they're called these days and much of that has its greatest impact on brains still forming, still open to alternate and sometimes seemingly improbably ways of thinking. I wonder if we chose instead to allow our college students to read a series of children's books what possibilities they might create? Perhaps an unlikely occurrence and yet I wonder about the experiment.

    Somehow I believe, based mostly on your blog thoughts, and some on a gut feel, that you will be just fine in the classroom, whether it grappling with the appropriate use of technology, creating ways to be creative, or simple offering a place in which to debate and discuss the changing world in which your students live. And that your students will be the better for it. That also is strong medicine and a big improvement.

  2. Reading children's books is what one of my teachers had us do. An English Lit professor used to seeing seeing blank (and expectant) stares from her freshman each semester I suspect would begin her first class with an open ended question about any subject unrelated to English Lit thus confusing us poor diligent freshman. After a minute or two of uncomfortable silence, she shared with us that were going to begin what she hoped would be a lifelong conversation conversation about many subjects, including literature. And then she asked us to read Harold and the Purple Crayon and the Little Prince. Talk about throwing college freshman and sophomores into a different realm of thinking and approach to learning about literature.

    The conversation continues for me with so many others now included and with the regular reading of a children's book to help with perspective. The resonance with the world is that much more clear and loud with connection to others and to child self.

  3. As is so often the case, both of you have given me additional food for thought and some practical ideas. If you'd like to participate more fully in the next part of the journey, get a copy of Daniel Pink's book A Whole New Mind. Your reactions and insights are welcome.

    As to teaching creativity, I can't. What I can do is encourage students to try/learn something new, in the hope that (a) the activity itself or (b) the outcome provides a new or expanded avenue to existing creativity to flourish. And this is going to be fun...


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