Introduction to Red Thread Gold Thread

Albert Einstein said, “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” When I heard it for the first time I had been a sixth grade teacher for over twenty years, and I was sorely discouraged with the methods that had become entrenched in my own school, and most other schools in our country. Proficiency testing had become the temple around which curriculum was worshipped and drilled into students. Those in power wanted measurable outcomes. Creativity and imagination could not be easily tested and began to rapidly disappear in the schools.

Years before, my grandfather, who had only finished eighth grade and by no means could be called an educated man, nevertheless exposed me to a much wider life than my post-war, ticky-tack suburb had to offer. We were always going to museums, parks, the zoo, movies, libraries. He constantly encouraged me to stretch my world view. Little did I know at the time that he was educating me in the literal sense of the word: from the Latin e ducere – to lead out. He led me out of my suburb and my old self over and over, encouraging me to experience the unfamiliar and cultivate a sense of wonder about the world and a desire to learn more. Without me being able to articulate any of these ideas, I lived them through his encouragement and generosity.

Since I had tenure in my job, I disregarded the polyester clad administrational dinosaurs in my school system, and  decided to expose my students to more stories and poetry. We read and wrestled with issues in juicy novels like The Giver and Ishmael instead of sterile, pabulum dripping anthologies. We talked about our dreams. We reached out to creative people in the community from tattoo artists to primate researchers and invited them to our room. Metaphor became the pole around which we danced. And not surprisingly, these students did as well or better than the ones specifically trained to take the standardized tests.

Almost by definition, the poets who took part in this book are rebels. Somehow, and often against strong odds, they found a way to keep the coals of their imaginations burning brightly. They carry a vitality that is unusual in these times. It is my hope that the readers of this book will be encouraged to look upon the unique influences in their own lives and find a path to the practice of an imagination-based activity. The goal is not to become a virtuoso in 10 easy lessons, but to find a source of richness and meaning, and to let your imaginations shine into the world. Perhaps this may even, as Einstein said, lead to solutions to the problems we face. It may not be easy to begin writing, or drawing, or dancing, or composing music, but doing one of these regularly will enhance your life, and maybe even save it.