This morning John and I began over coffee what started out as a discussion about my life as a teacher and ended (if discussions of this nature ever end) as one that questioned the motives of institutional education. What responsibilities do school administrators have toward their staff? What guidance must we and dare we give our teachers, young and old? Who decides whether papers should be stapled to the hallway walls and who decides when it is time to give new room assignments?
All of this was on my mind when I found Jon Crispin and the Willard Suitcases Project via NPR. The project is manifold, and from the contents of the suitcases he photographs, many questions and many beauties arise. He is most obviously captivated by his art and craft and also by the people with whom he is working–living and gone, both. What I found so stirring in his blog were the realities unmentioned but clearly present: Who were these people? And, more pressingly, Why were they admitted to the Willard Asylum?
We have a need in our infinite humanity to institutionalize. We order, we organize, we keep zoological records, and we overdo it time and time again. Adam’s first task was to name the animals–a creative project given him by God. And for his naming and his categorization we have order and contrast and something altogether pleasing to the earth. But man is by no means content to stop there. We find order and we find it good, and then we go ballistic, drawing lines and squaring edges and removing what is on the other side or in the corner. Perhaps it is IN our nature to go to extremes, but it should not be OF our nature to remain there.
It is useful to think about all that has been lost in streamlining and mainstreaming and…institutionalizing our lives. I am reading a book right now called Shop Class as Soulcraft by Matthew B. Crawford–food for many a future post, I believe–and find that my thoughts are not unique. And gratefully do I find this true.