My Opinion

I was sitting in an Activate Journalism Workshop when it first dawned on me. We had been asked to write one or two hard news opening paragraphs based on specific examples, and that was fine. I quickly assessed the story for is main points, and I formulated the information based on the inverted-pyramid technique we had been taught in first term. All good so far, right? But then came a nasty surprise. We were to write a short, creative film review on the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight. And like a fish futilely opening and closing its mouth in the air, I battled to string the right words together. It was as if, in my earlier news writing, I had been travelling in a tunnel towards the light, with the solid walls of conventions and traditional techniques guiding me on my way to finding meaning. But now these walls had vanished, and light was everywhere. I was stranded on a plain of uncertainty and indecision.
Upon further contemplation, I realised how much my writing had changed in just one year. In high school, I thrived on creative writing. I loved writing short stories. I had written one particular story that covered over 50 pages on Microsoft Word. When I arrived at Rhodes, I was half way through a story on my hero, Achilles. Well eight months later and that story remains unfinished.
This is exactly my point. During your stay at university, all creativity is slowly snuffed out. I should have guessed it during those lectures on plagiarism during O-Week. As a first year, the ideas you express in your essays are someone else’s, never yours. Then the rules and conventions of writing an essay wrap around your style of writing like a python, which begins to squeeze and constrict. I have noticed in all my writing words such as “therefore”, “thus”, “In addition to” and “however” appear on an alarming regularity. Journalism students have it even worse off: that style guide has become the bible of some omnipotent writer’s deity.
Do not get me wrong. I am a student journalist myself, and I have the utmost respect for journalistic conventions. I feel they are necessary for the field. But this does not mean that other ways of thinking should be suppressed. It was the famous author William Golding who once said, “Marx, Darwin and Freud are the three most crashing bores of the western world. Simplistic popularization of their ideas has thrust our world into a mental straightjacket...” All university students need to break out of this “straightjacket”, and be open to new ways of perceiving the world. The film ‘Bridge to Terabithia’ should not be shrugged off as a children’s movie, because it shows how just by using creativity, your whole reality can be redefined.
JRR Tolkien expressed this point in true style. The legend goes that while Tolkien was painfully marking examination papers (he was a lecturer), he noticed one of his students had left one page of the answer-book blank. Tolkien, for no logical reason, wrote a title on the top of the page, “In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit”. He proceeded to describe these hobbits, and explain why they were there. He then handed this back to the student to be marked. I believe JRR Tolkien was making a point. He wanted his students to realise that there exists a world beyond the academic boundaries, and it is just waiting to be discovered.
Rhodes first year students must never stop being creative, and must do everything in their power to resist the university’s forces of suppression and uniformity. There is evidence of this creativity everywhere: in the posters around campus, in the intricate patterns on Rhodes purple overalls, in the dances at Union and Friars. These expressions are just as important as academic discourse, and they need to be embellished. They have the power to change the world. As Albert Einstein once said, “You can never solve a problem on the level on which it was created”.



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