Yep, this is how schools kill creativity

poetry gene Phil Nel

So you’re a high school student. At that time in your life, maybe you’re writing poetry about lots of darkness and death, or maybe you’re a football player who gives little thought to anything inside the classroom.

Emily Dickinson 1Or, okay — let’s ditch the stereotypes. Say you’re a football player who writes a poem with actual emotion behind it. That’s more than a lot of people can do when they’re being forced to churn out a poem for a grade. To the untrained, creativity — writing — isn’t something that can be done on command, without the spark of inspiration.

But one high school football player from Rittman, Ohio actually channeled his thoughts and feelings (in this case, frustration) into his poetry assignment — and he got punished for it. The 16-year-old Nick Andre wrote about his team’s losing season and how the star wide receiver gets more perks than he should because he’s the coach’s son and quarterback’s friend. Andre titled his poem “Stupid.”

Emily Dickinson 2The school called it “hazing” and “harassment,” suspended him for four days, and made him sit out the last two games of the season.

Andre’s response is actually smart, which isn’t surprising considering what he did with his poem. “Who am I harassing or hazing?” he told local news. “I mean, I didn’t state any names.

“It’s like wow, just over doing my school work, I get in trouble, get thrown off the football team, you know get suspended for four days, which could potentially really mess up my grades” (emphasis mine).

So this is how schools kill creativity — by misinterpreting it as misbehavior. It’s like the kid in the back of the class who draws nasty pictures of his teacher, but the art is really, really good. Should that be confiscated and discouraged, or should the teacher make an exception? The difference to a future could be huge.

God forbid a kid write a poem and like it.

Your life is so over: a review of Zombie Blondes

But somehow, it feels different. Everything in Maplecrest feels different.

Zombie Blondes by Brian JamesI went into Zombie Blondes (2010) by Brian James hoping for a fun spin on high school drama. All those oh-so-perfect popular kids … what if they’re really zombies? What poetic justice that would be. It sounded like a light read and a good break for the winter. But what I ended up with was a lot more brainless than I expected.

The book is all about Hannah — Hannah, Hannah, Hannah. She’s just about the most selfish and unsympathetic teenage character you can happen upon. She’s moody to her father, rude to her friends (and might-be friends), and self-pitying even when things are going her way. I know the author was probably trying to make these qualities endearing — a grumpy but lovable misfit who just wants to fit in — but on Hannah, they’re ugly colors.

She’s the new girl in school, and the closest person she has to a friend is Lukas. She flips back and forth from liking him (and calling him cute) to badmouthing him in private and calling him crazy and a freak. Her mixed signals are confusing and annoying. Poor Lukas puts up with all her crap, and even when he gets mad at her and keeps his distance, he winds up forgiving her and suffering more of her insults.

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