Visionaries + Voices

Northside, a Cincinnati neighborhood, is known for it’s quirkiness. The main drag through town is peppered with offbeat small businesses and non-profit art and literacy organizations. So I knew I was in for a treat when I visited Visionaries + Voices.

V+V is off the main drag in a drab industrial neighborhood dominated by browns and grays: you know you’ve found their space when you see color. The two story mural is an homage to the man who inspired the creation of V+V, Raymond Thundersky.

V+V Mural

V+V Mural detail

Stepping inside, the first thing you see is their small gallery space. Beyond that are working studios: drawing, painting, ceramics, sculpture. Many artists were busy working on the day I visited. The walls and shelves were full of artwork in various stages of creation. Much of the artwork I saw was breathtakingly beautiful.


V+V Gallery

Some of the artists teach workshops at local elementary and high schools. Some of them regularly sell their work for thousands of dollars. Despite this they still face one huge challenge: being accepted into the mainstream art world. These artists are disabled, and their art is still lumped in the questionable category of “outsider art.”


Check out V+V and see for yourself. There you will find artists who are serious about their work, artists who deserve the respect and admiration of the art world. Or attend their fundraiser, Double Vision on May 18, 2013, to buy some artwork and support their cause.


My New Coat


I read a lot. I like to read fiction. Usually something that stretches me a little. Like the classics. But lately I’ve ventured into another reading arena. I’m reading nonfiction classics, mostly of the philosophical bent.

I’m wading through selected readings from Immanuel Kant, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Karl Marx. I’ve started reading Plato and Charles Darwin. Soon I’ll delve into Rene Descartes, Friedrich Nietzsche, Sigmund Freud and others. I’m vaguely familiar with some of these writings, but most of it is new material for me.

As I expose myself to the ideas of each of these writers, I try each of them on as if it were a new coat. I wear it for a while, and see how it fits. Parts of them fit great, others I discard. If I ever finish this experiment, I expect my coat to be a great patchwork of ideas that I have made my own. A very colorful quilt of a coat that always has room for another patch.

Learning about these ideas in the context of their times helps me understand how we got where we are today. I can draw on these ideas, and from the luxury of hindsight, see what worked and what didn’t. I’m finding many correlations in the history of those times and the times we are going through now. What worked then might work now.

Study the writings of these men. Think about the historical context in which they were written. Try on their ideas for a while. Do you see any similarities with today? Do you think some of their ideas might be relevant today?

Dumbing us Down

John Taylor Gatto wrote a book in the 90’s called Dumbing Us Down. In this book he made a controversial argument that our school system was not failing, but in fact was wildly successful. It is successful in what it set out to do: keep itself going and “teach school.”

He listed seven lessons that every schoolteacher teaches when they “teach school”. They are

1. Confusion. Nothing is taught in context, no subject is connected to another subject, nothing is taught in depth.

2. Class position. A student is in a certain class because that is where he/she belong. They might be able to move to another one, but probably not.

3. Indifference. Don’t care too much about anything, it doesn’t really matter, because when the bell rings it’s time to move on to something else.

4. Emotional dependency. A teacher has a lot of power over the children in his/her class. Good students learn to do what they can to please a teacher.

5. Intellectual dependency. Good students wait for a teacher to tell them what to do and what to think.

6. Provisional self–esteem. Another way to put it: they learn conditional love.

7. One can’t hide. There is no privacy, no where to go to get away.

It is Mr. Gatto’s belief that these teachings are leading to “pathologies” in our children. They become children who: are indifferent to the adult world, have no curiousity, have a poor sense of the future, have no sense of history, are cruel to each other, are afraid of intimacy, are materialistic, and are crippled when face with new challenges.

We’ve all been in the school system. Do you agree with Mr. Gatto’s assessment? What do you think can be done to help the schools, and the children?