Creativity and Learning: A Conversation with Lynda Barry
Video: A conversation with Lynda BarryAn inspiring conversation about creativity and learning with cartoonist Lynda Barry.
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What happens when a renowned cartoonist, humorist, and writer sits down with a passionate educator? You get an inspiring conversation about creativity, learning, and the importance of arts education in America. Lynda Weinman interviews Lynda Barry, her friend and fellow alumni of Evergreen State College, at our campus in Carpinteria, California. Settle in for an inspiring discussion about their history together and hear Barry talk about breaking down inhibitions, breaking through fear, telling stories, and making art—all delivered in her hilarious signature style.
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A conversation with Lynda Barry
All right. Today's talk is actually going to focus on the importance of the arts and how it fosters empathy and I don't have her formal bio written. A lot of you here are her fans, and that's why you're here. she's not only a cartoonist, a renowned cartoonist which as written a lot of books about creativity and a lot of initiated a lot of processes that helped people unlock their their creativity and their, and their voice, finding their artistic voice. So, it's really an honor to have you here Lynda, do come up and give Lynda a big welcome.
Barry Awesome. (LAUGH). Weinman So, for people who are not going to get to your lecture tonight and I, I assume that a few of you are here. can you give us a really short synopsis of what you are going to talk about there? Barry I'm going to, I'm going to talk about this question that I've kind of been pursuing, actually, since we were in school together at the Evergreen State College, which is a question about images.
And which is what I think the thing that we call the Arts contains something that's kind of alive. And I, I think image is the right word for it, and what the biological function of this thing we call the im, images or the arts might be. Because my argument is we wouldn't of dragged it through all our evolutionary stages unless it had a biological function. So, that's kind of what I'm going to be talking about. And then, work that I've been doing with students and scientists about this very thing. Weinman so I think, you know, when we're little all of us are really connected to our inner artist and then the majority of us, as we get older, cut that off.
Can you talk a little bit about about that very thing and how you help people break free of that inhibition, if that's what you would even characterize it as. Barry Yeah. well, one of the interesting things about when we're, here's the way I can describe it pretty fast. and how we sort of understand, how almost all of us understand that if we had a little kid here, say if we had a 4-year-old here, and we had everything that she might need to make a drawing.
And we say, come on Mattie let's draw and she was flipped out, too scared to draw. Almost all of us would be worried about her, emotionally. Now, she's 40, too freaked out to draw, nobody's worried at all. >> Barry What happens? So, that's one of my questions, what the hell happened? So, I think what happened, there are a couple of things that happen, but one of the things that happens is that in the beginning a piece of paper is a place for an experience. If you watch kids draw, they don't just draw like this, I will draw a picture now.
No, they're like making the noises. look out, little serpentine, save yourself. You know and they're like making all these noises, it's a place for an experience. And then, something happens, where that place for an experience becomes a thing that you can tell is good or bad. And that transitional point usually happens around adolescence for a lot of different reasons. both chemical, and peer related, and all sorts of things.
And cognitive reasons. Because there's this period where we can tell that the chair that we're drawing doesn't look like a chair in the world which, you know, is not that big of a deal, but when somebody else can tell? It's funny about the word self-conscious because it's not really about our self-conscious, it's about being conscious of somebody else being, knowing what we're doing. So, it's, so when we give that up, when this becomes a thing, I'm curious about what else we're giving up, when we, when we no longer draw. and, so if we're given, I think that we're giving up something really, really big, and that it's better to think of a drawing as a side effect of a certain state of mind and a physical activity than to think of it as the aim.
if you watch little kids who will draw after they're done, say they spend seven minutes drawing a picture, and then they take off. What happen, what, what do they want to do with the picture that, that doesn't matter to them a lot of times. Maybe they'll put it on the fridge, but mostly they're not heartbroken if they leave that picture behind. If an adult spends seven minutes on a drawing, then afterwards they're like, what, what do I do with it, you know, like what does it mean, am I a genius. Or, have I been screwing around my whole life and it's finally caught up.
You know, it's like they don't, people don't know what to do with it or it's because it's not, that's a side effect of this certain thing. So, that's the stuff that I've been concentrating on. Weinman And you were talking to me about the importance of doodling. Can you describe how you see the effect of being more connected with your artistic side and, and what impact that would have if we were better connected. Barry Well, one of the interesting things about drawing is most people if they don't draw, most people feel like they can't draw and they're terrified about it.
But I always say, well, if there's something that you draw, like when you're bored, doodling, people, everybody, all of you have something that you draw. So, you know, somebody, I was talking to somebody, like he was in a bar, he goes, yeah, I draw eyeballs. I'm like, lots of eyeballs, apparently. and so, you know and, and there's something about that eyeball, when he draws it, over and over again, and it's, and it's funny if you're taking notes in a, in a in an a meeting. There's that little margin on the side that's free-ville, you can work anything.
Here, no, I can't draw any eyeballs here, but here I'm totally free, you know, I give myself an inch by by eleven inches to just whack out. And so what's interesting is I started to look at and to see if there was any research on what this might be and there actually is plenty of research about it. And the most interesting stuff about it is that well it's, for instance, here's a, here's an example of the research. people were given (LAUGH), it's so perfect, a really long answering machine message to listen to, left by a very boring person, who was also likes to talk quite a lot.
And what they were going to tell you all the people that were going to come to this particular party. people who just sat and listened. that was one group. The other group were people who actually drew while they were listening, listening. Then, they were asked to recall how many names they could remember. The group that was drawing had a much, a profoundly higher recall of what they had heard. and so the, the thought about it is that I was telling Lynda that, you know, that term, daydreaming? I never thought I had daydreams, because they sound so nice.
Daydreaming. I always thought I'd know. You know, it's like, I'm daydreaming. It's like, I didn't understand it was just freaking out, like our daily freak out, you know, the hamster wheel of worry that we get back in all the time. So, when we're listening to anyone, even you all, when you're listening to me right now. There's this window of concentration. But then, maybe I'll say something, or I'll be boring. And then, your mind will flip off this way and stay there for a while. And then, it'll return. But you won't have any awareness of that happening. And in that time when you're gone, a lot of information just flies right past you.
So, the theories that about drawing or moving your hands, but, you're drawing, doodling is that there's something about enough concentration and moving your hand that actually allows you to stay in that place and listen. And if you know our beautiful just, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, she has knit through every single supreme court decision. She just knits with her little lace thing, is just like knitting, and I thought to myself, what's she knitting? She's knitting a cozy for Scholia's entire body, you know, just like, just knitting these full bodysuits, you know.
Weinman (LAUGH). Barry But I would imagine that, that helps her, not only concentrate, but keeps her from killing others in the room. Weinman (LAUGH). Barry Although she does have the needles. but, so I'm really curious about the relationship between these, and our ability to concentrate. And even when people aren't drawing, if you're just are aware of hands, that's another thing that I've been studying, is our, our hands. You'll see that they're almost like little, living creatures. People are always moving. I mean, they think they're just sitting there, but the hand keeps going up here and just wants to touch this part over and over, you know what I'm talking about? You have a friend who, no matter what, is going like this.
>> Barry And they don't even know it, you know,their hand just, like, heads up there. >> Barry So, that's what I, I'm interested in all that stuff. Weinman Did you, I mean you personally to to most people I'm going to make an assumption, seems so free in terms of your connection to drawing and your thoughts and self expression, were you always that way? And if not, what helped you unlock that in yourself? Barry I don't think I, well, I've always had an affinity for the humanities.
but I think that it's been kind of, well then if, I'm going to get back to what I think the biological function of this thing we call the arts is. I think it's a matter of life and death, and that for I think part of the reason that we have it is, the I keep trying to find the right metaphor, but I think it's the corollary to our immune system. that and I think of the arts as sort of our external organs. And all you have to do is think back to junior high when you found that song that saved your life or that book that changed your life.
What are you talking about? You really are talking about being in the state, if you remember being in the 8th grade where everything is like horrible. And then, this song comes on and for three minutes it's like, you know what, I totally got this nailed. Then the song's over. Weinman (LAUGH). Barry Don't you, didn't you play it 500 times in a row until if you, for me the record, we had records, they would get grey. They'd start out black and then they would get grey and they would sound like (SOUND). It's like so, so there, so when I think about this stuff the, so I think that we use these things to be able to, I, you know, one of the lines I have is we don't create this kind of creative world to, to escape reality.
We create it to be able to stay. And so, I'm, I'm somebody who had a lot of trouble with depression. I've always had a lot of trouble with depression. Lots and lots of diff, a difficult home life. And I can't imagine, I don't think I'd be here without without the arts. I just don't think I would. And also, by the way, I hate art. I hate art. I hate art galleries. They remind me of intensive care units. Weinman (LAUGH). Barry Doesn't it seem like you don't know what's going on? Everything's really expensive, and, and clean.
And somebody's going to die. You know? Weinman (LAUGH). I, because we went to college together I know that Marilyn Frasca, who was an instructor at the time had a really big impact on you. Can you talk a little bit about that and, and what she, she gave to you? Barry Yeah. this is her hat actually. I know, I know, I know, let's clap for the hat. Marilyn Frasca well because of the way Evergreen was set up it was perfect for a person like me, and I think a person like you too.
I remember Lynda very clearly at Evergreen doing some, she was the first person I ever saw actually researching something that wasn't, that wasn't required. And I would see her, you know where you could find her? By the card catalog, which now is the digital world, but back then, that was the closest thing to a computer that existed. And that's where she would be looking up stuff. And I would always want to know what she was looking up, you know? And the first thing I remember talking to you about this conversation, she was, you know, I, I kind of I,I looked up to you quite a lot, a lot.
And I went over and I'm, talk to her, talk to her, talk to her. Do it. And so, and you're like looking through this stuff. And I say hey, so what are you looking up? And you looked at me and you went, memory. Computers. I mean, there she was, let's figure out memory. anyway, at Evergreen Evergreen allows you to have a very tight relationship with a professor which is great if you have a good professor, really bad if you don't. because it's like a bad marriage.
But I met Marilyn Frasca and she's the one that asked me this question about what an image is, and also taught me daily working practice that I continue to this day. and a way of working that I've sort of her thing was, what is an image? And I feel like I've carried that work that she's done into the sciences and into brain studies and into what the biological function of the image might be. So, we're still really good friend, well, I don't ever want to be friends with her, I always want her to be my teacher.
Like it freaked me out the first time I saw her eating. You know, you never want to see your teacher eat or do anything like a human. You know, you just want them to after you leave they just disappear and wait, and wait for you to conjure them again, you know. So, yeah, she's, it's, it's interesting to think of how something and that happened so many years ago, could still be the driving force, you know, in, in a person's life. And also that we're sitting here is amazing to me, and why not, right? Weinman I know that you are teaching at University of Wisconsin.
What are you teaching? Barry I'm teaching a class called the unthinkable mind, and it is a class that students can choose to take as either an art credit or an English credit. And we got so close to getting a science credit, because it's a lot about the hemispheric differences in the brain, and for example, my, my poor class, they're my experimental. They're my, like little lab rats, you know? And so, for example, I'm really interested in how people learn, and how they remember stuff so for to teach them all the parts of the brain, instead of using each other's names.
each student has a part of the brain that they're called, and now we're totally used to it, like I saw a corpus collosum at a party the other night. For real? She was with hypothalamus. Oh, that's interesting. so, and, and I'm Professor Old Skull. That's my name because I contain them all in my old skull. so it's a, so it's a, it's a class about, kind of following what the, the current research in neuroscience and kind of how it relates to the arts and what happens.
Because remember when we all, if you were an art student, you, you were done studying science. I mean, once you got to college in a funny way, we got to study all those things in school. And then, after a while we're just separated. So, I wanted to see what happened when we got back together. And particular, I was especially interested in working with people who absolutely have no interest in drawing and don't think of themselves as creative. And to see if the arts might have another function in their lives other than making, something that looks fantastic, that everyone can dig.
I love it. I mean it's like something other than that. So, that's what I'm doing. That's what I'm teaching and it's write, it's an intensive program. It's writing drawing a lot of study about the brain and a lot of memorization of poetry. Which at first they were so miserable until I taught them many manly tricks on how to memorize poems. So, I can teach you all to. Weinman Oh, I want to know at least one. Barr Okay Emily Dickinson who's one of my favorite poets only because I used to lie about loving her because I was some dude or a chick.
I can't remember who but somebody I had a crush on who loved Emily Dickinson. I don't remember the person. I just remember Emily Dickinson. And so, I said, oh yeah, I love her. Oh, she's amazing. And then, I'd read her poetry like this. Like, you know, like, how do you read a poem? What the hell does it mean? And it took me a really long time to figure out that, one, poems don't have a fixed meaning they're kind of containers. But the other thing is it's a lot better if you have them in your head. so I had to figure out how to, so Emily Dickinson and the cadence, a lot of people know you can sing Emily Dickinson to Yellow Rose of Texas.
But here's the other thing that I found out. Girl From Ipanema, I felt a cleaving in my mind as if my brain had split. I tried to match it seam by seam but could not make them fit. Or Gershwin. I felt a cleaving in my mind, as if my brain had split. I tried to match him seam by seam, but could not make them fit. Hernando's Hideaway, I mean, you know, you can do Love Potion Number Nine. California Girls. It turns out that this weird cadence appears over and over and over and over again.
and it's, it's, apparently, is a cadence at our brain, at least the Western brain, seems to really love. And so, when I started to find those ties, and then I realized, I could, I had the choice, you know when you can have a song stuck in your head, and it's like often 5, $5, $5 footlong? You know? Like, you didn't mean, you didn't mean to have that in your head, but somehow, the footlong thing got in your head, you know? Well, I realized you could battle it with Emily Dickinson, and you know how, well, I did have that $5 footlong thing stuck in my head for a really long time, and I finally got rid of it.
I'm in a car with my friend, she's driving, her daughter's in the back,and her daughter starts going, 5, 5, I'm like, no, please. And then, her daughter goes, goes, 5, $5, $5 foot-loose, foot-lose, and I went, that's how you do it. You, you take the song that's stuck in your head and you somehow tie it to another song, so, and Footloose will knock anything off out of your mind. Weinman I'm curious, just, I mean, this idea just struck me if that's almost similar to the idea of doodling too, were you doing two different activities and somehow they're sort of reinforcing each other? Is there a connection? Barry Yes.
And, and one is physical, you know, and there is that physical part about singing, so. And it's, it's funny what the, and with poetry too because it's something that I came back, well, that I come to on my knees with grace and thanking. only when I stopped trying to understand it. And I started to memorize it. And then, you know, when you're getting older, you have those questions. Can I still memorize anything? It's like, yeah, all those terrible ads that you have in your head. one of the exercises I love to give my students is I give them seven and a half minutes to write down everything they've memorized without trying.
And then we read them as if it's a poem, we read them as if it's a poem and it's astonishing what people, what you have in your head. I mean, you could do it every day for the rest of your life. Write down something you memorized without trying and never run out. And so, how's that working, you know. Advertisers understand that mixing visual image. and some kind of sound works or a piece of music, and, and certain kinds of words. They understand that the, like you were saying, that those two things come together and, and our memories like that or our brains seem to like that.
Weinman when I knew you as a student, your career directly after college was to become a cartoonist, and then you become a playwright and a novelist, and now you're a teacher although you're probably still all of those other things. what got you interested in teaching and how do you like it? Barry I got interested in teaching, I love teaching. I got interested in teaching because my own practice could only get me so far in trying to figure out this question of what the function, the biological or, or physical function of the arts might be.
I mean you, you can only get so far by yourself, and I had been teaching writing workshops short ones, and I was starting to see kind of how memory works, and in particular spontaneous memory. So, I'll give you an example of what I do in my class. I want you to just think of a car from when you were little. Just for a second. Does everybody got a car in their head? There it is. First of all, there it is. Where was that sitting. Okay, now it's, now picture it for a second. And, and so as you picture it are you inside of the car or outside of the car? >> Outside.
Barry Some some people are inside, right? And if you're outside of the car, you, which side of the car are you facing, and if you're inside of the car, which part of the car, which seat are you sitting in? And as you're looking around, I can ask you these questions. You'll know the answer, is it day or night in this image? You know, right? But what season does it seem to be? Oh, hell, you know that too. Right? About what time of day is it? Lord, do you know that? And then, I can ask where the light's coming from and what kind of light it is.
And if, and I can ask you where you are. And I can ask you what's in front of you and to the left and to the right and behind you. And you can answer that. And then, I can say let's erase it. Now, I want you to think of a kitchen table from when you were little. There you are. What time of day is it? Right? Like what the hell is that? And it turns out any, I can give you teeth, any noun, any noun and any gerrand or, or ing words like squatting, or screaming, or running, which you should do every day.
all those three things. But but the associative, it's as if the back of the mind really has stories and if we, and if we took that car piece and I ask you to imagine all these things. I'd actually ask you to draw an x and write all the answers down. What I do is I ask, I tell my students to pretend they were on the phone. You can see the image, I can't, I'm asking you questions you tell me what's there, like where are you, what's the weather like, what are you doing, why are you there? And when we start to answer those questions, a story just naturally seems to come about and I usually have people write for 7 and a half minutes.
And I tell them that when they have three more minutes left and then one more minute. Because we're natural editors. All of you have been on a situation where you've been on the phone with somebody. You both hate this person. Let's call that person Skittles. Oh, at work, you know what Skittles did today? Tell me man, I hate her. I know, me too. And you're, and you're talking about it and you think you have five minutes to go on about how awful Skittles is, but then you realize you only have one minute, you totally know how to edit that story. That's the thing, all the things that we call story structure, editing, all this stuff, the only reason we know about them and can do them is because they already exist.
we oftentimes think that we have to learn about story structure but the only reason we can even call it is because it's already there. I always think people have it backwards, it's like thinking, people think, oh, I need to learn story structure to write a story. It's like thinking you can only have teeth after looking at dentures, it's the other way around. Dentures look like teeth, you know? So uh, (LAUGH) that's that's the stuff that I'm the most interested in. And I'm interested in how I believe, I believe it, it with all my heart that this ability is in almost everybody.
And helps you get a lot of free beer at airport bars because people say, you know, because they look at me and I'm like, hey, I'll talk to her. You know, this will be interesting. I'll tell everyone I talked to some freaky menopausal woman, and, and I'll be like, yeah, talk to me, you know? And they ask me what I do, and I say, I write. And they always say, oh, I wish I could write, and I say, I bet you can. And then, I do the car thing with them. And right before things are getting, I can see the story, that's when I order another beer. And they go, no, no, I'll get it for you. And, and that's how I paid, that's how I paid for my college education.
I paid it all back in with beer from the airport. Because people get happy. When they, when they, when they feel that thing. Weinman Well, I think another thing that gets people happy is you know how to make people laugh. Have you always known how to make people laugh? Barry No. Weinman Where does that come from? Barry Well, you know, I always thought so. I guess a little. I don't know. I, I'm a little bit of a ham. My husband says I'm a sequined ham. Isn't that a terrible image you'll never get out of your mind? It's horrible.
Don't you want to make one now, immediately? What are you doing? Canned ham pins, and sequins. What are you bringing? you'll see. It's horrible, isn't it? I so want to make one. I, I mean, I think part of what you do is you free others by helping them laugh. And part of being able to have that conduit to your own creativity is this idea of being free and not worrying about what other people are thinking about you.
Weinman Do you agree that that's a very important component? Barry It is, but it's very difficult to get to and I don't think it's the objective. Because if, if you're waiting to not worry about what people are going to think about you, you're going to wait in a very long line. I think it's okay to proceeds with worry and terror and fear and doubt. you know that thing after you've had a spontaneous interchange with someone, say at a party. And then, you go home and you're laying in bed and you go over every single thing that you said and you cringe.
You know, this thing, oh god, I'm an ****, I'm such an ****. And I am, like such an **** that I have to I often have to call the host of the party and apologize for being such an ****. So, I called a friend, Margy (UNKNOWN), who lives in Los Angeles, and she had, had this party and I called her after I had been an **** at her party, and how was I an ****? I decided it would be hilarious to try to crawl through people's legs while they were talking. And, and for the most part if you do that, you come crawling, mostly people will do this, right, but occasionally you'll get someone who won't and they will just do this and I have to keep crawling.
And and then at that point the spontaneous thing is over and it's a test of wills, and so I had to call her and apologize. And, and it had been on a Saturday night. And so, I called, but I couldn't wait. I had been up all night cringing. And so, I called like at eight in the morning on a Sunday after a party which I, I really was an ****. And I, I said listen I'm sorry to wake you up. I just want to tell you I'm so sorry I was an **** at your party last night. She goes. Lynda, are you thinking about what an **** anybody else was at the party last night? And I'm going, no.
She goes, I hate to tell you this, they're not thinking about you, either. But I was the biggest **** at the party. No, but that's a good thing to remember when you're cringing, that everybody's just cringing about their own stuff. They're not cringing about you, unless you crawl through their legs. And I wish I could say this was a long time ago. It wasn't. Weinman (LAUGH). well I, I am going to open this up for Q and A, but before we do Linda, you and I were talking a lot about education.
And I know that you were asking at least you were telling me about an experiment that you did with a, with, I don't know if it was a research pro, project about the future of education. Do you want to tell that story? Barry yeah. I was part of I somehow wormed my way into the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, I think at the University of Wisconsin Madison, which is this. It's a place where scientists are supposed to gather and, I don't know, smell each other, or something and have insight. but, but I do, I do love being there and they gave me an assignment to try to figure out, they just wanted me to get art students to draw what they thought the future of a university might be.
in 100 years. but I thought well, shoot, if I'm going to do this, I'm going to talk to everybody. So, one of the things I did was I went into elementary schools to try to get kids to tell me what they thought the future, what the school would be like in 100 years and to make drawings. But I, that's when I learned, well, scientific method, how you pose the question is really key. And so, what I said to them we are second graders we all go on the floor ,we are going to go in the time machine, let's go over 100 years and then we're going to come out and tell me what school is like.
So, they do this and look up, what's it is going to be like, what, really old, what else? Teachers, we'll all be dead. It's like, okay, let's go back in the time machine. we're coming out in a different school, and it's the future. So, one of the things, one of the things that, that was really interesting was it kind of, and then I think again, it's the situation. If somebody asks you, and you're in, you're in grade school, to draw the school in 100 years, what a teacher might be like in 100 years you're going to draw a robot just because kids draw a robot right now.
I got to draw and I'm drawing the teacher as a robot. So, I realize that, but one of the things that was so interesting was that repeatedly whether it was with elementary school kids or professors or people from the community. There was this feeling that the, there wouldn't be teachers, which was really interesting to me, that there wouldn't be teachers. And that we download everything, and in fact, one of the images that show that showed up in drawings over and over again, whether it was little kids or grown ups was that we'd have a computer chip and for some reason everybody thinks it's going to be right here.
It over, I mean, that's, so there must be some show I keep thinking, where everyone says this is where the chip is, or I just don't think it's a, where everybody just magically goes, it goes here. that was one of the things that was sort of interesting to me, and the other thing that was great was, what I, what I was happy with about the kids was, their vision of technology when they would do the gestures about it wasn't this and whasn't this, it was full body. It was being able to move stuff with their bodies which the stuff that I'm studying about hemispheric differences in the brain and gesture and hand stuff.
That made me feel kind of good that they were at least moving their bodies while they were telling me about the future. so, but we were also talking about this funny thing about the wonderful things the good things about technology and the bad things about technology. And how somehow one of the studies at the University of Wisconsin Madison is all about one of the scientists I'm going to be doing a project with, is about facial expression and mirroring. Mirroring facial expression and what it has to do with empathy. And how when we're talking to people we not, we not only are listening to them, but we also mi, do micro-mirroring of what they're saying.
And, interestingly enough, there's a part of our brain that's devoted to everything that's going on below eye-level. And that's devoted to what, looking at hand gestures. it's, it's funny because it really can't see anything this way but it knows everything that's going on here. so there was this study done at the U-Dub, about there was curiosity about babies who had who use pacifiers for a very long time when they were growing up. And because pacifiers, because they're big like this.
Actually, inhibit the ability to mimic gestures. to mimic facial expressions. So, there was a longitudinal study that, that wanted to know if people who used a lot of pacifiers might be, have might be impaired measurably in terms of empathy. And sure enough, they were able to find, particularly in boys. That there was impairment. Then, somebody said well what about Botox? So, they did a study. And it may not surprise you to find out that people with Botox showed a marked decrease in, in empathy when they were listening to people's stories.
And where do we get Botox? We get Botox around our eyes, and around our mouth. Right there, that's what it sounds like when you get an injection so, and why do we have wrinkles there? because we're using that. We're using those areas, that's why they're wrinkled, because we need them to be able to understand each other and feel stuff. So, it's sort of interesting, and one, one of the things that the thing that I think is going to be a challenge in terms of school is, or in, in terms of technology is, is what's going to happen to, to that.
To, to that understanding by mimicking the faces. And I can say that in my time as a teacher and, and somebody who's visited in schools, I've seen the facial affect flattened. and it's sort of remarkable to be with people now who are like 19 or 18 and it's, there is, you talk to them and you go right and they look at you like this, like you're on TV. And it's a, it's a, it's a strange thing to watch that, to actually see that happening.
So, I think it's going to be an interesting challenge to figure out how we can take advantage of the internet and the stuff that now people have access to all this learning. But how will we keep the human, not, I don't want to call it the human part, because I think that part is human too. But how will we keep this other thing going on? And how, what's going to happen to the original digital devices. I mean, for those of you who are a little older, it may come as a shock to find out that they don't teach cursive in elementary school anymore. It's gone, and I actually have students this year who can't read cursive.
So they and so could you imagine? I'll be the last one because I'm not going to die. You all are, but I'm not going to die. So, they'll come up to me and they'll say old skull can you read this? You know, it's in cursive. And I'll go yes, hold on. I can. Let me see. It's from a long time ago. It's an ancient manuscript. It says. Dear Santa, (LAUGH). So, what's lost when we, when we, when we lose something like that, like cursive? It seems like, oh, we're done with cursive, but all kinds of things, again, thinking about this doodling idea and moving our hands, all kinds of things are lost when we give up something like that.
so that the stuff that I'm pumped about. As my students say, I'm totally pumped about this, me too. Are you pumped? Weinman I'm totally pumped. the one thing that I loved about teaching in, in live classroom was just how much I actually learned from students. You know, and how they surprise you. And they just say things that you didn't think of. Barry Yeah. Weinman And actually by being a teacher, you learn more than you would if you were not a teacher.
It's such a gift to be able to be a teacher, I think. Barry Well, to be able to teach something you have to kind of find a way to explain it, but no, I, I realized I could only get so far by myself. And that I really needed these people, and I sort of needed The University of Wisconsin has been pretty good to me about, about letting me kind of just scrape at the edges. Like have a, have a class that has these that you can take for credit either way. Or design a class that's made for, for instance, my class, I got a lot of latitude, and my class has several PhD candidates and two sophomores.
The the, the age range, there's 20 of them. The age range is mid 40's to, I think I have a, a 19-year-old. And and so it's really interesting. That's a very rare group. At Evergreen that wasn't so strange. We might have something like that but at the University of Wisconsin, it was strange. And it's interesting to all see them negotiate with each other. Especially since they don't know each other's names. I, I let them know, I let them use their real names on the last day. Last year, the class I taught was called what it is, a similar class, but everybody just went by, I had them choose a playing card.
And that was their identity for the whole for the whole year. And I was in a bar being interviewed and somebody was asking me about it just a couple weeks ago. And what, what, what was that like with the playing cards? How did that work out? And I said, you want to see? And I went, two of hearts. And the guy who was at the bar was one of my students, two of hearts, just went like. Like for the rest of his life, you know? Report, you know, or cerebral cortex for the rest of his life is going to be like, what? Weinman But it does sound liberating, because I think I think that, I don't know, I do think there's some sort of connection between being inhibited and I, I agree, it's not the panacea to unlock, you know, everything that's good in life, but I, I think what you're doing by giving them the avatars, so to speak, is that you're freeing them from what they perceive as judgment of who they actually are.
Would, would you agree with that? Barry And also, the hierarchy can't form in the class. Weinman Mm-hmm. Barry It really, it really inhibits that idea of who's good and who isn't because nobody knows whose work is what. but it's interesting about this. It's you're right about freeing the mind but what is it? And, and I think it's again with hemispheric differences. I think it's this funny little transfer. For example, when I, I use the oldest art, the oldest art supplies that have been in continuous use around. Which is, I use ink stone, Chinese ink that I grind, and a, and a brush.
And, when I go to different little festivals or, or conferences there's often a time that, where everybody drinks and I get really bored. So, I just bring my, my painting stuff, and I start painting and drinking which is an awesome combination. And so, and usually people will come over and want to talk to me, and see what I'm doing. And then, I explain the, the Chinese art supplies and then I usually hand them the brush to see if they'll make a line. Almost everybody will take the brush, except for this one time when I was at a, a design conference called the Cusp Conference in Chicago, and it was all hot-shot designers who had done all of these fantastic, I mean, they were fantastic.
And so, I was sitting there doing it and I tried to hand these people the brush and they would go, no, no, no, give it to Lynda. No, Craig will do it. And everybody was, like, well, I realized they were flipped out. And, so I thought, here I am. I'm, I'm seeing it. This thing I've been curious about. And, they didn't want to do it. They didn't want to make a line in front of each other. And I said, well, you know, there's this really cool game which I'm making up right now as I'm telling it to you. where you take a, you just draw a square. And then, you take the brush, and you divide that in half. And then, you take the brush where you divide those halves in halves. And you keep doing that. And until, and, if any of the lines touch, you get electrocuted.
Then they all wanted to do it. It was like, What happened? Same brush, same piece of paper. Prospect of electrocution? Absolutely want to do it. And I think that's one of the things that gave me a clue to, it went from a thing, to a place for an experience. Even if the experience is electrocution. It's still preferable to, you can't draw. It's like so that, that got me interested in that and, and I think there is a freeing. Now, what's the freeing? The freeing is just a different perspective again freeing sounds like day dreaming.
I never thought I was free, because I always imagined you feel free and kind of look free. but, but which is I actually don't like people who look free. But at all, but but I think that that, I think it's a shift in perspective maybe. Weinman Yeah.
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