R. James Stahl
<b>Creative Kids by R. James Stahl</b><br><br>Audio version <a href="http://ripr.org/post/i-believe-rhode-island-creative-kids"target="_blank">www.ripr.org</a><br><br>The week of my Bar Mitzvah, a bomb-making prank (my idea) took my left eye. Until that moment, I was seeing the world as a typical 13-year-old boy sees it. Then, a second later, I wasn’t. The required soul-searching over what to place in Scott’s box revealed that what I believe, and the career I made of it, very likely began in that moment.<br><br>I published writers, some of them famous now, when they still had curfews. They would mail me their folded thoughts about growing up, the trials of school, the death of a pet, the birth of a little brother. Most submissions I had to reject, but published or not each one received a personal response from my talented staff or from me. From our little Main Street office in East Greenwich, we published the best submissions in a magazine that we shipped all across the world. My experience taught me to believe in the practical value of listening to young people’s thinking.<br><br>Publishing young writers sent a message of hope to creative kids who felt their talents were trivial or unwanted. Their creativity mattered to me. Even the briefest submissions could floor me. One 8th grader, for instance, wrote a poem called “Religion.” “On the sixth day,” it said, “He got up and sprayed people from an aerosol can and then God threw away the exhausted container.” <br><br>Such provocation -- in seven lines! Is creating humanity as casual as spraying air freshener in a guest room? Or does that “exhausted container” mean that the creative act fatigues even all-powerful God? Is God still omnipotent if he or she suffers fatigue? In hundreds of classrooms that read this poem, discussions took off -- all of them launched by the words of one creative teen!<br><br>Publishing kids, I saw that the brightest ones teach their peers and their teachers. That’s why I believe in urging more teen involvement in our civic and volunteer organizations, in our schools, places of worship, and government. We need the brightest ideas from kids, their originality, their view of the world, and their view of us -- the adults in charge.Creative teens have already shaped our culture. Writers who helped define the American character -- Edgar Allan Poe, Sylvia Plath, Langston Hughes among them – were publishing as teens. A young Mozart composed melodies we still hum. When Frankenstein took his first arthritic step into our imaginations, how old was his creator, Mary Shelley? About 16. <br><br>So how much higher could America fly if input from creative kids was built into the plan? I believe much higher. <br><br>Maybe schools can take the first step. They can become places where innovative, creative kids feel as safe, as wanted and celebrated as their home-run hitting, touchdown-scoring peers in athletics. Rhode Island schools could lead the way. Others may follow.<br><br>I believe in getting creative kids to the table now to solve our biggest problems. We can use the help!