Reversing the anti-art mindset
This is heartening—thank you for the reminder of Asawa's approach to teaching especially.
I love how you wrote about this topic and wish the idea of how beneficial art is to creating well-rounded minds were more discussed. I hope that there is a movement back to giving more weight and credence to a holistic education. I know that I've become so much more improved at tasks like cooking, gardening, and even accounting since having to learn the patience to draw.
Real discovery is the aim in my view, so I’m not in favor of compulsory education usually, although a reasonable familiarity and ability is desirable in the sciences and the arts. I hated math until I had to use it to solve real problems in my first job. In my day it was, “do as your told”. Educating young minds cannot be solved by knee jerk policy. My skills were more art related but it was never perceived by my tutors. There’s a lot more to this story by I can’t bear to type it out on this little screen. In short I agree that art is important.
Thanks for highlighting this issue Victoria. Like many here I was angered by Sunak's suggestion. I fear it's one made from the point of view of growth and productivity rather than the wellbeing of community. It's ironic that he and others will spout the importance of our art galleries, theatres, museums and cultural events around the UK yet hasn't aligned his policies with how we create the artists, dancers, actors, musicians that make up the arts in the first place. Not to mention the growing agreement that not everybody learns the same way. With the increase of awareness of Neurodiversity, the implication that one size fits all in education is preposterous.
I'm very privileged that I have been able to send my kids to extra curricular drama, music and dance lessons over the years which have given them such a broad outlook on their lives and brought them enjoyment, new friendships, and a sense of achievement when they sometimes struggled in school.
I'm also passionate about arts education for our young people and believe that art/maths/science/humanities can coexist in the curriculum. In primary education, this is still very much part of the process of learning but unfortunately when the kids get to secondary school, they tend to sit in uninspiring homogenous classrooms at desks. I believe it's not that they are necessarily bad at Maths, these kids are probably just disengaged and bored!
When looking at the WEF 2022 Skills Outlook, the skills of the future workforce include creativity, innovation and initiative alongside reasoning, problem solving, ideation and emotional intelligence. All skills that would be best learnt and practiced in a creative environment and through the arts. How are our kids meant to develop these skills in the current curriculum? It's ridiculous how out of touch the ministers are.
Anyway, rant over! It's wonderful you have highlighted this issue and to know from the comments here I'm not alone in my frustration. I was also unaware of Ruth Asawa, so I'm excited to discover her art and ethos.
I'm sympathetic to the idea that it's a problem how many people think they are just bad at maths, it was taught appallingly when I was in school and I know now I'm actually good at it. But good grief, can't they see that to extend the studies for longer is not addressing the actual problem? I may be biased since my academic background is Early Modern History, but I think we need to revive the Renaissance asap. It was madness to the educated mind of the time that someone would not be a polymath well-versed in the full breadth of human culture. The same Leonardo Da Vinci who painted the Mona Lisa was an engineer, it's absurd that we built a society where we pit things that need each other against each other. I could rant about this all day, I swear. Short-sighted doesn't begin to cover it. I'd rather focus on the positive though and thank you for bringing to my awareness Asawa's work, and I didn't know about Steve McQueen's project either. How awesome. I hope someone can be*ahem* 🙊 instil some sense in the PM.
I also thought 'no way' when I heard Sunak talk about extending the age for compulsory maths to 18. He doesn't appear to take into account the many structural reasons why kids fail at maths. I love the ideas you're suggesting here about the integration of arts with the core subjects. If there is evidence that it helps students to learn more effectively this should be the way forward.
Thank you for your artikel, I didn't know Asawa. Her work sounds great, she is now on my study list! 😊
People like Sunak have a name for those effects of art learning and practice that you find so alluring: community, sense of interdependence, social cohesion. That name is "Socialism." Good luck with that.
I couldn’t agree more and I imagine your readers will be on this side. STEM turned into STEAM for a while (with “art”) but it seems to have been short lived. The way you discuss Asawa using lines of inquiry are at the heart of current international and American secondary pedagogical discourse. I wonder if a version of this could go to an educational publication, like TES? (Times Educational Supplement) Really compelling points in response to a misguided government. I need to spend more time with the videos. Thanks for this great read...will share with my teacher network.