Monday, February 22, 2010

What if there were art class only once a year?

Today's Haaretz, Israel's leading, and by many accounts, best daily newspaper ran a story about the Fichman School in Haifa.  Click here to read the story....then, return to the blog for my comment.

If you are reading this, you have now read the story.  Schools are dropping art?  I don't believe it for a minute.  Every piece of brain research conducted in the past fifteen years practically screams at the importance of art in learning.  The Fichman kids were treated to the best art has to offer because their principal made time for the biennale artists to spend time at the school, not just talking AT the kids, but getting them involved in the creation of, reaction to, and thought about art.  "Draw a map of yesterday?"  What a fabulous concept for kids to think about and discuss through art!  Chewing gum as a medium?  Think of the budget savings!  And, what a great use for all that chewing gum residing on the undersides of thousands of school desks and tables.  Kids were dancing, laughing, and thinking "outside the box."  Of course they were.  That is what art allows and encourages kids to do.  

So where does the idea come from that art is being dropped?  Perhaps it is because, unlike math or reading, art is rarely, if ever, tested.  There can seldom be a "right" answer to an art question.  Oh, sure, kids could be asked if a given painting were in the style of Duerer or Monet, but that isn't really an art question, it is a history one.  Yes, paintings are often included on multiple choice tests, but their meaning is usually political or historical.  Kids aren't being asked what they "think" about a painting, photo, or cartoon.  Art has to be dropped in schools in order to allow kids to have more time to read and calculate.  As the kids at Fichman School will probably demonstrate, more art time will actually lead to higher scores in other areas.  Go find some white t-shirts, sit down as a family tomorrow night and draw a map of yesterday.  Feel free to post photos of your art in the comment box.

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