Wednesday, August 27, 2014

New Thoughts on the Old Box

One of my summer reads I made some headway on was Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader.  I am, for sure, a Potterhead.  I'd say something about it in my twitter bio, but there is just not space and thinking about it now, I probably need to go adjust my bio page to note this (shame on me).  I've read that series all the way through at least a half dozen times and I'm slowly working my way through the John Granger books looking at the literary values the Harry Potter series contain.  If these books were around when I was in high school, I probably would have enjoyed those classes a whole lot more.  Of course this is all my own interest and purely for the fun of it, but then I read this quote and I couldn't help but stop and think:
Photo from
"Propaganda and brainwashing, be it for racism, fascism, or for postmodernism, is still an invitation to think with the herd. The fun part is that in the case of our times and postmodern books and movies, the herd is a nonconformist herd of individualists all thinking outside the box, all attacking the box, and all neglecting the possibility that box-hatred has become the box." (159) 
I hope that last line caught you like it did me! Whoa! We've probably heard the phrase "think outside the box" more than we care to and most times we are not sure what the box is that we're supposed to think outside of. Add to that now the phrase "no box thinking." That poor word (box) has no chance. It is doomed to be something negative that people avoid. But in the context of that quote and how these phrases are used or overused, guess what the box is now!!?? Thinking outside the box & no box thinking...

Let's open the conversation now.  In my thoughts on and exploration of personal & school identity, I have had the thought that maybe the box isn't necessarily bad.  Let's start by thinking about the innovation that is identified with a box.  Who doesn't love the package on the front porch with the "a" and the smiling arrow or even the dude in the brown getup that delivered it (logistics)!?  Amazon and UPS have taken the box to a whole other level!  Their box (or boxes, for that matter) says something important about them and are unique to the items they contain! Shouldn't ours say something about us as unique individuals?

I'd contend that it is the the emotional attachment to our box that can make it a bad thing; when fear or anxiety keep us tied to a box that no longer is appropriate.  It is those times when life, professional or personal, calls us to adjust, change and shift, but instead, we fight.  That the box becomes negative.  We as individuals and learning organizations should, when the times call for it, be able to modify our box, whether to meet student needs, remain current and/or relevant, etc.  Your passions and platform, whether a speaker, a blogger, a teacher (think content area) or administrator is a box.  It is something that you have chosen that is unique to you and plays a role in defining you.  Think about it in the context of Greek mythology: Pandora opened the box releasing evils in the world.  When we try to be too many things to too many people, it's not a good thing.  Those are those times when we end up doing many things and not a single one of them well.

As Dr. Granger so eloquently stated above, let's not make box hatred become the box that defines us.  We, as instructional leaders, need to support and encourage our people in their journey whether developing their box or helping them think outside of their current box.  That is our role! That is the way that we should reframe (or repackage, HA!) the phrase.  "Think outside the box", at its core, is a challenge to creativity and cannot stand alone.  Dave Burgess would tell us that creativity is a process and one that takes time and practice.  If we are going to use the phrase, we need to plan on investing in the process that follows.



Granger, John (2007).  Unlocking Harry Potter: Five Keys for the Serious Reader. Zossima Press 

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