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Time now for an issue that despite the dearth of attention it receives in the media, affects us all.

Today, we’re going to talk about glue gun control.

My guess is you’re wondering how we’ll have a productive conversation about glue guns, especially if I’m the only one talking, and there’s a chance you don’t have much experience with glue guns. Well, luckily for you, I have a glue gun anecdote. It’s taken directly from the chapter entitled “How to Know When It’s Time to Get Your Child Out of a Preschool Classroom,” in my handbook on raising innovative and creative thinkers, which admittedly I haven’t finished writing yet.

It was Lindsey’s pre-K year, by all accounts a very important year of instruction and social interaction, which might account for the intense focus on learning how not to stick things up your nose. Tic Tacs, erasers, beads, hamster pellets. You get the idea.

Stories at the Museum - Crafts - February 2011Anyway, it was early in the school year and for the first time in the collective preschool history of the Schwartzkopf clan, I was hearing complaints about school. Concerned parent that I was, I found myself observing Lindsey’s class one morning. It was craft time now, but it had been eerily quiet from the time I had entered the room a half hour earlier.

Eighteen little students, all still as statues, waited for the cue from Ms. Waytoostern: ready, set, create. Uncomfortable with the stillness and the silence myself, I fidgeted in a tiny chair in the corner and made throat-clearing noises to get Lindsey’s attention. Her eyes were fixed on the project before her.

“Blue table!” Ms. Waytoostern bellowed. Dutifully, the blue table kids rose, nearly completed scarecrows in hand, and shuffled single-file toward the front of the class. There, Ms. Waytoostern was ready to effectively shoot down any attempt at creativity with her handy-dandy, industrial strength, super high-temp, hot lava-filled glue gun. Just what every preschool teacher needs.

“Choose your hat color, please,” she intoned as each child approached the desk, clutching a scarecrow to his or her chest, knowing the little brainless guy’s head would soon be doused with molten hot glue.

Squirt went the glue gun. Plop went the hat. Whoosh went the creative energy out of the room. And all the good girls and boys went back to their seats with the exact same scarecrow, except for the hat.

I remember the one little girl (not mine) who dared to question if her scarecrow even needed a hat. Again with the eery silence, as all eyes were trained on the little girl and her hatless scarecrow. I’ll never forget how Ms. Waytoostern, using this as a teachable moment, saw the opportunity to embrace individualism and explore the wonder of the artistic process. You could tell this from her very thoughtful reply: “Choose your hat color, please.”

Which leads us to the question of whether glue guns should even be allowed in the classroom. I think we can all agree that no parent, or teacher for that matter, should be denied the right to own a glue gun. I certainly didn’t go home that day and Google “turn-in program” to dispose of my own. (Yes, I keep a low-temp mini in the house.) Nor did I start selling t-shirts with Glue Guns Don’t Kill Art! Grownups Kill Art! From the back of the minivan.

However, once I cooled down a bit I did have a talk with the director of the preschool. Then, I conducted a mental inventory of the art that had come home over the years. Maybe half of it looked like “teacher” had been a very busy woman, whether or not there was a glue gun involved. The other half looked like a small rodent had ralphed on a piece of construction paper after mistaking a Ben Franklin bag for Chick-fil-A – just how preschool art should look. This is the stuff we have in large flat files, now collecting dust under beds and in various closets. These are the creations that let our children look at art as a process, not a product.

On the way home from school that day, Lindsey took her scarecrow out of her bag. “Where should we put him, Mommy?” Oooh, I could think of a few places I wanted to put him. But I was pretty sure Ms. Waytoostern would not have appreciated my creativity one bit.

Karen Schwartzkopf
Karen Schwartzkopf has her dream job as managing editor of RFM. Wife, mother, arts and sports lover, she lives and works in the West End with her family, including husband Scott, who not coincidentally is RFM’s creative director. You can read Karen’s take on parenting her three daughters – Sam, Robin, and Lindsey, also known as the women-children – in the Editor’s Voice.
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