Thursday, May 12, 2016

Not as a crazy as it sounds: Getting Rid of Art Education

Danny Gregory published a wonderful piece a few weeks ago: Let's get rid of Art Education. Danny's 'thing' is art, so I expected the click-bait worthy title to be ironic or be some other form of misdirection. But no, he actually proposes getting rid of art education, and after reading his piece, I think he's on to something.

You should go read the article here, but if you want the quick and dirty summary continue reading:

What's wrong with art education?

I’m no expert on education but I have spent a lot of time in school art programs over the past year. In the lower grades, kids just have fun drawing and painting. They don’t really need much encouragement or instruction. In middle school, the majority start to lose their passion for making stuff and instead learn the price of making mistakes. Art class is all too often a gut, an opportunity for adolescents to screw around. By high school, they have been divided into a handful who are ‘artsy’ and may go onto art school and a vast majority who have no interest in art at all.

In short, every child starts out with a natural interest in art which is slowly drained — until all that’s left is a handful of teens in eyeliner and black clothing whose parents worry they’ll never move out of the basement.

Sounds about right to me. And his proposal?

I propose we get rid of art education and replace it with something that is crucial to the future of our world: creativity.
Imagine if Creativity became a part of our core education

Instead of teaching kids to paint bowls of fruit with tempera, we’d show them how to communicate a concept through a sketch, how to explore the world in a sketchbook, how to generate ideas, how to solve real problems. Theatre would be all about collaboration, presentation and problem solving. Music classes would emphasize creative habit, teamwork, honing skills, composition, improvisation.

We’d teach creative process, how to come up with ideas, how to find inspiration, how to steal from the greats. We’d teach kids to work effectively with others to improve and test their ideas. We’d teach them how to realize their ideas, get them executed through a supply chain, how to present and market and share them.

This all dovetails nicely with the concepts explained in in Blah Blah Blah. That is that as students we get extensive education in verbal and written communication, but much in terms of visual communication. In my day, visual communication was essentially for recreation, whereas language skills were for actually getting work done.

Of course, it's been years since I sat in a classroom. And even then, I had teachers who emphasized exactly the kind of creativity Danny is recommending. I'm thinking especially of Math Professor John Ringland who frequently implored me: whenever trying to solve a math problem, draw a picture of it. To this day, I try to implement that advice. So yeah, my guess is that there are plenty of folks who get this already.

But how powerful would it be if teaching creativity was the rule and not the exception?

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