17 May 2005

Smart Sponge, Stupid Squid

One of the The Jenius' favorite SpongeBob Squarepants episodes is the one where--Yes, The Jenius is a SpongeBob fan--Squidward, the vain pseudo-intellectual wannabe know-it-all, starts teaching an art class. His only student is, of course, SpongeBob.

Starting from the basics, Squidward draws a squiggly circle on the chalkboard, followed by a snide "Am I going too fast for you?" SpongeBob draws a perfect circle. Incredulous, Squidward demands that SpongeBob show his method. The little yellow dude does, going backwards from a perfect head portrait to a proportion diagram to the finished circle.

Angered, Squidward crumples the paper into a wad. After a cheerful "Good one!" from SpongeBob that slays The Jenius every time, the yellow artist makes an origami figure of both of them playing leapfrog. Incensed (there's a theme here), Squiddie rips up the paper and SpongeBob proceeds to rearrange the pieces into a drawing of both of them playing leapfrog, but this time with Squidward on top.

Beside himself, Squidward declares SpongeBob's works as meaningless and leads him over to a huge block of marble, where after blathering platitudes and crumbling marble into rubble, he asks SpongeBob to sculpt. With one tap, a statue worthy of Michelangelo emerges, one that even Squiddie can't help but admire. But, recovering his brain-damaged viewpoint, Squidward lambastes the effort as worthless because "Art has rules" and SpongeBob "didn't follow the book." Squiddie desecrates the statue by plopping a rubber nose shaped like his on it and then declaring proudly "Now that's art!"

SpongeBob's spirit is crushed and he ends up in a trash dump. However, money appears in Squidward's studio IF "he" can continue to create such marvelous statues/art. His own work is, of course, putrid; the rubber nose is removed like the blight it is. Faced with the need for true talent--Self-Interest meets New Reality--Squiddie rushes to bring SpongeBob back and get him to create more Art. But, alas, the little dude is heartbroken. He deems himself unworthy, incapable of matching the "higher standards" of Art "by the book."

Squidward insists and SpongeBob returns to the classroom. But now his circle is squiggly, the method he used before to produce a perfect circle is no longer acceptable, because it isn't "by the book." He no longer does origami and when Squidward shreds "the book" to pieces, SpongeBob energetically rearranges them into... the book.

Finally, desperate, Squiddie places him in front of the marble. SpongeBob, filled with the power of "by the book" thinking, goes overboard in his approach (he goes beyond "seeing" and "being" the marble to "dating" and "licking" it), and with a trembling hand, crumbles marble into rubble. Inspired, he then adds a rubber nose to the pile so it will be "Art."

The Jenius suspects you know where this is going. SpongeBob represents Us while Squidward represents The Fools in government and education who fear progressive, "different" thinking. (And a squid is an excellent metaphor for it has 10 arms filled with suckers and man are these Fools grabby.) However, Self-Interest will meet New Reality someday (The Fools may not grasp many concepts, but oh do they react with vigor to the idea of "more money, more money and more money!") and suddenly, the urge to "fix" what they have destroyed will become frantic.

The solution is to break the cycle, to move on without The Fools to the fullest extent possible, so that when the day New Reality sets their heart a-pounding with greed and fear, We can say "Too late. We've moved beyond you."

And on that day, The Jenius knows he won't be alone in enjoying their desperate, futile flailings.

The Jenius Has Spoken.

1 comment:

Jose G. Rodriguez said...

This is a wake up call for all those tighta$$ it-has-to-be-done-this-way people.

Even though we might feel that The Jenius (what's with the 'J') can be a bit down-and-dirty with some of his comments (and we might not want to put our hands in the mess), he strikes a cord again with something we tend to accept ... blindly.

My wife hates SpongeBob (I love the square guy myself), but after a brief conversation last night (and I have to admit it, it was after reading the Jenius' post) she looked at the SpongeBob, Squidward episode in a whole new light. And, she went on to talk about how messed up this teaching practice can be (being a teacher, herself). Children will absorb this black or white stuff like a sponge and this in the long run can kill their creativeness.

People need to loosen up. Look at things from different angles. Things might be perceived as black or white, but we must listen once in a while to those who are telling us there is some gray in between.