This post is written by Honey Good Guest Contributor, Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein. I do hope you enjoy, darlings!
I read this review, and it took me back…
July 4, 2014
“… A workbook that encourages kids to make strange/unlikely comparisons between situations or things, thus introducing them to the idea of metaphor, and encouraging them to think creatively and take risks. My grown daughters used it in 4th grade, as part of a poetry in the schools program, and loved doing the exercises. No wrong answers! …Too bad book is out of print.” – Amazon review for Making It Strange (Book 1, Paperback)
It Started in Grad School
When I was in graduate school at Boston University in 1965, in the School of Education, our professors encouraged us to do group projects for our Master’s thesis. I partnered with two other students, and after we found out about Synectics, a company in Cambridge, the three of us were off and running. Synectics was focusing on solving problems in the world of industry and creating new products. The core of their process was metaphorical thinking; the idea being that if you understood that tree leaves were not just for creating shade, but were also for turning carbon dioxide into oxygen, then maybe you could create a product that also had a dual function. Let’s say a type of cloth or material that was great and cheap for clothes but then had a secondary purpose as household insulation.
My Master’s Thesis
We met with Bill Gordon, the developer of Synectics and discussed a thesis idea. Our thinking was, “Why not teach young kids how to use metaphors to invent things, solve problems, and develop more sophisticated language art skills as a side benefit?”
Mr. Gordon liked our ideas and we were thrilled to be welcomed on the Synectics premises. We were also thrilled to be guided by him and our adviser, Dr. Alice B. Crossley. As we developed our thesis we experimented with learning exercises for children. We were excited to be around such brilliant, important people. Boston was, and still is, full of genius-level people working and inventing for industries around the city. It was cool for us to be welcomed into one of the ‘think tanks’ of its
Working at Synectics
Our thesis was a great success and we earned our Masters in Education in June. Toby Levine, one of my future co-authors, and I decided to be brave and ask Mr. Gordon if we could have a summer job at Synectics to develop ‘Making It Strange’. We had the idea for a workbook designed for children to develop the creative, inventive side of their brains while encouraging writing and thinking skills. To our delight, we were hired!
Can you imagine how special we felt coming to work at Synectics every day? We worked hard and over the summer developed the first ‘Making it Strange’ workbook. We had lots of fun also. Mr. Gordon had a home and cabins up in New Hampshire and once we went up there for three days, lived in a cabin and worked on our materials. A ‘think tank’ in the woods! How cool was that? At night Toby and I got a ride on the back of a truck with other young people to a bar. Let’s just say we were on top of the world!
For the 1960’s we were very fortunate women to be using our talents every day of the week, getting a paycheck, learning more and more about creative thinking and having fun.
Life After Synectics
Soon we left Synectics to go on with our lives. I went on to teach first and second grades and utilized bits and pieces of our exercises. For example, I often taught creative thinking with my second graders by asking them a question such as “Which weighs more a pickle or a pain?” I’ve never met a child that couldn’t answer this.
I went on for my Doctorate in Education and did my dissertation based on Synectics principles of the use of metaphors. I researched the exercises I developed in a school outside of Boston, working one to one with many children. Statistical results showed they had improved in their ability to use language and in their flexibility of thought.
1970 came and I received my Ed.D. Life took over: a new baby, a move to the suburbs, a move to New Jersey, etc.
At the Synectics end of things, our work was proofed and came out as a paperback book: MAKING IT STRANGE (An Experimental Creative Writing Course). In that edition, Toby and I were both recognized as Research Associates. Project Director was, of course, William J.J. Gordon. In future additions, 4 workbooks, published by Harper & Row we were not mentioned. I understood that legally, as we had been employed by Synectics and technically the material was theirs. A few years later the books to my knowledge went out of print.
Your Enchanted Self
This is where The Enchanted Self comes to be so important. As women we sometimes assume, or at least hope we will be recognized, noted, paid a fair wage, etc. Often that is not what happens. What is most dangerous when it doesn’t go our way is that often we ourselves throw out the baby with the bathwater. We close the door and kind of forget that talent part of ourselves. That’s a big mistake. We need to realize that what we create has value, whether rewarded or not.
I admit it startled me when I read the review at the beginning of this article. I suddenly remembered how hard we worked, and how kids had loved our exercises in creative thought. It would be great if our names were on the published workbooks, if the books could stay in print forever, and if we got great royalty checks twice a year. Ok, none of that happened.
But still, outside in the world of kids we made a difference. Somewhere there are people in their 40’s and 50’s now who are probably a bit more creative and flexible in their thinking because of us.
It’s important to know our value moments in life.
We all have them. A smile makes someone’s day, a phone call cheers someone up, a cancer cure saves a life, a sanctuary takes in an old horse who lives out beautiful senior years, and I can go on and on. I’m encouraging you to never forget your own accomplishments. They are out there still floating in the universe as ours are.
Somewhere, someone is thinking about ‘Which ways more, a pickle or a pain?’ and knows instantly which does weigh more. And maybe that helps him or her make a decision in life or just gives the person a chuckle. It’s all good!
Guest contributor, Dr. Barbara Becker Holstein:
Sometimes friends and colleagues call me ‘The Enchanted Self.’ That’s because as a psychologist in private practice for over 35 years, I’ve developed a form of positive psychology called The Enchanted Self. I’m not enchanted, but I do have many ways and ideas to help all of us feel better through all stages of life. These methods help us to recognize our potential, regardless of our age, to grab on to our talents and find again and again the emotional energies needed to be creative, resourceful, resilient and to live joyfully.