With so many grave events in concurrent quarrel, it seems futile to complain about the state of the arts. Where has the quality gone? The critical thinking? The investment in craft? There is this myth that a university education will somehow offer not just critical thinking but a segue into creativity. Those who believe it confuse didacticism with vision. They place too much trust in institution. I, too, was guilty of this, until I witnessed so much incompetence emerging from writing professors. (I once saw a poem by a PhD in English Literature that began with the line, ‘The heart is a treasure box.’) Deep, huh? Does that sound like someone with good, creative advice? Someone from whom you could learn?
My best educational experience was my high school English teachers. My senior year teacher, especially, had a very smart and fluid mind and I find it interesting that her college major was not literature but fine arts. Mrs. Vaughan. She was a painter, yet she could make connections in literature that I never witnessed from my university professors. Following graduation, I entered university as an English major in the hopes I’d become a great writer. I dropped it after one semester, partly because I did not want to work in a bank. ‘Every English major ends up working in a bank,’ I was told.
But this wasn’t the reason I dropped it, mind you, as I realize the hyperbole in that statement. (Yet admittedly, working in a coffee shop with a mound of debt due to a liberal arts degree did not sound appealing.) Whilst my university time was before ‘the art is only as good as one’s politics,’ I just didn’t feel like I was learning anything that I couldn’t teach myself. I had one professor who was so stolid in his thinking that he would give us quizzes over literary assignments that were detailed to the point of ridiculousness. Basically, one would have to memorize a play in order to pass it. What is the point? Talk about stripping the love from literature—no wonder no one wants to read. Eventually, we students suggested he speak about themes rather than facts. So, he proceeded to write on the board: THEMES 1), 2), 3). Amid such rigidity, how did he miss his calling as an accountant, exactly? (No wonder the banking analogy.) […]