"Parroting" vs. "Picturing"
Two kinds of learning, each with it's own test to see if you have learned anything. Parroted imitation. Creative visualization.
Now the important question.
Aren't you imitating when you visualize?
The answer. No. Why? Because this is simply impossible. All human beings draw as differently on the screens of their minds as they do on paper. In fact, no human being draws the same learning the same way twice, no matter what the medium. This makes it even more unlikely that two people will ever visualize the same learning the same way.
Herein, then, lies the truth about reading and about creativity in general.
How many of us are creative? All of us. Each and every single human being is filled to the brim with creativity.
How can I say this, what with so few people evidencing this idea?
Because we each, in our own ways, picture whatever we know. We picture words. We picture feelings. We picture people. We picture life. More so, every time we picture, we picture differently. Except, of course, when we have been injured, in which case, we can no longer picture as our ability to create pictures has been BLocked.
Can you now see how so many words we read, write, and say to each other are actually "empty words."
"Empty words" are simply words people speak about people, places and things whom they can no longer picture. And how do we lose this ability?
Sadly, the very people from which we learn words often injure us the worst. How? By reinforcing, whether through grades or through personal force, that we should conform to the world as we entered it, rather than to do what we came to do: make it a different and better place.
Can you now see how testing children for how well they imitate is an inauthentic test for learning? No surprise so many people place so little value on schools and teachers, and in fact, so little value on learning itself. We do not learn in most schools and from most teachers. Why? Because most schools and most teachers teach by memorization rather than by visualization. This means most children learn to prefer imitation over creation.
To me, teaching children that "learning" is "being able to successfully mimic others" means we kill the creative spirit in most of the children we teach. Sadly this often happens at the very times when our future young Einstein's and Ben Franklin's would be most inspired. Speaking of which, have you ever noticed in the writings of such men and women that the greatest geniuses literally speak about having visualized in their greatest moments of discovery?
I call these experiences of personal creativity, "emergences," and I believe they are the only proof of learning. True learning, then, always includes something which is personally creative, even if only in the way we picture it. In fact, before I go, allow me to tell you about an experience I had with a therapist / teacher, an experience in which I struggled to keep someone from killing my love of learning.
Sadly, I had no idea this was even going on at the time.
Why Reinvent the Wheel?
A few years back, I met a therapist who seemed to be a warm hearted, open man. On seeing this, I felt drawn to him and to have him join our Emergence Teachers Group, a group which meets and explores Emergence once a month.
When I asked him if he'd like to join, he wisely asked me what Emergence was like. After all, what healthy person would join a group without first knowing what it was about.
When I began to tell him, though, I repeatedly felt flattened, and despite trying for more than an hour to get across the good in what I do, I left having failed to get across a single point.
Naturally, I felt down. And sad and defeated in fact. And to be honest, I knew that the size of my reaction could not possibly be coming just from him. He had not said one unkind word. At least none I could picture as unkind at the time.
Days later, when I began to come out of shock, I remembered his closing comment to me: "So and so has already done this, so why are you reinventing the wheel?"
Seven months and several more failed attempts later, I had an emergence about what was happening. I realized my feeling so defeated had been coming from my hearing this therapist repeatedly reduce my work to what he already knew, this despite the fact that he had never read a single word I'd written nor personally investigated any of the truths I had expressed. And on top of his insults, he had repeatedly added, "why reinvent the wheel."
Honestly, these interchanges hurt me so, I lost sleep over them several times. Finally, an answer came to me in a dream.
So what would I say to him if I were to see him today?
If he were to ask me me, "Why reinvent the wheel?," I'd answer, "To become a wheel maker."
This is what emerged in me; that we are all wheel makers including him. However, like the little boys and girls who lose their ability to believe and enjoy this creativity, I could see he was doing to me what had been done to him, that indeed, he was one of the very children I had been trying to champion.
What emerged in me, then, was the idea that no one becomes a "real" wheel maker or anything else authentic without first having experienced the discovery process for themselves. Further, this holds true for all learning, whether this be learning to read and write or learning to see the world in new ways.
Do you want your child to learn to read? Your child must reinvent words. Do you want your child to learn to write, then your child must reinvent writing. Why? Because the beauty inherent in reading and writing becomes visible only in the creative processes these arts embody.
Teach a child to reinvent words, you inspire them to create their own. Teach a child to parrot words and you kill his or her creative possibilities. And any joy he or she may have been feeling.
The choice is up to you.
Up to us, really.
Let's be there for the children.
P. S. You may have noticed, I deliberately left pictures out of one of these five articles; the "Mental Learning" article. Did you feel them missing? I did.
Well if you did, I've included one more picture below to make up for the one which was missing.