Review of Black Swan, by Darren Aronofsky; also Something for Consideration Regarding Public School Teachers
My main man when it comes to movie reviews is Bill Gibron. Back around the time that the internet first came to be there was a website called filmcritic.com. I discovered him there, I think. Anyhow, I have always appreciated his reviews and found them to be helpful in deciding whether or not to shell out the big bucks for a movie ticket. Over time I have noticed that he has had a particular love affair with Darren Aronofsky. Because of my esteem of Mr. Gibron, I have desperately sought the same love affair, but never quite saw the “genius” that Mr. Gibron did. I really enjoyed Mr. Aronofsky’s films, I just didn’t fall in love with the man like Mr. Gibron seemed to. All that has changed.
H- just began to learn Peter Tchaikovsky’s epic Swan Lake theme on the piano. It is a force of nature even when played with just one note at a time. In any case, this event taken together with a real desire to give Mr. Gibron’s passion one more go led to me viewing Black Swan for a second time. This time around I finally see the genius. Black Swan is the story of a ballet dancer who is trying to be the best as would be indicated by her dancing the role of the swan queen in Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake in some hot shot’s revision of Swan Lake. So it’s a movie about a revision of a very famous ballet that includes themes of sacrifice and pressure to perform etc. But it’s not! It, Black Swan itself, is the revision of Swan Lake for movie-going audiences! And that’s why Mr. Aronofsky is a genius and deserves our attention. He cuts through all our defenses and serves up Tchaikovsky’s timeless story in a new way that forces us to reckon with all of our notions of love and happiness and truth and sacrifice. It’s an amazing film. Watch it. Watch it again.
Perhaps some of you think I am too hard on public school teachers. Here’s something to consider. A public school teacher with an amazing (if any divorce blog can attain such a title) blog mentioned that she finds herself teaching “frustration management” to her students. At this point, I would like to call my roughneck friends to the discussion. You see, when I was working in the oil fields, there was work to be done. Manly work. And yes, I mean that in the gender specific way. Work that men and only men can accomplish. For instance, every time we finished drilling a well, we had to move the rig to a new well. One of the things that this move required was the tightening of nuts onto bolts. The nuts were about the size of a woman’s fist, and the bolts were just over a foot long. The way we tightened these nuts was by swinging a sledge hammer as hard as we possibly could against a hammer wrench which was placed around the nut. Out of a twelve hour shift, how many minutes do you think we were given to not swinging the sledge hammer in favor of discussing how to deal with how frustrating the task was?
Do not hear me say that learning is not frustrating. And remember that I am the one who quit being a “teacher” because I refused to buy into the “be the change” mantra that schools with poor performing students chant. Instead, hear me calling public school teachers to realize that they are making the weather that they are complaining about. No other group–no other group–who controls their destiny does it in such a poor fashion as public school teachers. That’s what frustrates me (and I think most non-public educators).
By way of example, guess which specialty runs the Air Force? Pilots. Guess what pilots do for each other in the Air Force? Take care of each other. They ensure the flying is safe and smart and everyone is compensated well. Public school teachers, on the other hand, cite chapter and verse about all the limitations and massive time requirements etc. that they have to operate within and never once consider that just like Air Force pilots they are the one’s who write the book. Spending time teaching kids how to deal with the fact that learning takes effort? That cannot but be a disservice to the child–and I think teachers know that. So stop doing it. Kids need to learn to hit the hammer wrench as hard as they can and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment after the task is completed and completed well. And the only way to learn this is for teachers to tell the kids that the nuts must be tightened by a sledge hammer. As it stands, the only thing kids are learning is that the nuts don’t need to be tightened. Maybe teachers agree.
“Manly work. And yes, I mean that in the gender specific way. Work that men and only men can accomplish. For instance, every time we finished drilling a well, we had to move the rig to a new well. One of the things that this move required was the tightening of nuts onto bolts. The nuts were about the size of a woman’s fist, and the bolts were just over a foot long.” Just cracked me up.
I think you should have split this post in two though to give the teacher talk the attention it deserves
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Thanks for the good review of Black Swan! The second part of your post is interesting–though I’m not certain how you would defend your gender specific comment, or how it strengthened your thought-provoking comments about teaching.
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My intent with the gender specific comment was to bring balance to the ideal, popular, but demonstrably false notion that anyone can do anything with the reality that in the quest to dig oil out of the earth in as fast and cheap a way as possible, the male human is the best option. The reason I think it strengthens the rest of my comments (at the risk of pushing some folks away) is that just like the ideal and popular notion that anyone can do anything is a misnomer, the ideal and popular notion that children should have a say in how they should be educated is not true either. I attempted (maybe you think I failed) to illustrate that each idea is as radical as the other, therefore, if you can’t get past one, then you won’t understand the other. But there isn’t really a counter-fact to the the oil field reality. Finally, how much more is at stake in the education of a child versus the providing of affordable cars and plastic and all the other petroleum based products we can’t seem to live without (but surely have)?
Thanks, Pete. I don’t think your argument failed when it came to education. I just didn’t get the link between the gender-specific example and the rest of your comments.
I agree: no child can do just anything at all. Parents and teachers have, perhaps, forgotten how to give helpful and encouraging feedback to a child without feeding the notion that he or she can do just anything at all.
I agree: children aren’t in charge of how they are educated–though their particular personalities and backgrounds will make a difference in any good educator’s approach to that child.
I also deplore our addiction to paying as little as possible in order to get what we want right now (whether petroleum-based or not). I don’t think we’re far apart. I do, however, wonder whether your gender-specific example is necessary.
Thanks for your response! I appreciate it.
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Teaching children frustration management? Good grief! Everything you attempt brings different levels and kinds of frustration – the only way to manage that is to just get on with it. And that’s not even accounting for the fact that each individual learns different ways to deal with their frustration/stress. We are indeed playing nanny to this generation.
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