A no holds barred review of our times. The 21st century is filled with discouragement, anxieties, depression and woe-filled thoughts; children, being no more protected from these feelings than adults. We're deeply in need of an encouragement fix. Bernard Poulin opens the doors to that consideration.
2014 - Dr. Judith Schlesinger, author of the Insanity Hoax and critic of my book in the online magazine: The Creativity Post, USA (abridged comments - for full text of the critique please request it from the author)
In the immortal words of M. Python, "and now for something completely different."
2014 year brought a delightful piece of serendipity to my mailbox. When Canadian Bernard Poulin read his local newspaper’s account of my book, The Insanity Hoax: Exposing the myth of the mad genius, he was moved to send me a copy of his own, Beyond Discouragement—CREATIVITY: How to raise a creative child (Classic Perceptions, 2010).
Beyond Discouragement, CREATIVITY builds on four decades of his so-called “wonderings,” as well as his years of working with kids in remedial settings...
This book enables authors to color outside the lines of political correctness without alarming any editors. And so this one does. Frequently.
As you'd expect, most books (on creativity) were written by educators, psychologists and motivational entrepreneurs of various stripes. It’s far less common to hear from those in the actual trenches whose immersion in creativity is most direct, personal, and visible—i.e., the artists themselves. It’s even more unusual when these author/artists have a background in mental health, and can pinpoint the issues of psychological concern.
In fact, Poulin’s history does give more weight to his wonderings. Originally trained as an elementary school teacher, and later certified in special education, Poulin founded a residential school in a former orphanage. A warm and welcoming respite for children with difficult living situations, his school flourished for three years until the government pulled the plug, dispersing the young ones from the only home and school many had ever known. Poulin then ran the first-ever classroom for troubled French-speakers for the local school board, as well as one that was part of a psychiatric hospital.
In 1978, Poulin began his visual arts career. As his success increased, so did his passion and ideas for nurturing creativity. His book targets a wide range of its “discouragers,” such as stifling educational practices that are more concerned with classroom management than learning, and parents who blindly surrender their role to specialists and advertisers who claim to know what’s best for their kids. Poulin notes that few address what he considered to be one of his key parental responsibilities: instilling a sense of wonder and silliness in his children.
Together with generous helpings of common sense, Poulin serves up some practical ideas, like how to transform “time out” periods from their familiar disciplinary role into something that actively builds family togetherness. There are instructions for making a bathtub studio where kids are free to get messy, another creativity “encourager.”
After forty years of wondering, Poulin’s aim is wide as well as deep. For example, although globalization is commonly considered a sign of progress, he calls it “homogenization,” and decries its negative impact on creativity as “a devastating virus…that renders us safe in the bosom of sameness.” In fact, globalization does file down the contours of individual cultures without really bringing people closer together—except to produce a world full of eager consumers who all want the same stuff.
Another Poulin-ese provoker is how television spreads “the cult of victimhood,” where “failings are sold to us as more interesting and ‘attractive’ than talents or accomplishments.” Many pundits have compared reality stars to the carnival freaks of old, but Poulin takes a step sideways, arguing that such entertainment poses a specific modern danger to budding creativity: “it encourages ridicule, sneering and belittlement [and] scares our children, who fear that one day, someone will see them as worthy of being sneered at and belittled—just for the fun of it.” When you consider the growing scourge of bullying, it’s clear that such a “one day” is already here.
Finally, I was particularly moved by his eloquent reminder that “children need to dream and wish for” or they will “shrivel and shrink and become less than they are.” This reminds me of psychiatry’s dismaying efforts to make “daydreaming” an official symptom of several childhood disorders. These days it’s not only part of that old standby, ADHD, but also its proposed converse, “sluggish cognitive tempo.” Aside from the curious presence of the identical “symptom” at both ends of the pathological spectrum, I resent their hijacking a lovely musical term for such punitive purposes.
.But that’s a column for another day. For now, I’m just happy to recommend this wise, lively, and useful little book to all who cherish creativity and want to help it flower.
2011 - Delderfield, Antony, London, UK
Many thanks for your excellent book. You are not only a superb painter and writer, I now put you in the same league as Plato. Your book should be read by every parent worldwide.
2010 - CB, Ottawa
Just finished your book and I have a thousand words for you but I have condensed it to one "Bravo"" . Great job but a tough read. . .
2010 - Charles P, Toronto
Add philosopher and psychologist to your many credits. Your book is frank, unpretentious, heartwarming, “plein d'aperçus profonds sur la vie et le voyage de découverte qui nous préoccupe à travers les générations”. A must-read for teachers and young parents... Bravo!
Mike M, San Francisco
Bernard Poulin, internationally prominent artist, has written a compelling book, "Beyond Discouragement - Creativity." There are several levels to the book. Each level is valuable in its own right.
For artists, the book guides readers to a mindset where they can be courageous in their creativity, deal with failures as well as successes, and avoid the pitfall of discouragement when failures crop up, as they inevitably do.
For parents, the book helps them better understand their children's creative processes. Mr. Poulin reassures parents that their children are not fragile creatures who will be shattered, or whose creativity will be destroyed, when parents do their job as parents.
For educators, the book is a rigorous reexamination of much conventional wisdom about education and the creative process. The book's extensive bibiliography makes it plain that the author has done his homework; he has thoroughly researched the subject, in addition to being a parent and mentor.
There is an additional level, which (to me) is the most important. Most books are like a wall. On one side of the wall is the author; on the other side is the reader, who is presented with "the book." In the case of Bernard Poulin's book, however, the wall is removed, and we actually meet him. Turning through the pages, we can imagine him, winking slyly to us as he makes a joke. We are invited into his painting studio, where we meet his children, as toddlers, playing on the floor while Dad paints. We meet the children being creative in their own improvised creative space - nothing more complicated than a bathroom tub, where they can play, make a mess, examine their own creativity without hesitation. We meet Bernard Poulin's remarkable wife, every bit as creative and caring as the husband. We meet the people who mentored the author at differing stages of his own life. Finally, we are invited to think of the people in our own lives who have mentored us. It is a powerful and enriching exercise.
2010 - Elaine M, Buckingham
I was only able to read bits at a time. . . The content is definitely in your face. The notion of encouragement and excellence - as opposed to the usual push for unattainable perfection - should be required reading . . . Wow! I hope we can offer our child this “best that we can be” concept. What courage it takes to publish such a book at this time. Bravo!
Beyond Discouragement, Creativity
- Pages: 192
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