An Abnormal Reading of “The Giver”

I just recently read “The Giver” by Lois Lowry. Now I did break one of my primary rules in how I choose which books to read: I typically hold fast to only reading a book written by an author who has been dead for at least fifty years. I picked up the book because I heard that it is a staple literature book in public middle schools. I was curious what was so great about this novel written in 1993. (Whether twenty years is enough to prove the mettle of a book is a topic for another post.)

To be honest, I really enjoyed the book. The plot was intriguing for me (I do like dystopian novels) and it was an easy read because it was written at an early middle school level. The characters seemed to be adequately developed for a short novel. And most importantly, I enjoyed the critique of sameness which seemed very appropriate in a country where the federal government seems to be taking control of everything it can.

It was that reading of it that lead me to bring it up in a discussion with a former public school teacher. I commented how it seemed odd to me that it criticized sameness so blatantly and yet the teachers who hold it in such high regard also embrace the Common Core. Those promoting the Common Core seek to nationalize the curriculum. I also read that one of the end goals of the Common Core is that every school will eventually be teaching exactly the same thing in every grade–not just skills but also the same information. (This conclusion is not hard to reach if you compare the Common Core standards with the former state standards.) I wondered how the teachers in our public middle schools do not realize that the Common Core is pushing for sameness!

There is a richness in local government, in local schools, in local traditions. The ideology behind the Common Core leaves no room for state history or the like. Sameness is what nationalization brings.

To a point I side with Lois Lowry: a society that knows nothing other than itself is poor. And yet (beyond Lowry’s point), a society that does not value what it has is even poorer.

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Modern “Freestyle” Dancing Is Repugnant

As the lead steps back with his left foot, the follow comes toward him. He steps aside with agility, but catches her with his right hand, and circling, sends her back the other direction to be stopped by their joined hands.

The Lindy Hop, a dance that took shape in the 1920s, is just one type of social partnered dancing. The Waltz and the Foxtrot exist for the more romantic among us, the Two-Step and the Polka for those of a more country bent, and East and West Coast Swing for fun-lovers, not to mention all the Latin dances. By no means is this meant to be exhaustive, but it is clear that there are many types of social partnered dancing, practically one for any mood someone could possibly be in.

Some people dance for exercise, others dance for social interaction, and still others dance for its romantic appeal. Regardless of which of three motivates one to dance, clearly all three are essentially present in any partnered dance. Let’s focus on one of those three aspects: the romantic appeal.

Now the key thing to notice about the dances mentioned above is that they are partnered. That means that those forms of dancing include socially acceptable touching. Yes, through social dancing men and women can touch one another in a public setting. In a social dance scene, it is  absolutely common to see a young man lead a pretty lady onto the dance floor holding her hand–even when they barely know each other. Holding hands is commonplace in social dancing. 

However, while that is normal for the social dance scene, seasoned dancers are very aware of the signals that could give to a person who is new to the scene. They wait for new dancers to become accustomed to the socially acceptable touching before they begin to hold the new dancer’s hand on the way to the dance floor. It is fascinating to see the veteran dancers be so cautious and aware of the romantic signals they give to new dancers by the very nature of the dance.

Not only do social dancers hold hands, but they have to touch each other in different places: the lady places her left hand on the man’s right shoulder while the man places his right hand on her left shoulder blade. Moves exist in which the man ought to run is hand down her arm (in a non-creepy way) or give her a slight push on her left hip.

All this is to say that social partnered dancing allows for channeled touch. It is clear to anyone in the dance scene that there is appropriate touching and non-appropriate touching.

Modern “freestyle” dance is where each individual is left up to his or her own creativity to put on a show that is coordinated (actually more often not coordinated) with the music. Young people joke about moves called “The Sprinkler,” “The Lawn Mower,” and “Grocery Cart” to name a few. Frequently the dance has little to no taste while the music is worse.

Now if a young person wants to make a fool of himself, let him be, right? If that were all that was wrong with this modern dancing I would say yes. But the problem is that there is no touching. 

No touching? Is that a problem? Yes, and a deep one. Social dancing allows for a limited amount of touching. In a sense, the sexual drive is appeased but not indulged. In modern freestyle dance, the sexual appetite is heightened and then abandoned. That’s what leads to  “bumping and grinding”–a phenomenon that in my experience universally repulses people except for the protagonists (and perhaps even for them).

So social dancing allows the sexual passions their room while keeping them harnessed. Freestyle dancing stimulates those passions in the dancers and in the spectators while no way of reining them in. Perhaps social dancing should be encouraged in our youth as a way to teach self-control.

What are your thoughts?