Wednesday, April 7, 2010

My Latest Contribution to Artistew

As I mentioned previously, I'm now a contributor to artistew, where I write about the arts in education. Enjoy my lastest post below:

My smarts are better than your smarts….

by Imagination, Unstifled

A true statement, it would seem, according to the biased view of aptitudes viewed as valuable and non-valuable by our current education system. Artists (especially my age and older), how many of you were told that you had talent, but that you’d need to become good at something “real” as well? Coming from a small town (though this happens everywhere), I was met with hearty skepticism and blatant disappointment when I announced my plan to become an actor.

Them: “You can go to college for that?”
Me: “Sure.”
Them: “But how will you pay for college?”
Me: “I’ll work. And act.”
Them: “Then what do you do when you’re done with college?”
Me: “I’ll ACT.”
Them: “No- what will you do as a profession?”
Me: “I’LL ACT.”
Them: “What a waste- you’re a smart girl.”

That conversation is neither a joke nor an exaggeration. Because I excelled in traditional academic subjects as well, I received the respect a “smart” student garners, and many of the adults in my life thought that choosing to pursue my artistic aptitudes was a waste of other superior aptitudes. But kids with brains hardwired specifically to create, to design, to look at things differently are often met with a much less optimistic outlook for their future.

There’s an unspoken but frequently implied hierarchy of ability, talent and education that exists in our schools. Kids who are “smart” in art are very infrequently deemed “smart” by their school (and YES, schools do label kids as smart and not smart). Visual arts sit in slightly higher regard because of the tangible result of one’s work, but art in general is not viewed as intelligence by our current education system, so the students who are primarily gifted in the field of art are frequently pegged as the “dumb kids”- a grievous error on our part, because these “dumb kids” have the aptitudes necessary to invent, to design, and most importantly, to create.

The study and practice of art encourages students to become comfortable creating what did not previously exist, defining a new reality, conceiving truths before they’ve been tested and printed in a text book. And as I’ve said before, creativity is the essence of progress. We NEED these kids and their contributions, so let’s stop telling them that their gifts aren’t good enough.