All posts tagged satire

Everything is Awesome…Or Is It?

Published June 19, 2014 by Susan Woodward

Lego MovieAll the kiddies who have seen the Lego Movie know this song.  I hear my 9th graders bopping to it in the halls, especially as we near the end of the year.  Go ahead and play it for yourselves to hear the be-bopping tune that will have you dancing around with the idea that “Everything is Awesome”…the lyrics are even included for you to sing along!

Okay…now look closely at what is so awesome:

– walking and working in formation

– everyone looks alike

– everyone thinks alike

And if you have even seen the movie, only those who conform to watch the same television shows, buy the same products, wear the same clothes, and act the same as everyone else is considered “awesome.”  Anyone who dares to be different or creative is shunned.


The villain of the film is Lord Business.  Need I say more?

As I was sitting in the theatre watching this with my six year old granddaughter who was bopping and squirming with delight to the music in her seat, eyes brightened by the colorful and fast-paced animations, all I could think about was the droning of America.  The more I watched, the more I understood this film as a masterful work of satire of how Big Business controls the masses, and the masses are so caught up in what BB is selling that they think that everything is awesome.  As long as you don’t rock the boat, don’t voice dissenting opinions, don’t try to educate the masses that they have been duped into lining BB’s corporate pockets, then everything is awesome.  No one bothers you except with maybe an occasional pat on the back and, “You’re a real team player…awesome!”

Now I am not saying that there is anything wrong with being a team player…we do need to work together toward common goals, support one another in times of need, cheer one another’s accomplishments.  That’s team work.  I’m talking about the creation of Drones of America… teaching children to think and do things one way, and if they don’t do it the way they have been carefully taught, then they are marked wrong.

Hello, Common Core testing.  Hello, Lord Gates.  Hello, Prince Pearson.

The movie infers that Lord Business watches and knows what is going on, and as long as everyone is in accordance with the plan, then everything is awesome.  And, of course, everyone has to be on board with HIS plan.  LB is in charge, and he knows best.

Just like Lord Gates seems to know what is best for American education.  It was his money and his power that allowed the CC to get pushed through.  If anyone from the Joe Schmoe class had come up with the idea, he’d have been shot down as a crazy radical who thought that controlling how children learn and think was a great idea.  Add a little (okay, a LOT of money) into the equation, and let Lord Gates be the spokesperson, and lo and behold, it’s not such a radical idea after all.  In fact, it’s such a GREAT idea that the federal government jumped on board, dragging with it a majority of state governors.  The modules on EngageNY are an attempt to create a one-size-fits-all curriculum for every child, regardless of ability (including students with learning disabilities and those whose first language is not English).   And the hasty implementation of this idea with its “hurry up and test ’em” attitude has set this nation’s greatest natural resource, its children, up for failure.

Good job.  Awesome.

All kids across America will have the exact same experience, be taught to think the same things, complete problems the same way…so much so that if one moved across country, the child could walk into any classroom of his/her grade level and be on the same page as he’d been on previously.  Like a machine moved to another room…just plugged into a different socket.

And that is what is going to be created.  Machine cogs who are programmed to work in cubicles, assembly lines, and Walmart.  No individual thinkers, no creative ways of finding answers to problems…just drones who can fill in the working slots of Corporate ‘Murica.

That way the people in charge can STAY in charge.  Those who HAVE can continue to have while the rest stay put…and all the while thinking that everything is awesome.  No one is bothering me because I am a do-bee.  I don’t rock the boat, so everything is on an even keel.  I keep my mouth shut, go to work, do exactly what I am told, and never question anything, even if I disagree.


It’s the creative thinkers, those who do NOT think exactly like everyone else, who will find the cures for diseases, will find a way to balance the budget, will find answers to society’s problems.  If everyone thinks exactly the same way, if everyone does his/her job in exactly the same way as everyone else, then where will we find our next innovators?  Our next inventors?

Do not tell me Lord Gates got to BE Lord Gates by being like everyone else.  He couldn’t have.  But once one gets to the top, in order to STAY at the top, everyone else has to be kept down.


I look forward to my new assignment in teaching Juniors this year.  I have already decided that this video will be our first Visible Thinking exercise, and we will dive right in to the Transcendentalists, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.  The first pieces we are going to read are “Self-Reliance”, “Life Without Principle” and “Civil Disobedience.”

And you know what?  That IS awesome!



The Artist’s Way: A Very ODD Series of Artist’s “Dates” for Weeks 2-4

Published February 24, 2014 by Susan Woodward

gullivers-travelsI chose to read a book I’d always wanted to but never had before as my Artist Dates for a couple of weeks.

I think Jonathan Swift just might have put a temporary cabash on my blog posting.  You see, I just read Gulliver’s Travels for the first time (an English teacher without Swift under her belt), and the whole satire on travel books has brought up some interesting points to ponder.   I took my time reading it and underlining passages, and putting stars on pages (I am actually going to teach the book to my 9th graders beginning this week), and it got me thinking about Swift’s attitude about those who publish their exploits…like me.

If Swift was alive today, he would have a field day satirizing social networking and blog postings!  There’s enough material on the world wide web that would have kept him writing indefinitely.   It’s one of the main reasons for my not posting recently, despite my initial desire to share my working through The Artist’s Way.

I will say that I have actually only done a physical writing of the morning pages once.  And I did it at night.  However, I do find that the morning stream of consciousness while I am commuting to work is probably as eye opening as writing it down.  And my ears hear it, so I think that what comes out has a tendency to stick better.   Beyond that, Swift has me feeling trepidacious about sharing anything more at this point.  His biting satire and obvious disdain toward those he saw as flouting their self-importance has prevented me from posting more about my personal discoveries through my morning “pages.”  Huh.  Go figure.  Perhaps it’s because I have begun purging some stuff that I really don’t want to look at.

Some Artist’s Date he turned out to be!  Weeks 2-4 themes are Identity, Personal Power, and Integrity.  And I picked Gulliver’s Travels.

Irony at its best.

Reading other people’s posts actually inspires me to continue with my own work through the process.  It’s just that nagging whispering in my ear holding me back at the moment.  I think that because the novel touched such a nerve in me, it must be considered a worthy Artist’s Date…but one that is making me take a hard look at myself in the mirror.  Or at what is mirrored in his pages.   How much do I IDENTIFY with what I read?  Do I misuse POWER?  And what kind of INTEGRITY do I really have?

How much do I have in common with the ultra-polite yet pompous and cruel Lilliputians?  Do I see some of their pettiness reflected in me?

How about a truly close scrutiny like Gulliver’s adventures in Brobdingnag?

And just how much of a Yahoo am I?

Thank God I read an abridged version that skipped over Swift’s Part III, the Floating Island of Laputa.  I did a bit of SparkNoting because I wanted to see what had been left out of the text I am using for my students, and I think I would have been incredibly uncomfortable with that section!


Swift’s barbs poke at me all the way from the 1700’s, damn him anyway!

Well, if he upset me that much, this MUST be some work of art with which to be having a “date.”   While my students probably won’t make any personal connections with his satire, they will at least have fun exploring the funny side of the 21st Century.  They will be creating political cartoons, writing song parodies a la Weird Al Yankovic, analyzing TV satire like Saturday Night Live (the GOOD episodes in the 70’s), The Simpsons, and The Daily Show.  They will also be writing short stories patterned after Swift’s style.  They already had some practice with the New York Odyssey when they updated Odysseus’ adventures as “he” and “his crew” meandered about New York State from Troy, NY to Ithaca, NY.

Ok…so this Artist’s Date is actually going to lead to the creation of some art, although it will be by my students.  I am creating the unit plan for them, so I guess I am still creating.  That and a massive headache from thinking so much.

But, for right now, I guess I am taking another look at why I write what I write for all the world to see (HA!  It’s not like I get that much traffic anyway…).   I know I chronicle my adventures for my children to look back at one day when I am gone, complete with pictures and videos, so that they might think, “You now…Mom did some pretty cool stuff.  We should do some cool stuff, too.”

Maybe that’s why all the folks published travel books in the 1700’s to begin with.  And maybe Swift, who never traveled beyond England and Ireland, harbored some jealousy in not being able to do so and took his frustrations out in his novel.   It’s human nature to ridicule the things we can’t do and secretly wish like hell we could.  How very Aesopian of him!

Yeah…that’s it.  At least the adventure sharing is justified.

Now that just leaves the burning questions about Lilliput.  And Brobdingnag.  And Houyhnhnmland.  And I don’t even want to THINK about Laputa.

Damn you, Jonathan Swift.

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