06 January 2007

This is Private (Bears!)


When I was in elementary school, in my county (which I have since discovered was one of the wealthiest counties in all of this great nation [don't ask by what standards {'cause I don't know and will be forced to punch you rather than reveal my ignorance}]) they were very concerned in the public schools with students who might be "learning disabled" (LD) or "gifted & talented" (GT). I have come to adopt my mother's view (she worked as a teacher in the very same public school system for years), namely that the distinction was more a matter of public opinion than actual intellectual merit. In both cases, the powers-that-were were seeking out children who demonstrated alternative patterns of thought and recognition. I'm not saying they did their job poorly. I'm only saying the criteria by which they deemed "good" and "bad" were, at best, hypothetical. As a result and as you might imagine, some very bright and crafty kids ended up with the stigma of LD, and some good test-takers ended up elevated to the distinction of GT.

Was such the case with myself? Possibly. I tested three years in a row, each time at the recommendation of my teacher of the time. Each and every time I earned one point within the required intelligence quotient (141...at age 9, mind you) and the decision was made that the result was too ambiguous to signify my transfer to special GT classes or workshops. On the third try, they followed up with a personally administered, oral test. I frustrated the hell from that tester, I'm sure.
"In this picture, is the man walking toward the tree or away from the house?" "Both."
"How do you measure out 4 liters using these containers?" "You fill that one up one-third--" "You can't do that." "Why not?"
"How many prongs does this figure have?" "None. It's a picture."
Nevertheless, by fifth grade I was going to a school that catered to the alternative thinkers. It was certainly a better fit for me than plain ol' school had been, but in retrospect I just wish they could have extended to every student the same listening and consideration they did the "GT" kids. I'm sure there are reasons that this turned out the way it did, but it seems a shame to separate kids in order for them to learn better. I'm put in mind of the educational theories of John Dewey (whom I only know about because my Uncle John lent me his copy of this book when I asked for a good book on American History: The Metaphysical Club). It just seems like everyone is capable of critical thinking, but so few teachers appreciate the reward of encouraging it in their students.

Anyway. I'm getting a little off-point. Blame my excessively liberal education.

When I started this 'blog (back in ot-six, it was), I barely understood the concepts involved. (I was walking away from the house, or whatever the crap was the "wrong" answer.) I mean, I've read the press. I know this is the sort of sudden public publishing everyone was getting twisted up about when the interwebz started getting more accessible. I know that what I write gets out there and is open to an audience. In a sense, it's a further exhibitionism for someone who is already pretty obsessive in his need for an audience. I know this, and yet I've already accomplished a few irresponsible acts on this page o' mine. People who know me will read, or have read, things about myself that they don't like. Or, perhaps with more hazard, things they do like and take to heart in a way that wasn't intended. I'm being intentionally obtuse, and I beg your forgiveness.

Blame my religious upbringing (Unitarian Universalism).

In another sense, it's hard to say that such was not my intention all along. As an actor, I've had to confront the possibility on far more occasions than your average bear that my actions (and inaction) have more intention behind them than is initially apparent. I'm not a believer in the ethos that "everything happens for a reason." I just happen to practice a craft that makes every effort to mirror life with cunning verisimilitude, and that craft relies most often on the intention of a character for dictating how a scene should be played. In other words, we always want something. Sometimes we are conscious of what we're doing to achieve that certain something...and sometimes, we aren't.

One of my favorite Rilke quotes says something to the effect of: The mother is the only truly fulfilled artist, because she achieves what all other artists aim for--to produce something of oneself, to have it live in the world, independent of its creator. (Someday I'll find that exact damn quote again, I swear. It's prose. It can't be that difficult.) I aspire to this every day, I think. Call it a defect, a constant need for approval, or a compulsion, an essential insecurity that drives me to constantly prove to myself that I exist, or call it a calling. I don't really care what you call it; it's there and I get pretty dang miserable when I don't feed it. So of course, given the opportunity to publish my thoughts and ideas to the world-at-large, I'm going to do it. And I'm going to write words that will have effects beyond my control, no matter how safe I try to play it. So be it. It's not like I've spent my life up to this point trying to play it safe, and just maybe I'll learn a thing or two in the process.

Then again, maybe I won't. I am, after all, proudly a bear of very little brain. I just happen to test well.

2 comments:

Patrick said...

Sorry if I created a worry where there should be none. And I don't we have to assume that we were irresponsible if other people take what we write amiss; we just need to examine their reactions on a case by case basis, and decide if we should have anticipated it.

Jeff Wills said...

I agree. Still, some people tend to feel more responsible. It's just a part of their natures. ;)