Dispatches from Delhi: Report 3

Today, I finished reading Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, a book that tries to ascertain the various external factors that help facilitate the possibility of great success. The book as a whole was good, but I found it particularly interesting that in one chapter, the author characterizes American education as a system that places great importance on the separation of work and play, citing the widespread cultural attitude that too much mental stimulation can lead to stagnation and actual digression. Now, on the surface, this seems like a sensible idea to vibe with. You know, the whole “all work and no play” philosophy.

However, what exactly constitutes “play”?

In the U.S., when I think about a playground, several common images immediately come to mind: merry-go-round, swings, jungle gyms, those weird steel bubbles kids used to hang on upside-down and do flips off of. These things come to mind because in America, playgrounds are meant as a welcome reprieve from the intellectual workload of school through exhaustive physical fun in the forms of monkey bars and slides; a place that symbolizes the American separation of learning and recreation with very clear-cut boundaries. Now, I’m definitely a byproduct of the American public education system in that I’ve learned the affiliation of the rooms with the desks and books and lessons as the workplace, which leaves everything outside those walls as a means to escape from that work and do what kids are supposed to do: play. Not to say that I wasn’t intellectually stimulated through class field trips to see things like the science museum or theatrical productions, but even those were far removed from the classroom, solidifying the idea that play is basically anything that’s not school, work or learning. I am not saying this is the only way to look at it, but it is something I happen to find true.

However, does that same definition apply in India?

Today, I visited the school where I am going to start teaching in a week. It was not the first time I went there, but it is definitely the first time I went there thinking about this particular question. Now, kids of all age groups in India grow up playing a lot like kids in America, but they just subtract all the playground equipment and due to monetary constraints, place twice the emphasis on organized sports. Since birth, most children are raised on soccer and cricket, two popular “world” sports, as opposed to Americanized sports like baseball, basketball, and football. However, like their American counterparts, they use the games to alleviate the stress of working in the classroom.

At least that is what I thought until I saw something extraordinary.

Since the two most popular sports played at this K-12 school are mostly aggressive contact sports, the bigger, older kids take up the available space to play them. So where do the younger kids go? What exactly do kids from 5-10 years old do while the bigger kids are all out in the front of the school on the basketball and soccer courts (both concrete, since I don’t think there’s a school in India can afford a grass pitch)? In the very back of the school’s Primary Wing, there is a small elevated area with the surface area of a small apartment. In it, there are no jungle gyms or monkey bars, no slides or bubbles; instead, it has interactive displays like those found in a science museum—each with a sign explaining how to use it and what to learn from it. The displays include:

  • A life-size model of DNA
  • A working model of a lifting screw
  • A pair of parabolic dishes (pictured)
  • A miniature hydroelectric power plant
  • And a 3-part model of inclined planes

Now, this might not be the most aesthetically pleasing recreational area to someone who grew up with the decency of American parks and playgrounds. Nor does it in any way work with the American definition of “play,” which itself says a lot about the Indian connection between work and play. This small pitch of land is a statement that schools can intentionally blur the line between learning and recreation to reduce students’ aversion to critical thinking by integrating learning into their play. I am not saying that playgrounds like this are a widespread phenomenon, and I am certainly not saying that all the children take advantage of this particular area, but the whole idea of this integration definitely suggests a very different paradigm for the Indian connection between school and play, learning and recreation. Specifically, that there is no connection; they are the same thing. To generalize, in the Western world, life exists in a compartmentalized fashion. However, in India and other Eastern cultures, life is promoted as holistically as possible.

I guess it is a lot harder for kids to develop aversions to learning when presented with opportunities like this for recess.

Meet The Interns: Kimberly Singleton

Kimberly Singleton is in her junior year at ASU as well as a student of Barrett, the Honors College at ASU’s West campus. After completing her undergraduate studies in English and Public Relations, Kimberly would like to attend graduate school for an interdisciplinary emphasis in English studies, encompassing Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Literature. This past June, Kimberly had an opportunity to present a paper that exemplified her interests in this interdisciplinary approach at Duquesne University’s Communication Ethics Conference. Kimberly currently tutors at the ASU West Writing Center and is the assistant to the editor for an academic book series through Purdue Press. This is the second issue of Superstition Review that Kimberly has had the privilege to work on.

Superstition Review: What is your position with Superstition Review and what are your responsibilities?

Kimberly Singleton: As one of the Interview Editors for Superstition Review, my main responsibility is to craft at least five interviews with distinguished or emerging authors. First, I am responsible for contacting authors for a potential interview. If they agree to an interview, I research their work and create questions based on my results. The questions are then sent to the author for their responses.

SR: Why did you decide to get involved with Superstition Review?

KS: Superstition Review has allowed me the opportunity to experience a career in publishing as a young, emerging professional. By becoming involved with the magazine, I am able to see if this career is one I would pursue after graduation. Furthermore, an internship with such a notable magazine helps me to mature in my understanding of professionalism, integrity, dedication, and time management in the workplace.

SR: Besides interning for Superstition Review, how do you spend your time?

KS: The majority of my time is devoted to my other courses at ASU. I am also a tutor at ASU’s West campus Writing Center and the president of a student organization at the West campus. Both of these positions and the internship keep me very occupied during the week and even on the weekends. When I’m not busy with school-related activities, I enjoy salsa dancing and drinking coffee with my mom.

SR: What other position(s) for Superstition Review would you like to try out?

KS: Although I have not received formal training in art history, design, or creation, I enjoy experiencing various pieces of art and would enjoy trying out the Art Editor position. My understanding of artwork has come from conversations with other artists, exploring art venues, and my vast interest in aesthetic theory.

SR: Describe one of your favorite literary works.

KS: One of my favorite literary works is E.M. Forster’s delightful book, A Room with a View. Although I have read it countless times, each reading brings additional discoveries from the text. It is a rich piece of literature with multiple layers of meaning and symbolism that concern aestheticism, philosophy, gender politics, and social values.

SR: What are you currently reading?

KS: I am currently reading Martin Heidegger’s Being and Time for one of my courses. It is a dense philosophic piece that takes the entire history of Western Philosophy into question by challenging Cartesian ethics and instead maintaining our “Being-in-the-World” as the fundamental point for human knowledge.

SR: Creatively, what are you currently working on?

KS: Right now I am preparing to begin my thesis for Barrett, the Honors College which will serve as my writing sample when applying for graduate programs next fall.

SR: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

KS: In 10 years I hope to be finished with my PhD and working in some capacity with a university whether it’s teaching, public relations, or publishing.

Meet the Interns: Mike Tomzik, Web Designer

Mike Tomzik is a Creative Writing major.

Superstition Review: What is your position with Superstition Review and what are your responsibilities?

Mike Tomzik: I am a Web Designer for Superstition Review. Being that the Review is an online literary publication, I design and form an orderly layout of the professional work featured within the magazine.

SR: How did you hear about Superstition Review and what made you decide to get involved?

MT: I tend to sporadically search for online publications and journals that could possibly feature my work, and as I was going through the Arizona State website I came across Superstition Review. The name was familiar to me and the internship appealed to my interests. I’ve been looking to get involved with a literary publication for some time and the dynamics of the Review seemed like something that would be conducive to my progression as not only a writer and editor, but as a person interested in working in the writing world.

SR: What are you hoping to take away from your Superstition Review experience?

MT: I want to get an inside look at how a magazine operates, and I would like to learn the techniques that will allow me to successfully publish and edit professional work in the future.

SR: Describe one of your favorite literary or artistic works.

MT: In terms of literary fiction, my favorite writer is John Steinbeck. My favorite book by him is East of Eden, which–logically–is my favorite book. I tend to like novels that have a sense of the epic, and East of Eden is an epic look at multiple generations of a family. The themes involving good and evil are themes that I recognize as being an integral part of Steinbeck’s writing and are important factors in my own writing. I think that life is composed of literary characters and Steinbeck really captured wholesome, human people in this novel.

One of my favorite American poems is Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself. I love the unconventional vision created from his mind and spirit, and I believe that much of what he wrote in his lifetime masterpiece is considered unconventional because it is the naked truth. People are afraid of bare absolutes and Whitman does a good job at exposing these spiritual necessities.

SR: What are you currently reading?

MT: I am currently reading A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess.

SR: What other position(s) for Superstition Review would you like to try out?

MT: I would definitely like to try out editing. In regards to my own personal writing, editing is the hardest part for me. I enjoy the initial composition of a piece but it is very difficult for me to rearrange what I have so carefully composed. I need work on it, and I think that both poetry and fiction editing would strengthen not only my editing abilities but sharpen my writing and reading skills as well.

SR: Do you prefer reading literary magazines online or in print?

MT: I prefer to read everything in print. Reading on the computer is a very different experience. After a while my eyes become out of focus and my world dizzies to the point of paranoia. Books were written for the tangible page. The physical book is an essential part of the art of writing. The cover, the pages, the font, the pictures, the smell, the texture; all these factors give the actual book character and meaning. To open a book is to enter a world, and that book in your hand is the vehicle that transports you there. To see the author’s words on the page is to feel his or her mind thinking. Reading words on the computer is not only a modern practice that exempts the art of book-binding and selling, but is very capable of driving me mad. For me, minimal technology in art is the best. The mind is all we need.

SR: Do you write or create art? What are you currently working on?

MT: I like to think that I write like a feverish young Hemingway with a dedication to the art similar to that of Norman Mailer. I tell people that I have lived before as the great Leo Tolstoy due to our similar vision of human nature and writing style, but in reality I write minimally and sporadically. I am pleased with what I write and have written a few good works catalogued in my own personal repertoire. I am satisfied with one of my short stories, an epic poem I wrote for class, and a short screenplay that I have written. My desk is filled with pages of philosophical ramble, short beginnings to works I once deemed masterpieces, song lyrics, movie ideas, dialogues, and clips of my mind that I was lucky enough to find a pen to record. I figure that I should record as much of my mind as I can while I still have it. I love writing love poetry.

Besides writing, I am a musician. I’ve been blessed with the soul of music and it is up to me what I will do with it and how far I will evolve it. Right now, in the twenty second year of my existence, I figure that it would be foolish not to use the strings that I have been given, and I see music as the medium that most effectively expresses my love and happiness. I’ve noticed that life functions off the former to produce the latter, so this avenue seems to be my true path to enlightenment.

But that is a bold claim that I as a human shouldn’t have the authority to utter, though I still do. This is not to say my writing is not important or that it will not be involved in my professional life. Music is writing and writing is music. Hell, outside is inside and the sky is part of the grass. Everything is everything and it all connects and truthfully, in my moments of true artistic desire and longing to express that which I carry within, I want to completely represent myself by any and all means possible, whether it is with a pen, a guitar, a brush, or a smile.

SR: Besides interning for Superstition Review, how do you spend your time?

MT: I honestly spend my time quite prodigally and extravagantly. I’m sporadic and random. I start many things and finish about half of them. I’m interested in nearly everything. I want to grow exponentially but my tendency to dawdle is detrimental. I read and write and sing and dance and drink and eat and talk and listen and laugh and smoke mostly.

SR: What is your favorite mode of relaxation?

MT: I like to meditate. I climb atop my roof and look out over the dusk. I enjoy swimming and golfing and riding my bicycle. I like to play Frisbee with my friends. I enjoy lighting candles and I enjoy planting vegetables and flowers. I love playing the guitar and listening to music. I hate to say it but I do sit on the couch a lot and that is pretty relaxing. Sleeping is amazing. Eating good food is essential.

SR: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

MT: On a plane with many devices on hand.