I snapped yesterday in class. And it wasn’t pretty.
It happened after I gave a presentation to my class about the people, artists and brands who inspired me. I created a slideshow, showed video clips and shared about why they were special, and the patterns that link through them and how the students would benefit by thinking and going deeper into researching their own likes and dislikes; while understanding the reason behind the way these artists work.
I gave this presentation in turn – after hearing the class share a 5 to 10 minute presentation about who and what they’re inspired by last week. I prompted the presentation from the students after a round of exasperated hand-wringing and questioning yielded no answer to the question “who inspires you”. None in particular it seems. All of it a hazy blur. Let me be clear – some of them knew vaguely what they like. They just don’t know names, faces, etc; or how to articulate what it is that they like about the works they see. And that’s the biggest problem – either they’re barely skimming the surface or they’re not communicating their thoughts well. Either or; it was a problem nonetheless.
So when I went deeper and showed them what it means to go digging around for information (I was talking about Maira Kalman who researched about Abraham Lincoln who collected these findings into a book), I saw yawns. Glazed eyes. I saw people heading out to the restroom. And that’s generally okay with me. Maybe they had really small bladders or maybe they didn’t get enough sleep the night before. Fine. Then I heard shouts of “Wikipedia” – suggesting that it’s the place that people should go to for information – instead of Miss Kalman’s round-about way of going into Lincoln’s garden and collecting leaves, and her writing that seemed to ramble off information. I held my tongue. But when I started to ask about the names of the people who I’ve talked about on screen, a big giant blank went over the class. Names were uttered. Wrong ones. I wanted the names of 5 people. Not 10, not 20. FIVE. My face changed. The insides of my chest burned.
I was angry.
Angry because they were arrogant. Because they were over confident of their (at this point – very limited) abilities. Because of their nonchalance. But mostly it was because I cared. A little too much, I’m afraid.
They got me that list in the end after lunch. And I brushed my anger aside.
When I got back, I realize that I’ve left a lot of things unsaid although deep down I was frustrated at the whole affair. I tend to hold my tongue when I get angry – because I don’t believe in hurting people’s feelings – and so that’s what I did. Because I knew that when words are spoken it’s hard to unspeak them (or for that matter, for the other person to un-hear them). So I held back. Mostly.
But then I got to thinking. I should have told them that if I had Wikipedia, I could look it up myself – what do I need them for? What would the world need of artists or designers then? What would they be? Just another alphabet puncher on Google or Wikipedia? What would they hope to learn if they were confident in their assumption that they knew it all already? Would there be a place in their hearts and mind for knowledge if it was instead already filled up with self-righteous smugness?
Would they recognize golden nuggets of information if it hit them squarely in the face? Would they embrace digging? Would they voluntarily go a-hunting, not knowing what they would find, but revel in the journey instead? The unearthing of information, of facts, of emotions and science, and to put them together again with beauty? With clarity? Or perhaps shaped and moulded by their own hope and desires?
One can only hope.
I can only hope.