Friday, October 21, 2011
Thursday, September 22, 2011
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Coming together is a beginning.Keeping together is progress.Working together is success.- Henry Ford
Monday, September 5, 2011
Penitentiary or Plie?
Ken Robinson’s Out of Our Minds, a book exhorting the educational system not to “raise standards” that simply reinforced hierarchical notions that literacy and mathematics are the only intelligent subjects, but to reinvigorate the education model in ways that incorporate creativity—the innovative creativity necessary in our swiftly shifting, technology-riddled, global world.
Robinson (Sir Robinson, should I say) asks us to reconsider our evaluation of the arts. Why are art programs always the first to be cut? When we find music therapy to be invaluable in aiding special needs students, when visual art is so therapeutic and even advantageous in today’s advertising market, when theatre/film physically and emotionally convicts the soul, and when DANCE—yes, John Calvin’s abhorred and verboten art form—when DANCE can save the young convict’s soul.
I know a young man whose name is not Tyrell, but we’ll call him that, since Confidentially is King, and Tyrell is a darn good name. Tyrell has no electricity in his home, no food other than unpopped popcorn (due, of course, to lack of electricity), and no proper parenting. A neighbor highlighted his home as the location of the next shooting, since teens flock there like cougars in [or packing] heat. But play the right jams, and Tyrell will dance, and even sing, with a musical intelligence incredible for a 10-year-old.
Tyrell isn’t a savant, unlike Derek Paravicini—a blind, likely autistic young man who cannot tie his shoes, but plays piano with uncanny brilliancy. But Tyrell does illustrate Robinson’s point: there are many intelligences, and some of them—the artistic ones, especially—are disregarded or ostracized in school. When an artistic intelligence is explored through a disciplined medium, incredible results can follow. Robinson illustrates as follows:
Dance United is a professional contemporary dance company based in Bradford in the United Kingdom. The company provides a dance-based education program called the Academy, as an option for young offenders within the local criminal justice setting….The participants have included young people convicted of robbery, drug offenses, burglary, and assault….The aim of the Academy is not simply to help young people to avoid re-offending; but to help them to discover their real potential an their innate capacity to succeed. (Robinson 133)
Though many were skeptical of the Academy’s program, contemporary dance proved to be “the one thing where I’ve seen people make the most progress over the shortest period of time,” explains a member of Dance United. Within just the first three weeks of the twelve-week program—when the participants professionally stage their first performance—many have already achieved a sense of discipline and self-confidence to approach challenge with physical and emotional strength. Jim Brady, a professional member of Dance United, says that participant Daryll didn’t even speak when he first joined the program, but now
He’s physically transformed by it. He’s now concerned about nutrition and diet and general health. He’s articulate and he’s speaking. He carries himself very differently. He’s confident and that all happened in the space of three weeks. That’s quite a transformation. (Robinson 135)Penitentiaries rarely succeed in reforming young people; prisons rarely achieve rehabilitation. Why don't we try a few pliés? And why not transform our educational system to start with--incorporating hip-hop, ballet, film production, pottery, miming, puppetry, and so much more from the onslaught? Let's get creative in solving educational difficulties, and solve our children's penal difficulties en route.
Friday, August 19, 2011
“In idleness there is perpetual despair.”
Today, I'm excited about an initiative from...
When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor... and Ourselves
by Steve Corbett and Brian Fikkert. Check it out on Amazon.com if you like.
This book lays out Biblical principles and practical advice for alleviating poverty both in the majority world and in North America. Poverty, however, is not understood merely as material, but as spiritual and psycho-social. In short, poverty is understood in the context of a person's relationship to God, to herself, to others, and to the world. From this standpoint, the authors encourage their readers to (a) empower/enable the poor to work towards their own relief or development--spiritually, personally, socioeconomically, and so forth.
But I'm not here to write about the book itself, though I highly recommend it, for I am terrifically excited about the following initiative:
Sponsor the (urban) poor to work, part-time, for the ministry or members of the ministry.
A sponsorship might look like this—
· I have a friend/contact, Tiana (or Joe), who is searching for but unable to find a job.
· My church secretary (or maybe a local carpenter, etc) is willing to take her on and show her the ropes.
· Tiana agrees to work part-time—10 or so hours a week—under strict stipulations, like promptness and good behavior, for a set period of time. If she meets the stipulations, she is guaranteed help with job searching, resume writing, and cover letters, and she gains an excellent reference.
· The church pays her $3 an hour; I sponsor her for $6 an hour.
· MEANWHILE another woman could be sponsored to do childcare for the first… do you see where this is going?
Now what’s so exciting about a sponsorship? As we said at my college writing center, “we make better writers, not better papers.” In short, sponsorships enable people to work—and alleviate their own material, spiritual, and psycho-social poverty. Let’s break it down to show how!
· Principle of Inertia—Physics and psychology seem to have a few things in common: a person in motion stays in motion, and a person at rest stays at rest, until acted upon by an outside force. A person at rest (a.k.a. in a state of joblessness, and perhaps in a mental rut of shame and inadequacy) feels powerless to make a positive change, and therefore does obtain a job. But if they get a little momentum going—if an outside force offers a viable part-time job—they will feel empowered to do more things crucial for their psycho-social-economic wellbeing. This principle is well illustrated in counseling practices, when a depressed patient is encouraged to do the little things—like shower and practice dental hygiene—so that they will be affirmed by successfully completing something, and feel enabled to tackle more challenging tasks.
· To those who have, more will be given; to those who have not, what they have will be taken away—This Scripture verse (see Luke 19:26) always scared me a bit, but we see this principle in real life. Those who have things, like money or connections, can easily acquire more via interest and networking. Get ‘em a job so they can get a job!
· Alleviate the poverty of the human spirit—Each person will not be working in a hostile environment, but in a place where others are genuinely invested in their success. Christian companionship will not only tutor them in the ethics and skills of the workplace, but also in the greater work of knowing and serving God.
· Kill the God-complex—Corbett and Fikkert remind us that we middle- and upper-class Americans are also impoverished. We also lack a perfect relationship with God, ourselves, others, and the world. Sponsoring someone takes an act of faith; I currently only have a part-time job making $10 an hour. Yet Scripture tells us,
You will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God… Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, men will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else” (2 Cor. 9:11-13).
My friends, you now know what I’m excited about. Get excited yourselves in the service of the Lord—and keep me accountable to put my passion into prayer, and my prayer into place, so that sponsorships might become a reality in Pittsburgh, PA!
Send me your comments and critiques, buckeroos! Becca is signing off.