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Originality vs. Schooling
“Originality is independence, not rebellion; it is sincerity, not antagonism.” George Henry Lewes, an English philosopher, once said this. I for one believe that curiosity and originality go hand in hand. Curiosity and seeking knowledge is a part of life. Curiosity is required for growth, and growth shows independence. This is where originality comes into play. Growing up in this American society, our parents instilled in us the importance of being your own person, and to always be original. What if there was a flaw within that simple statement, “Be original?” There are some people that believe originality is in fact not original at all. Others believe that we are trained to not be original at all. In James E. Porters, “Intertextuality and Discourse Community,” he defines intertextuality as the principle that all writing a speech-indeed, all signs-arise from a single network. Porter is basically stating that our ideas steam from one place. We may think our ideas are original, but we may have gotten them subconsciously from somewhere or someone we don’t even remember. In my dialogic journal, Tony wrote, “Originality is influenced but never stopped. The world can help you think a certain way but never claim your idea.” This brings forth an even greater question. Do we encourage originality or do we actually discourage originality? Some people believe whole heartedly that we discourage it. One adamant believer of this is John Gatto. He believes that the disintegration of originality starts with our school systems. Gatto wrote an article titled, “Against Schooling.” I’m sure you could already guess what the article is about from the title, but Gatto goes on to make valid points. Gatto
Bailey 2 believes that public school cripples our kids; but how? He proves his case by quoting Mencken stating that “The aim is simply to reduce as many individuals as possible to the same safe level, to breed and train a standardized to put down dissent and originality.” He continues with a quote from Houghton Mifflin saying, “Our schools are…factories in which the raw products (children) are to be shaped and fashioned…” In Gatto’s mindset, originality is slowly dying and our school system is to blame. Because of the decline in originality and creativity, “maturity has now been banished from nearly every aspect of our lives.” In response to my dialogic journal, Natasha wrote, “Schooling makes individuals to not be individuals at all, but more of a bland group of people who contain no originality.” With originality basically being frowned upon; is there at least one situation where originality is praised? In Dyson’s study, she wrote about the originality between two school girls named Tina and Holly. The two girls wanted to re-write the story of X-Men; but with only girls. I felt that this insert from Dyson’s book showed some light at the end of tunnel. She actually wrote about a situation where originality is actually encouraged. Tina and Holly’s teacher, Katie gave her students the ability to express themselves through the Author Theater time they had. Steven Strang commented that her study also showed gender barriers/inequalities, leadership, and perseverance. Dyson did an incredible job of proving that there is still some originality being encouraged in schools today. Now I must ask you to think back to a time when your creativity was prohibited in school. I for one have experienced such a thing. Before I started 3rd grade, my school sent a letter to my house. This letter simply stated that we were now going to be wearing uniforms. At that moment in time I felt like that was the worst news to receive. I even remember getting in trouble because my hoop earrings were too big! To this day I still feel like uniforms are the biggest stifle in school systems today. Some people may fail to see the correlation between physical and intellectual originality, but they are pretty much one in the same. The way I see it; to be physically original (i.e. clothing) you must think with an original
Bailey 3 mind (i.e. intellectual originality. It would still work the same way if the situation was switched. To me uniforms are just a minor example of how creativity is stifled in school systems today; and be considered as only the beginning. Now I leave you with this final question. Is originality becoming a thing of the past? Gatto certainly believes so. According to him standardized testing is another way to keep students down and causing them to conform into what society wants them to be. If you look at originality from Porter’s point of view you feel as though originality never really existed. Originality is nothing more than somebody else’s idea. Does that mean that originality is just a figment of our imaginations? I do believe that there is still some originality out there; but to keep it alive we must begin with our schools.
Works Cited Dyson, Anne. “The Blobs and the X-People: New Perspectives on Old Representations.” Writing Superheroes: Contemporary Childhood, Popular Culture, and Classroom Literacy. New York: Teachers College Press, 1997. 66-85. Print. Gatto, John. “Against Schooling.” Harper’s Magazine June 2009. Web. 12 February 2013. Porter, James E. “Intertextuality and the Discourse Community.” Rhetoric Review 5.1 (1986): 34-37. Print.