When This Is, That Is

Exploring the world of conditionality

“Persist” a Winner in Ebook Competition

One of the books I published through my company, Parami Press, took first in its category in the second annual Global Ebook Awards.

Persist: In Praise of the Creative Spirit in a World Gone Mad with Commerce, by Los Angeles author Peter Clothier, won first place in the Art/Graphics Non-Fiction category. The book is not about art per se, nor does it contain artwork. Rather, it’s a collection of compelling essays offering inspiration and encouragement to artists and creative people of all kinds, especially those who struggle against the stream of commercialism and profit.

In the Introduction to Persist, Peter writes:

Earning a living with art is a fanciful expectation for the vast majority of those we certify as artists with the award of a college degree, thanks largely to a self-supporting, self-perpetuating system that provides teaching jobs for otherwise unemployable artists. What results is a disconnect between what students have been led to expect and the realties that await them . . . and there is an army of the walking wounded out there to prove this point. Our culture celebrates creativity from the earliest age in schools. Children are encouraged to express themselves even before they learn the ABC’s that enable them to do it. So many of our brightest young people dream of careers in music, acting, film, and television, but later find themselves in a career market that offers scant possibility of fulfilling the dream they have been fraudulently urged to dream. I live in Hollywood and go to restaurants. I talk to the servers.

This collection of essays is intended to celebrate and encourage these amateurs—or rather, more honestly, us. Because, though I myself have been fortunate enough to enjoy a good measure of success as a writer, I too am confronted with the reality of a publishing world in which many thousands of worthy writers flounder against the formidable rocks of commercial demands. If I write about the survival of the creative spirit in such a cultural context, it’s because I myself have needed to develop strategies and mind-sets that enable me to persevere with a sense of dedication, self-respect, and persistence that might otherwise seem foolishly quixotic. These essays have been written to remind myself, at moments of discouragement, that I am, first, foremost, and always, a writer—if only because that is what I have been given to do.

 The ebook edition of Persist is available for immediate download in both MOBI and EPUB formats directly from Parami Press through the Gumroad download service. You can also order Kindle and NOOK editions from Amazon or Barnes and Noble.

Of course, the paperback edition is available, too.

On Teaching Children How to Think or What to Think

This showed up one day on my Facebook newsfeed. It’s among the thousands of catchy image quotes that friends like to share. I found one attribution to cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead. Although I couldn’t verify the quote anywhere else, it does seem consistent with other things I’ve read about her.

Teaching children how to think seems a fine idea, don’t you agree? But what does that mean, really? What teachers themselves know how to think? Who are the teachers who know how to teach children how to think? What does “how to think” mean in the first place? 

Most children’s first teachers are their parents. And most first-time parents are, themselves, very young when they have children. Child-rearing is an occupation undertaken with “no experience necessary,” including experience in teaching anything, let alone thinking skills. From my own parental experience, I know that much of what I taught my children—if not explicitly, then implicitly—came from what I learned from my parents. 

“How to think” was not part of my growing-up curriculum. “What to think,” however, was—not only at home but at school. Some things I learned as matters of fact include: the United States is the best country in the world, and good Catholics go to heaven (and, at best, Purgatory for the rest of you). Only later, when I was able to look at these two “givens” objectively—through my own reasoning—was I able to come to different conclusions.

“How to think” implies using reason and logic to analyze information or situations in search of understanding or other desirable outcomes. And that implies the need for a well-rounded education—not necessarily a college degree, but at least some exposure to a variety of topics and disciplines (e.g., history, humanities, physical sciences, civics and political science, religion, etc.) Part of that education comes from exploration and experimentation—whether physically, mentally, or spiritually. In other words, a variety of diverse life experiences. How can you evaluate something without having something else to measure against? 

Also important is an understanding of (or just recognizing) the many biases and fallacies people fall prey to without even knowing it. Salesmen, advertisers, politicians, preachers, and other persuaders are expert in using these to get what they want: which is to convince you it’s what you want too. To me, knowing how to think seems a valuable asset and survival tool (unless you’re living in 1984).

As beneficial as this may seem, however, critical thinking—and the education that fosters it—may be at odds with the Judeo-Christian ethic and core narrative of our country. Both of these are matters of faith, and faith definitely falls into the “what to think” category. 

Martin Luther, the rebellious Catholic priest and principal of the Protestant Reformation, said:

Reason is the greatest enemy that faith has: it never comes to the aid of spiritual things, but—more frequently than not—struggles against the divine Word, treating with contempt all that emanates from God. 

The definition of reason is: “the power of the mind to think, understand, and form judgments by a process of logic.” Reason is dangerous because those who know how to use it may come to different conclusions about things that were once accepted as matters of faith and fact and “because I said so.” 

Animosity to reason is alive even today, at least in some parts of the country. Built into the 2012 Texas Republican Party platform is this statement:

Knowledge-Based Education – We oppose the teaching of Higher Order Thinking Skills (HOTS) (values clarification), critical thinking skills and similar programs that are simply a relabeling of Outcome-Based Education (OBE) (mastery learning) which focus on behavior modification and have the purpose of challenging the student’s fixed beliefs and undermining parental authority. 

So not everyone believes teaching children how to think is a good idea. “What to think”—e.g., fixed beliefs firmly instilled by one’s parents—is the order of the day here. By objecting to this, I don’t mean to imply that we should raise little anarchists without any respect for authority. I believe in teaching respect, especially respect for one’s parents and teachers. But that respect should be founded on love and wisdom and not on fear and guilt. And parents should have enough respect for their children to teach them how to make their own decisions, develop their own consciences, and form their own opinions.

Someone else who doesn’t appreciate the value of education is Karl Rove, who said:

As people do better, they start voting like Republicans…unless they have too much education and vote Democratic, which proves there can be too much of a good thing.

On second thought, he may appreciate the value of education very much. Apparently, a well-educated and thoughtful electorate is something to fear.

Please take the poll, and leave your reasoning in the comments section if you’re so inclined.

 

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