Friday, April 17, 2009

Smashed Toys, Superheroes and Education

Two on Spiderman at Inside Catholic linked to this essay called Toyland by Steve Ditko, who is one of the creators of Spiderman. It was really interesting to read a kind of Aristotlean philosophy in this context -- I guess because he is a follower of Ayn Rand who considered herself a follower of Aristotle-- the whole essay is good reading but this part particularly related to education:

“Asked point blank by a fan if things in the Marvel Universe will ever go back to normal after being ‘screwed up’ by House of M and Civil War, Joe Quesada said, ‘These toys are meant to be broken. If we just told stories that kept the status quo, nobody would be in this room, and I’d be out of a job. They’re meant to be thrown against a wall, smashed together, and built back up again.’” (“Baltimore 06: Cup o Joe”,, 10 September 2006.)

First, let’s examine and understand a necessary and fundamental distinction: The natural (disease, germs, etc.) and the man/mind made (science, medicine, cars, computers, etc.).

Everything man/mind made serves some purpose of being useful, good, practical or mistaken, useless, bad.

And almost everything man/mind made can be used to serve some purpose that it was not originally, purposefully made for: Airplanes are made, used, for air transportation, a human good, a value for living. But they were used as a deliberate terrorist weapon for the destruction of a life-serving, economic creation and for the deaths of innocent lives.

Every mind can identify the authority and the license involved in that destructive action.

And words can be and are used for all kinds of negative purposes, for excuses, lying, rationalizing, propaganda, ideologies, pseudo-sciences, prestige, etc.

With that, let’s examine that Joe Quesada sentence and some key words in the full context of comic book characters, stories, editing and publishing.

“These toys are meant to be broken”, “smashed together” and “status quo”.

“Broken” and “smashed” are not creative concepts but aggressive and destructive.

Next, there are two definitions of a toy: (1) “…a thing of little importance; trifle” and (2) “a plaything especially for children.”

So the purpose of a toy can be useless, negative or useful, positive depending on the particular context and on the toy’s purpose, function, of why it was made and what the end or goal it serves.

So a super hero comic book, a super hero, can be seen, held, as a “toy”, a “trifle”, of little use, value, to human life, so only fit to be “smashed”, “broken”.

Or the comic book, the “hero”, can be seen, held, as important, useful, a real value for man/mind and life.

It all depends on the evaluating, judging mind, the degree of rationality, reasoning, and what is believed, accepted, as a valid standard of value–the intrinsic, subjective or objective– that is used, operating.

A toy as a plaything for a child can be for a purpose of activating, stimulating, broadening his mind toward new experiences, discoveries, opportunities, benefits, possibilities, etc.

A toy doll can give a young girl all kinds of new experiences, of playing at being a friend, a sister or even a parent, etc.

A toy game for a young boy can be used to play with learning various skills, being adventurous, competitive, competent, even suggesting a future career.

A further elaboration on toys is with the Montessori School for young children (3-6 yrs.). The Montessori teaching method is teaching with toys. A young mind implicitly learns identity–A is A, causality, if/then, etc.– in having to fit round, square or odd-shaped objects into their appropriate holes on a board.

Toy building blocks teach a mind that there must first be a solid base, a foundation, to build, erect, a firm block structure (pyramid, etc.). There is an implied hierarchy, ranking, for the whole to stand, exist.

What is learned implicitly is that contradictions of identity, A is A, cannot lead to success in the real world.

It is the still emotionally-driven mind that gets frustrated and wants to “smash” the “toy”, the learning device, when it can’t get the material, the identities, to act any way it emotionally wants: A square piece in a round hole, etc.

The child’s mind has to identify, understand, learn to train the beginning of an ordered mind in the actual, successful doing. A pleasurable, rewarding experience.

A child’s mind learns that if he wants a certain effect–standing blocks, etc.–his mind has to obey the non-contradictory, the facts, identities of reality.

He then goes on to condemn progressive education, because it does not base itself on reality but emphasizes a subjective sense of individuality and molding of reality to suit some social or personal agenda.

The Progressives‘, all anti-objective education’s, goal is to teach, train, the child’s mind the need to “smash” particularly the status quo like property rights, i.e. the right to life, that the abstract community “mind”, meaning some authority with a license, decides what is to be “smashed”, to be “broken”, turned into a non-, an anti-identity for some common good.
Though I'm an unschooler, I'm not particularly a progressive; certainly the unschoolers I have most in common with believe that unschooling's an appropriate way to approach and respect reality, not bend and twist it to suit one's own personal preferences. More about progressive education here in Messing About and Opening Windows. More about superheroes in Superheroes, Emergent Teens, Norms and Nobility. A bit of Ayn Rand in All Literature is Dangerous. Thank you, dear blog archives, you always tell me where I am in thinking about various things. ;-)

Anyway, I liked the analysis of the role of toys and play towards a closer approach to reality, versus the destructive and mutilating use of toys and words. I'm sure you thought of the destructive kid Sid in Toy Story when you read the bit about smashing toys and building them back in new ways, too.

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