April 1, 2009
By under_the_acacia BRONZE, Independence, Ohio
under_the_acacia BRONZE, Independence, Ohio
3 articles 0 photos 0 comments

In an obscure corner of the earth, there once was a vast feild, full of color and sweet sounds, bordered by a glorious forest, where the tips of the pines whispered to the stars hanging from the cerulean sky. In this field there lived a flock of birds, beautiful birds who drank freedom and lived on a dream. Their wings were their delight and they flew all day long, from dawn until dusk, living on the edge of imaginaiton. They lived like this for many years, and did not realize the subtle changes creeping across their field, an ominous shadow lurking on the fringe of the forest. They did not realize that the trees were shrinking, the edges of the field were mapped and slowly contracting, until the birds found themselves flying in circles, and the stars were growing farther away, until they could be seen by none but the keenest eye.
That was when they came. Hundreds of men, all dressed in the same uniform. They reasoned with the flock of birds, saying the world was changing, they could no longer live in a field that did not exist. It was time to move on, to change with the times. The birds saw no alternatives, they agreed, and the men took them from the field. They took those birds one and all, the strong and the weak, the swift and the slow, the brilliant and the average, they took them all and put them behind walls.
Now, the men realized what good flyers they had been, but they weren't good enough. there was no form, no organization, no order to their flight. The uniformed men wanted to harness their talent, and direct it into a carefully developed theory of flight. They would revolutionize flight itself, they would refine it down to an art and from an art down to a science and from a science down to a mechanical discipline, and then their birds would be the best in the world, and they could market their science and recreate the entire act of flying. They began by putting the birds in cages within the walls of a building withing the prison of society.
These men then set the birds to the task of re learning flight. They studdied the theory of aerodynamics, they calculated angular speed, they memorized patterns and angles and pressure conversions. They solved functions to maximize speed at minimal output. They studdied the history of flight and learned what chemical reactions within their bodies could best feul their wings. The birds worked hour after hour after day after year. They were consumed with the task of memorizing and retaining theoretical information, and soon they were miserable. Many would fly during their short breaks in the day, but then the men saw that this was a distraction, a waste, and it was difficult to refocus the birds on the monumental task of learning the true nature of flight. So they took away their breaks. The birds revolted at first, they would flap their wings in thier cages, lost in daydreams of flight in their field, or was it a meadow? that they scarecely remembered. The men grew tired of this, and saw that to maximize learning, they must remove all distractions. and so they cut the birds wings.
This was the breaking point. There was no hope now, and daydreams of the fleeting freedom of flight at last flew away from the flock, never to return. There was no escape, and they knew it. So they continued their studies weighed down by the lead that had settled into their hearts the day their spirits left them. Eventually their wings grew back. None of the birds really noticed though, it did not matter. They never thought of them as instruments of freedom. Their feathers were just shackles, immutably chaining to their work.
After many years, the flock was finished. Their training was complete.They were now ready to fly, powered by years of knowledge and fact and theory. The men took them out and, with eager anticipation, released their students, ready to watch them prove unequivocally the method of scientific flight. The cages were opened. The men watched. Nothing happend. The birds would not fly. They stood, staring blankly, doing nothing. One of the uniformed men went up to a bird.
"you" he said (for the birds had no names, they did not need to distinguish one from the other)
"tell me, what is flight?"
the bird recited the definition verbatim.
"and do you want to fly?"
the bird nodded.
"And in order to maximize your speed in the current wind conditions of 20 miles per hour, at what angle should you take off?"
the bird thought for a moment and gave the correct answer, to three decimal places no less.
"Excellent" the uniformed man said. "Now demonstrate what you just delineated for me."
The bird stared blankely at him. Blinked. And did not move.
The uniformed men were distraught, all that work, all that preparation, and something had gone horribly awry. They were desperate for answers, and went to seek the council of a wise old man whose eyes had watched many decades.
"Old man, you are wise in your age, can you tell us why our birds will not fly?" they asked.
A strange look came into the old man's eyes, a mix of scorn and bitter amusement flavored his voice as he spoke. "The answer is simple. Your birds do not know how to fly."
The men were incredulous.
"What do you mean, they have studdied flight for years now, they know it better than any other bird on earth."
"No, the old man said. They know facts, they know theory, they know numbers and figures and data and information. But they know nothing of flight. Those birds were free once, they knew what freedom tasted like, they were motivated by a love for the feeling of wind under their wings. They pushed themselves forward by a desire to see how high they could fly, how far they could go. They had curiousity and ingenuity and they learned within their imaginations, through exploration of a world with no lines, no boudaries no walls. That is what powered their flight. But that was not enough for you, you wanted there to be a sense to it all, an order, a process, a method, a science. So what did you do? you put them in cages, filled their days with numbers and constraints, and taught them to forget how to fly."
"But" the men pleaded, "they knew how before, and they know all the facts, they should be better, they should be the best!"
"No" the old man replied. "you forgot one important factor. Flight cannot be taught, it comes from a motivation within, and there is no science that can teach that, no method or algorythm to memorize and apply."
The men were in despair, their visions of success stuck permanently on the ground -- unable to take flight. "How could this have happend?" they cried.
The old man gave a bitter laugh and a sadness crept into his eyes as he countered,
"How could you ever expect your birds to fly, when you took away their wings?"

The author's comments:
I wrote this piece shortly after hearing about our Ohio governor Ted Strickland's new education proposals, which would make the school day for grades K-12 longer, add 20 days to the school year, and put more emphasis on math and science in an attempt to compete with the test scores of foreign countries. In my opinion, these changes will only lead to a loss of enthusiasm, creativity, and the natural desire to learn that is inherant in young children. This story is an allegory for the modern idea of education, where the imagination increasingly has no place, as less emphasis is put on the English classes and the humanities in exchange for a cold science of numbers and figures.

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This article has 1 comment.

on May. 2 2009 at 1:05 am
ZebraCough SILVER, Phoenix, Arizona
8 articles 0 photos 3 comments
Wow, that was amazing. I really can't say anything else about it; anything less that "amazing" would tarnish how I feel about this. Outstanding.


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