A Modern Day Tragedy

“A writer uses words, a musician notes, an artist visual perceptions, and all need some knowledge of the techniques of their crafts. But a creative individual intuitively sees possibilities for transforming ordinary data into a new creation, transcendent over the mere raw materials.” –Betty Edwards, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain

I work in a left-brained world—language-based, sequential, and schedule-driven. Edward’s description of creativity stuns me this morning as I contemplate the contrast of her insights with the present educational system.

Last weekend, I set aside my left-brain obsession with production and entered the magical world of artistry. The cravings for creativity overtook my normal compulsion to stay on course.

The results warm my soul.  As one of my students wrote, “turns my frown upside down.”

“The right brain—the dreamer, the artificer, and the artist—is lost in our school system and goes largely untaught.” -Betty Edwards

Yet the workweek is well underway, and I’m wondering once again, what has become of our educational system? Groans from disappointment erupt into unanswered questions.

I see the ill effects that artistically void learning has on students’ minds. By middle school, the concept of creativity does not readily spark most. I worry over human souls so young and yet so void of innovation. My attempts to offer opportunities for imagination and artistic exploration often drip down blank stares.

“…the right hemisphere hasn’t a good sense of time and doesn’t seem to comprehend what is meant by the term “wasting time,” as does the good, sensible left hemisphere.” -Betty Edwards

And yet, many of my students do not fit into the left-brained world of education. They lack sequential processing, time management, and language aptitude. They are prime candidates to be artists, evidenced by their lack of ability or concern with staying on task, fluidity with spatial tasks, and use of intuition.

“We certainly are aware of the effects of inadequate training in verbal, computational skills. The verbal left hemisphere never seems to recover fully, and the effects may handicap students for life. What happens, then, to the right hemisphere that is hardly trained at all?” -Betty Edwards

This, in my left-brained estimation, is a modern-day tragedy.

*I have begun a series on my creativity website http://refrainfromtheidentical.com
that features hand-crafted, acrylic painted, and uniquely decorated masquerade masks . I invite you to visit and subscribe so you won’t miss a post.

20 Replies to “A Modern Day Tragedy”

  1. There is no room or time for creativity in today’s classroom. Curriculum and daily lessons plans are mandated to pass the state grade level tests. Fortunately, the creative mind is not taught. I think one is born with such talents. No one taught me how to carve chess pieces out of cherry and walnut. However, as you present here, children need the time, place, opportunity and mentorship to develop these talents which may not be available in the home. Today 1,400 teachers were pink slipped in Broward county which is just north and abuts Miami Dade country. Our cuts will be announced this week. There will exists no enrichment programs (most already cut)or teachers for them after this. Band, chorus, art, drama, speech and debate and some sports will be eliminated. We now have two generations that know that 5×7=35 but no one to demonstrate why or how or to show that it may equal 34 or 36 under other circumstances. I n a world that demands improvisation how will we survive as a country?


    1. Carl, I couldn’t agree with you more. I was fortunate to have a mother who provided time and supplies for my sister and I. I do not remember lessons but just lots of free play with arts and crafts. Mom loved to explore art and often took lessons. To this day, a trip to her home includes a tour through her latest projects. I worry for the children who do not have a home environment that provides these kinds of opportunities. Thanks for sharing your experiences and insights.


  2. Love the mask; it’s beautiful! Cute comment: a frown is smile turned upside down. I like it. I’m sure you are making an impact on your students with all your creative ideas.


  3. “The right brain—the dreamer, the artificer, and the artist—is lost in our school system and goes largely untaught.” -Betty Edwards
    I think even worse, the artists, musicians, innovators, or poets (and others), are made to feel their gifts are not needed or valued. Tragic consequences result as we insist there is one right way to learning, to knowledge, to understanding. Let us instead focus only on a five paragraph essay and call it great writing. Let us concentrate of doing the times tables through 12s in X number of minutes and call it excellent understanding of mathematics.
    We forget the greats in so many fields are artists, dreamers, innovators, philosophers, and more. Without dreams we would not have aircraft, lights–I could go on and on. We remember Pythagoras for for a theorem, yet he was a philosopher and more.
    Are we selling our birthright when we substitute regurgitation of factoids for deep and real learning and call it high achievement?


    1. Penelope, bravo! Your comment should be a post all its own. What powerful words, “I think even worse, the artists, musicians, innovators, or poets (and others), are made to feel their gifts are not needed or valued.”

      How could anyone argue with this. The eradication of the arts from our schools sends a very strong message about what is valued in education. And yet, society depends upon these very people for our entertainment, business, and social needs. Ironic isn’t it? I write while watching Dancing with the Stars.


      1. JoDee, you probably know one of my daughters is in the arts. She composes and performs– part of her soundtrack: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mr_WbASVhVU . She was on track to be valedictorian and left school for college (accepted on basis of scores, grades, but not HS completion) after her jr. year. Why? Nothing creative. (She is the witch in the movie poster.) Concrete, low level, sequential just does not cut it. I did a “quick and dirty” prezi for a presentation Monday at a CSUB support group on 21st C skills: http://prezi.com/blasrplwryq0/21st-century-curriculum/. These are the skills we need to survive as a people, yet this little youtube shows more about where we are: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lm1sCsl2MQY .
        I may do a blog on this too and refer to yours.
        Eliza, by the way, did earn a college degree in Media Music Production with a minor in business from a major university, despite not doing 12th grade inside the box offered her.


      2. Penelope, I didn’t know your daughter is in the arts. Her story encourages me. I’m very excited to check out these videos tomorrow and hope that you will do a post about this topic; in fact, I hope you do many posts. I believe we need innovative leaders to speak into these issues if we want the present system to change. Yes, yes, yes, these are the skills necessary for 21st Century living. Both of my daughters are in the arts. Their interests span so many different art forms. While in school, they had to study twice as hard as others due to their learning styles. When I think about working within the field of education until retirement age, I envision an innovative role as part of a team of other creative educators. I’m convinced that together we can create new forms of teaching that embrace both kinds of learning… and do not compromise either.


  4. I have been moonlighting as an educator, and may have an offer for a one-year full time job that would start in the fall semester. In any event, I am taking closer notes on your struggles, observations, and joys in working with young people–perhaps some of your wisdom will carry over to me.


    1. slamdunk, Wow! This is very interesting news. I’m curious to know more. I do have an educational website I’m in the middle of reorganizing if you teach middle school students. I make flash animated learning games for them http://jodeelunainnovations.com. I also have some great websites I use for elementary ages. Let me know and I’ll hook you up, as todays teens say.


  5. Great post JoDee!

    It is so hard to keep what most would call “extras” such as music, art, industrial education, and phy-ed in a place of importance in the school budgets when money is tight and testing is up in states like ours. Kids need opportunities to express themselves in ways other than with paper and pencil.


    1. flyinggma, you bring up a good point…money. Unfortunately, an “either or” mindset prevails over innovative integration. There are creative ways to teach and reinforce the standards. Yet these methods take trust in the professionalism of creative teachers. I have extremely high standards for my literacy students but they do include using technology and the arts for expression. I know that these skills are essential in order to compete in our global, high tech society.


  6. Just clicking through member posts at The High Calling and found this piece. My teenage son is a gifted musician, and is about as right-brained as anyone I’ve ever met. My husband and I are both left-brain control freaks extraordinaire. I home schooled both of my kids which, should have provided the perfect environment for him to learn in a way that honored his gifts and strengths. Still, it’s hard for those of us with organizational skills not to try to make everyone else see the world the way we do. Yet. The God who gave my son his gifts is making a way for him, directing him to people who are willing to meet him where he is with his gifts. And, as a mom, I just pray that God will provide someone to remind him to pay his bills and help him find his shoes. I love my gifted, creative, absent-minded, right-brain boy!


    1. Nancy, I loved, loved, loved your comment. Your candid and honest account of life from the perspective of a left-brained parent who raised a right-brainer is classic. How refreshing to hear of parents who get it and then try to provide what they do not naturally possess. My favorite line is “And, as a mom, I just pray that God will provide someone to remind him to pay his bills and help him find his shoes.” Thank you for stopping by and brightening my day!


  7. JoDee – your creativity Never ceases to amaze me. And I know you will keep up the good fight re: creativity/schools one student at a time. My daughters and I are all right-brainers. Makes life a fireworks display of fun, but we can’t do the math a lot!
    Thank you for another awesome post!


    1. Thank you Izzie, how fun to have right-brained daughters. I so enjoy my girls and the hours we spend in our enchanted world of make believe. It sure makes the harsh realities of the classroom easier to deal with day-by-day. We’re not so good with the math either 🙂


  8. I have found this blog very interesting. I found it while searching the internet for a support group for right-brained people who are not just living in a left-brain world, but working in one. I am a natural artist with a high drive to be creative. I have performed jazz music, been published a couple of times (not yet for pay), and used to do lots of drawing and paintings as a child. There have been a couple of high profile creations including starting a non-profit, which is now defunct. Problem is that I do not have the support I need in my life to make a living in a creative way. I was literally forced into a left-brain profession and have to spend much time on my jobs trying to strip away my creative yearnings and pull back to be the black/white, cut and dry left brain person that the jobs require. It is difficult to do, and demeaning to my identity. It has caused me great distress and depression in my life. I am constantly told that great artists are a dime a dozen and it is not practical to entertain the idea of making a living as one. I have not found a support group yet, but would love to hear from anyone who can relate to being a starving artist in the sense of starving one’s soul for the sake of having a more “stable” profession.


    1. Starving Artist,

      I read your email right before rushing out the door for a long distance commitment but your words stayed with me all day. You expressed the cry of the creative eclectic soul in a way that stunned me. You captured my thoughts and feelings.

      Your message came at an uncanny time. I had spent the morning doubting all of my purposes—self-publishing my first book (intended for people like us) and the creation of http://refrainfromtheidentical.com (a support community).

      In fact, I had just wondered aloud, “Who are my readers?” Then I read your comment and my heart soared. Your words renewed my sense of purpose. A growing number of multi-gifted, artistic people connect and encourage each other online through the Refrain site—couple of whom contribute posts to the website. I invite you to join in with your insights.

      I can also relate to your desire to make a living by uses your artistic talents—another essential discussion.


      1. JoDee,

        Thank you for the reply. You have also given me a renewed sense of hope that my gifts have a purpose. I love to paint pictures with words. You just let me know that my first message on your blog was a powerful expression and that you received it in the way I felt it. It is more than coincidence when we receive just the message we need at just the time we most need it. I will check out that support link. My hope is to one day feel at ease in my own skin by being able to comfortably live my truth. Some are quick to tell others to “follow your passion,” but for many of us that comes with some serious risks and ramifications. It almost takes “living your passion” out of the realm of possibility if you want to consistently support yourself and a family.

        Oh well, I am rambling and should save all this for the support site. Thanks again. Keep your dreams alive, JoDee! Some of us are hitching our wagons to them!



      2. SA,

        Once again, well said and thank you for “Keep your dreams alive, JoDee! Some of us are hitching our wagons to them!” I also have “a renewed sense of hope that my gifts have a purpose,” as you so succinctly put what is in the heart of those struggling to find career expressions for our creativity. I understand the difficulties of which you speak and agree that making a living from following our passions takes incredible risks, even though calculated. My father often says, “It’s not either or but more or less.” This often means multiple jobs until the income of the creative pursuit can sufficiently replace the bread and butter job. I’ve had so many false starts in my life with business opportunities gone bad that I want to get it right this time. I’m looking forward to an ongoing dialogue with you as we ponder these issues.


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