Art And Empathy On The Younger Generations

 

I’ve used a lot of art mediums throughout my life’s journey. Honestly, I’ve scribbled…painted…glued…carved…molded…well, basically I’ve done it all. And I’ve come to the realization that my obsession isn’t with art, but more the freedom that it grants.

In any other avenue of life, there are rules and parameters.

How dull is that?

Rules and parameters mean…it’s been done before. Someone has claimed it. It’s theirs. They have shaped it to their liking, slapped a patent on it and now if you wish to re-create it…you are ‘borrowing’ an idea.

But with art there are no rules, regulations, parameters. Instead of a process void of thought and critical thinking, it’s the exact opposite.

People talk of the vanishing art programs. Education is slowly becoming strictly math, science, language arts and social studies. Such a strict focus on the ideas of others. Sadly, this is a mistake that will one day create a pit of regret.

The assumption is made that math creates a critical thinker. I propose that art creates critical thinking, enabling to use of math. It’s the reason why often time music=math minded individuals. It’s the ability the see the beauty in the numbers. Minus emotion, void of desire…who the hell actually wants to do all of those repetitive assignments created by minds past. If you love math…that’s an emotion. It’s a desire. Desire drives the art process. As well as the ability to calculate. These things take a sharpness. An ability to figure it out. As an artist can look at a blank sheet and envision a vast multitude of ways to give the paper a life of it’s own…So can too a mathematician, who views a series of random numbers and attempts to make sense of them.

Language arts, while teaching the works of others,  goes on the inclination that this will teach you how to create your own. True…Language arts does teach the necessary tools of the trade. But your creation comes from emotion. To grab the entire spectrum of emotion, you need to find the emotions first. You need empathy.

You need a trigger.

Triggers can be visual, heard, tasted, touched and smelled. And some people seem to feel an entirely new sense. A 6th sense. And in order to utilize these crucial senses, you must have an ‘artistic vision’. You need to become skilled at exploring your own mind. Unbutton the top button, so to speak. Basically…broaden your horizons. Be OF the world, don’t sit on the sidelines.

One of my most…if not the most, important lessons I’ve tried to instill in my kids is to keep an open mind. Experience the issue at hand, prior to casting judgement. And in some instances, it may not be possible to experience an event. Some events we truly wish to avoid! But we can relate out of empathy. Empathy can be awoken with art. It can bring tears and an understanding, as in these works by Bansky. His attempt to cast a light on the darkness that war brings to children, was sadly and  completely accomplished.

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Bansky

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While some argue that the photos are too graphic for children, I would argue that closing their eyes to history creates a path to repetition. Social Studies classes of today, are watered down ‘incomplete sentences’.  How about throw in some Bansky?  

Throw in truth…

Allow the future generation to visualize the consequences of their future actions. Allow them to empathize. It’s like the child who asks “Is the stove hot?” You say “Yes. Don’t touch it.” And of course, just to see if you’re jerking their chain, they touch it <—Insert screaming child here. 

They need to personally experience the sensation. Verbal or physical…they need a trigger.

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Bansky

You know… if I were a government hell bent on creating a generation of  loyal, non-empathetic and  unquestioning followers….I’d remove the art….

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Lorain, Ohio : Let’s Play the Blame Game

Lorain, Ohio

The city of Lorain is in a $3 million dollar deficit. Yesterday 20 police and firefighter jobs were on the line. Last night the city came to an agreement  which will allow  the police and firefighters  of Lorain, to keep their jobs. However, the real problem is far from over. So let’s play the blame game. Who is at fault for the fragile state of Lorain’s economy? What does the future hold for Lorain?

Just last month I wrote an article on the lack of jobs in America: Where did all the people go?  For the photos, I didn’t need too look far. To be honest, the photos were initially intended to show the beauty in Lorain. But after about three photos, I realized the town center was deserted.  Mind you, there is still a powerful beauty beneath the emptiness. And on the outskirts, there’s no shortage of people in the suburbs. They just aren’t shopping in Lorain. There are a few exceptions, such as: Fligner’s . Their meat and produce draw plenty of traffic.

 

I hear a lot of folks passing around blame directed at local government officials, welfare recipients, the IRS, etc…

How about we look at the blatantly obvious, just for giggles. A majority of Lorain’s  original business and factory owners are long gone.

Let me explain what I mean.

I was around 9 years old when my father was laid off from the shipyard.

“Cleveland Shipbuilding was started in 1886 by Henry Coffinberry and Robert Wallace on the site of the Cuyahoga Steam Furnace Company, which was roughly where Detroit Avenue meets Center Street.  In 1897 they built a new shipyard in Lorain and relocated there, closing the Cleveland yard.  The company was acquired by The American Ship Building Company in 1899 and eventually became their Lorain Division.  It continued as a leading builder of lakers until the late 1970s but closed in 1983.  The site was sold to Spitzers as a steel scrap processing facility but is now a marina: see it from the air on Google here.  shipbuildinghistory.com

I’ll never forget that day. He looked as if he had the weight of the world on his shoulders. It took four long years for him to find another job. My father was/is a Navy man. He’s worked hard all of his life. An electrician by trade, he’s a true blue hardworking American. As a matter of fact, most of the folks around here are! The problem arises, when these hardworking men and women have nowhere to work.

So who do we blame? The mayor? That’s absurd! I’m fairly certain he’s my age or even younger. So I’m going to go out on a limb and bet my life savings that he did not close the shipyard.

How about the retired folks? Must have been them right? Except, most of them were blue collar workers like my dad. Now in their old age, they’re fighting to get by just like the rest of us.

And what about the rest of us? Do me a favor. It’s just a quick test. You don’t have to tell me the answer. Take a look around your house. Pick up a few items and make a mental note of where those things are made.

How many of those items say: Made In The USA? 

I know what you’re thinking. I’m guilty of it to. It’s virtually impossible not to be guilty of owning outsourced products. Fact is: the products outsourced from China are cheaper!  Given the lack of decent jobs, it’s all any of us can afford. The Dollar Tree is completely outsourced. Given the choice between a plate for $1 or a plate for $5 (and they are identicalmost will go for the $1.  The other problem is a humanitarian one: Who is building all of that stuff in China? And how many hours are they being forced to work. It’s everywhere, not just in China. They’re working 60-70 hour work weeks,  for pennies on the dollar.   I recently had reason to look into it and quickly became jaded. Once I really started digging, I did manage to find a few US suppliers. So if you look, they do exist.

Moving onto those with a college career, the problem stays the same.

Let’s say we manage to squeeze out enough for a college degree in medicine. We will spend years paying back those loans and the rest of our career paying an insanely high medical malpractice insurance. We are after all, a nation of sue crazy individuals. We can’t wipe our own rears without a lawyer these days. (Our outsourced/rebranded toilet paper may cause a rash). 

Maybe a teaching degree is the way to go? If we love the Common Core  <- insert sarcasm here, then we’ll go for it. Just know that anything we say to delicate little Johnny, may result in job loss or a lawsuit or both. So let’s leave those poor little kids be. They’re always truthful and teachers are  just mean. 

Small business owners are suffering as well. Given the choice between a McDonald’s $1 rubber patty, or the local ‘mom and pop’ shop’s homemade one; we go for the rubber. Ironically, in order to save a buck on a burger, we will spend thousands in medical costs down the road. Yes…I know…right?!?!  

Here’s the thing though: If we go ahead and spend that extra buck on our local businesses, we are putting money back into our city. Imagine that? You don’t say??? And small business owners will be able to employ more locals. Wow!  And pay them more! Wow….really?!?!?! 

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Or we could just keep feeding the McDonalds CEOs. It’s entirely up to you and me. In the case that we do continue feeding the McDonalds Corporation, I suppose we really have nobody to blame then do we? I sure hope we have decent health insurance. (I don’t know about you, but my deductibles are insane!)

Here’s the reality: Yeah, currently things suck a little.

Can we fix it? The good news is YES!

Instead of taking daily trips to McDonalds, we can eat at home and save up for a nice meal at one of the family owned diners. Stop being all consuming. Let’s face it, we all buy a whole lot of crap we don’t need! If the demand is gone, so is the supply. Start DEMANDING American made products. March into Walmart and ask them for their made in the USA products. If they don’t have any then leave. Do it everywhere and do it often!

Trust me, we can all live without that $1 pink plastic storage container. Part of the problem is that we’ve become a nation of instant gratification addicts.   It’s become so easy to go for the quicker option.

And it shows in our children. They’re entitled now. We break our backs to pay in the hundreds for some stupid shoes. SHOES!  We are buying a NAME! Some of the shoes are the cost of a house payment. But children have learned from us that we should hide our real ‘status’. Nobody wants to admit they’re struggling. Nobody wants to admit their total debt. ( Just because you are not in default, does not mean you are not in debt. If you have a credit card…guess what? You’re in debt! ) But we do it anyway! Why?

Because “Mom…all my friends have them! Do you want me to get picked on?” 

    Well…no…of course not.

We don’t want our kids to have to deal with adversity…cuz…wait…

   WHY THE HECK NOT?

The real world will tell them NO! The real world will chew them up and spit them out! And when they find out it’s not as easy as ‘the mommy who always said yes’, said it was…well…I suppose there’s always Prozac. There are plenty of ‘Big Pharma’ companies ready and willing to parent our kids for us.

In the end, who should we blame?

Us…we  should blame us…as a whole…as a unit. We should blame ourselves.

 

 

 

 

 

Taking the new oven for a test drive: Red Velvet and Ambrosia

My husband found a deal for WhirlPool applances. At first, I was iffy on the stainless steel….simply due to the fact, that it’s next to impossible to keep fingerprint free. And since I photograph food…well…you get where that may be a tad annoying.

However, one week in…and minus the endless bottles of stainless steel cleaner, I honestly do love the look and feel of the appliances.  (Albeit..if anyone can suggest a good cleaner, I’d appreciate it). And with fall promptly at my doorstep, red velvet came to mind!

So how did it go,  you ask?

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Well….my cakes cooked evenly, the color stayed in tact, the aroma is fantastic and the applainces look great….

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But for the love of all that’s HOLY.….somebody please tell me how to keep it spotless?!?!?!?!?!

Note: Don’t forget the Ambrosia Chocolate and Strawberries…..

Welcome to another year of blindly following…

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It’s that time of year again…when my children head back for their lessons on mediocrity and fitting in with the status quo. Meanwhile, teachers are joyfully preparing for another year of being told what to teach. Although, I’m sure they’ve paid in the thousands for a degree in their field in the hopes of instilling a love of learning in students, only to find that their primary goal is teaching their students: how to test well, what their students should think and how to do so in the least offensive manner…as per government instruction….and it really doesn’t matter what’s going on in the life of the child or the parents, as the teacher will undoubtedly be held accountable for the end result...even though technically…they aren’t allowed to teach. Ahhhhhh….bliss.

And I will spend 90% of my day, trying to undo the sheep mentality, fill in the missing spots of the watered down politically correct social studies curric and over-all wildly rip my hair out when my son comes homes with a full page worksheet asking him to explain and draw a diagram to solve the age old problem of 2 + 2.

At some point we’ll try to find some good old fashioned ‘park’ time, as we wouldn’t want the kids to fidget while tolling away on yet another ‘sit still and stare at the board for 8 hours’ type of day. But don’t worry….I’m sure if they do fidget, there’s some sort of government drug I can put them on. Who needs to actually get up and stretch their legs anyway?

Welcome to the start of a new blissful school year! Have A Fantastic Year! (Gag…cough…sputter…)


On a side note: My mother was a teacher and Guidance Counselor. Times have changed a bit since she started teaching, but it was my mother’s instruction at home….or should a say ‘un-teaching’, as in her allowing me to voice my own opinions and views (actually…she encouraged it), that allowed me to discover who I am. I was allowed to disagree and given the opportunity to articulate my own view point. There was never only one ‘right’ way. Thanks for that mom. You didn’t always agree with me and actually…you took the time to debate it out. In doing so, you showed me that my voice mattered. Sometimes, I moved over to your side, at other times…you moved over to mine. Either way, just you taking the time to have the discussion…that’s the true essence of teaching. You Rock! Hopefully, I am instilling those same principals in my own children (actually….I know I am. Little stinkers are pretty darn stubborn!)

Classic Meatloaf Burgers

HOMEFREEKIDS.COM

When dealing with a larger family, the best way to cut costs on the food budget is s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g what you have.  I learned early on that milk, rice, noodles and bread can really expand a meal. And while it’s best to use produce, sometimes that lovely container of bread crumbs is the ultimate lifesaver.

Start with ground chuck, an egg or two…depending on how many you’re making, Worcestershire Sauce (1-2 TBS depending on amount), some favorite seasonings and bread crumbs. I prefer fresh crumbled bread, however I just happened to have some breading leftover from last weeks pork chops.

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Mix well and make your patties.

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For toppings: anything goes. I’m out of mushrooms today…I know…very sad….however, I had plenty of salad greens, tomatoes and onions.

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I’m also very fond of Gouda Cheese.

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Grilled, Oven Broiled or Pan Fried….Meatloaf Burgers are always a hit and there are usually plenty to go…

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The PARCC: Well, that was rather unexpected..

The PARCC..yeah. The abbreviation we’ve all come to know and love ~ yes, that would be sarcasm. Yesterday was my daughter’s turn. You know, the one I wrote about in the post just prior to this one. 13 with the weight of the world on her shoulders, never one to make waves, she pulled a mind scramble on me and created her own little tsunami yesterday.

Yesterday morning, I woke her at the usual time. 5:30 am… I know…rather early isn’t it? Anyway, she had to catch the bus by 6:30 am. Upon glancing at her disheveled appearance, I naturally asked what the problem was. And true to her empathetic nature, she unleashed a whirlwind. She explained that the PARCC was to be given that morning. As a studious pupil…and she is (we’re talking tears over a B on a test, hours of pondering over one single algebra problem and multiple trips to library in any given week…She  has never  NOT been present at an honor roll ceremony and her principal informs me, she won’t be present for her senior year, because she will have graduated prior to) this child of mine, she had concerns for her teachers. She said she knew the PARCC wasn’t a test for her, but for them. And while she’s always scored well above average on state tests, this test  was different. Now she had reached the age of understanding. She knew the meaning behind it. With the pressure she puts on herself (I swear…it’s not me. I BEG her to put down the homework and go to sleep!), she was feeling even more pressure to do PERFECT...no errors… for if she did, she felt her teachers whom she adores, would lose pay or even their jobs.

What?!?!

I was floored. Here’s a girl who at the ripe old age of 13, knows work ethic, has dreams of an ivy league college, has thrown the word ‘memorization’ to the wind and actually bothers to LEARN her subjects…she never goes against the grain and as middle children everywhere do….her race to perfection…to stand out, has always prevented her from voicing an opposing opinion to an authority in any way, shape or form.

While I knew that as some point, her heart would finally collide with her brain, I didn’t expect it to be at age 13. Although, truly, I was hoping it would happen sooner, rather than later. An education is pointless, if you don’t have the courage to use it.

We discussed the test for a bit, as she rushed around trying to get herself together. Finally, after the tears started to flow out of fears of not doing well enough, I said “Lil Miss, there are times in life when you need to make a judgement call. I see your struggle and in this moment I’m so very proud of you. I see you. I see who you are and I’ve caught a glimpse of who you will become. You aren’t an unruly kid looking for a way out of a test. For a mini-vacation or just anti-authority. And it’s children like you, who will grow to change the world for the better. The choice is yours. I trust you to make the best possible decision for you. Ask yourself…what do you want YOUR world to be like, when you have children?”

She asked what would happen if she just refused to take it. The question sort of stunned me. I hadn’t filled out an opt-out form. I hadn’t filled one out, because doing so would imply that I needed to get the states permission to exempt her from a test, that I hadn’t given permission for her to take in the first place.  The state uses HER hard work on the PARCC to do what is supposed to be THEIR jobs…which in turn = free child labor…hey…isn’t that illegal? oh…my bad. Hypocrisy is perfectly legal now.  And  I don’t recall voting in yet another way to add pressure to an already overflowing pile of bureaucratic bullshit , to begin with. Why? Because we only vote in the people (after listening to their endless charade of fairy tales, and  promises of goodness and light), not the load of horse-dung they produce after the fact. I mean sure…there are lots of bills and nonsense put before the heads, however, a vast majority never see the light of day.

I told her she basically had several options. Don’t lift pencil to paper, fail it…on purpose or just take the test. Whatever her choice, I’d back her up. I even gave her my work number and told her, if there was any sort of trouble, give the paper to the teacher.

Now here’s where it get’s…interesting. Actually, I didn’t even believe her! When she said she was going to refuse it, honestly… I laughed. I said “You?!? You who never makes even a ripple? You’re going to refuse it???”....I just KNEW I would never get a phone call, because I KNEW she wouldn’t do it.

And WOW, was I wrong….

So yesterday, I get home from work and my husband (who was completely in the dark as to our earlier conversation) says to me “Ummmm…so, you know what I never expected?”  Me: “No…what?!”  He replies “A phone call from the principal about C~~~~~~  …….   WTF did I MISS????

Here’s the point where I dropped everything and my jaw hit the floor. And honestly, I just started laughing. I was absolutely floored! LIL MIss??? Are you kidding me? She actually did something ‘wrong’???

Naturally that flipped over real quick to “Oh no! What did you say? Did you back her up???”

To which he said “I’m so confused. I have no idea what’s going on here!  ( Wise decision) The principal called and said C~~~~ had filled in EVERY SINGLE CIRCLE on the PARCC, and while the school was not angry, they had concerns, because it was so unlike her and that she had been sweating and shaking so badly in class…..they had to send her to the restroom!”

Again….my jaw….yeah…at this point, it had made it’s way to the basement. Followed quickly by…”I better call the school”…

After a wonderful chat with the school principal, who again, was not angry in anyway….was very cordial  and made it clear that he knew C~~~~~  had never been any sort of trouble maker… was a fabulous student and he’d only wanted to verify  what C~~~ had said. And what C~~~ had said was that I had told her she had my permission.

About 10 minutes later, Lil Miss walked in the door. She had never even been confronted by any school staff, so she didn’t even know about the phone call. So I  asked her…”how did it go?”. She said she filled in all the dots…I asked why she filled in ALL the dots and didn’t just mark random answers. She said “By filling in all the dots, I don’t throw my teachers into the frying pan. They’ll know I did it on purpose. They won’t think I simply didn’t know the answers, thereby…my teachers don’t look like bad educators.” 

ummm….ok….I really can’t argue that. Then she said, she did however do the essay portion. But instead of the writing what was expected, she wrote the reason for her behavior. She wrote, she wouldn’t participate in the PARCC, because it wasn’t the states job to judge her teachers, based on the scores of the masses. It was her job and her parents…and she and her parents,  thought  her teachers were great. ( I removed awesome here, because I can’t recall if she’d written the word awesome or said it. It could have been ‘great’…she’s at school now, so I can’t ask)

I suppose…I really can’t argue that. Funny thing is, she still took a test…just not the PARCC. This was a test that I hadn’t expected. I can’t even decide if it was hers or mine? I suppose for her, it was a test to see if she had the courage to stand up for herself and those around her (although again…no child should be put in a position, where they have the pressure of knowing, that THEIR own abilities, may or may not cost an adult…a raise, a dip or their jobs altogether. An adult that they respect and care about. That’s not a child’s job! SHAME ON YOU BIG BROTHER!)

And I guess for me…the test was one of conviction….was I raising sheep or human beings? Amazing, articulate, logical and yet curious to the point of breaking through boundaries, empathetic, compassionate and with a wealth of knowledge and zero indoctrination…knowing that a beautiful mind can only  thrive in an open one. Learning all sides prior to making an informed decision, regardless of the subject matter. From religion, to politics, to education, to expression….from the emotional need to override our brains, to shutting off the hysteria and letting a cooler head prevail. Sure…reaching perfection is a goal, just like any other….but knowing when to let it go, when to screw up, when to color outside the lines…that’s simply flawless.

PS: How did she find out what the PARCC was for?  We hear the words ‘critical thinking’ on a daily basis. We say we want them to use it. We preach about it’s importance and slam anything that goes against it. However, critical thinking requires not only the written resources, but the ability to research, understand and put to use all that we have learned. Taking the knowledge you have gained and using it to create an informed opinion, is at it’s very core. Her teachers have never mentioned the  purpose of this test, only asking that they eat a good breakfast and focus. And if it’s believed in anyway, that this child was swayed, know this….critical thinking is not the goal, if the idea is to raise a follower….critical thinking, in it’s true form, raises leaders. We shouldn’t  tell our children they need to be brilliant and score high…and then tell them to shut-up when they tell us  all they’ve learned.  My child’s teacher’s,  don’t require the PARCC to prove that they’ve succeeded. They’ve already proven that in spades. So how did she find out about the true meaning behind the test? Her teachers did their jobs….they taught her to read…