Monday, November 11, 2013

time the dandelions

In Creative Power, Hughes Mearns tells this story:

"Once upon a time a determined visitor came swiftly into my ninth-grade class and objected because the boys and girls were absorbed in writing. [...] 'I have come from Illinois,' the visitor said, in a tone of almost benumbing authority, 'and have only a few hours in New York. I sail for Europe tomorrow morning. I came here to see creative appreciation, and I think I should be permitted to see it!'

'Do you expect me to turn it on and off -- like a faucet?' I asked, trying my best to warm this lady's professional hauteur.

She said, 'I am Professor of the Methodology of the Teaching of the Language Arts in the Blank Normal College' (I paraphrase the titles, but, my word for it, the original was even more comic), 'and therefore I know enough about the practice of teaching to request that you stop this written work and demonstrate creative activity.'

'But, my dear Professor of Methodology et cetera,' I told her quietly, 'though I should do just that and you should stay all morning you would see just nothing at all.'

'My own thought exactly!' she snapped back. 'Because exactly nothing would happen!'

[...] I lowered my voice still more, so as not to disturb the children. (They were really engaged on a creative job that had absorbed their complete attention, creative appreciation in abundance if the visitor had had any educational vision at all.) 'I have a good stop-watch in my desk,' I whispered and pointed out the window to Morningside Park. 'Do take it and go out, right away, into Morningside Park. Sit down on the grass for an hour and time the dandelions. As the seconds tick away, watch their growth and then come back and report to me. Do you know what you will say? Exactly nothing has happened.'

I found the watch in my desk and tried in dramatic whispers to press it upon her. She edged away from me. I stalked her. 'Do go out and time the dandelions!' I begged. But she would not. She did not speak. She would not even stay. She went quickly away from there."

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