In some of the larger high schools it is not uncommon to be told that your first choice of a class is full and you must take the class at another time, take another class, or take one that is similar to your choice. So it wasn’t a surprise when I was told that one of my granddaughter’s friends was placed in a “digital graphics” class instead of the painting class she requested. However, I hardly think the two are interchangeable, or even that similar. I feel sad for her. She will miss the experience of mixing paint, smelling it, and stroking it across a blank canvass. I hope that sometime in the future she gets to experience the joy of actually painting, not just creating images on a screen.
I let my students paint last week and they loved it! But I was a bit surprised when one of the children looked at the paint and asked, “What do we do with it?” Have we come to the point where children no longer know the purpose of paint? I suggested that he watch his classmates and it didn’t take him more than a few moments to understand what he was supposed to do!
As we place more and more emphasis on academics and technology and testing in education, I hope we do not throw art and music under the bus. I understand there will always be room in our curriculum for sports because I have been told numerous times that games generate money, enthusiasm, and the participation of parents, but it seems that art and music could do the same if given the chance. And I think more students are likely to make a career of art or music than go on to play professional sports.
I offer this photo for you to ponder. It was made by a four-year-old who was in my very first class many years ago. Read that again. Four years old. Obviously talented, and he spent hours each day drawing, drawing, drawing. I let him, and did not burden him with learning the alphabet or counting to ten. He was almost mute with worry and grief. His mother had died shortly before school began and his father was ill (he died shortly after the school year ended). I like to think that his art provided some comfort for him and an outlet for working through the problems he couldn’t possibly understand. And although I have not kept in touch with him, I hope that art has remained an important part of his life.There are changes being made in education that will require our children to be better, brighter, and more skilled. I only hope some of those skills are creative ones and that art and music continue to receive time, funding, and respect for the contribution they make to our edification and wellbeing.