When my sister was a junior in high school, her basketball coach told her she would never play varsity unless she stopped doing drama. She quit the next day. Now she works for Second City on a Cruise ship making mad cash and living her life to the fullest.
Why does this story matter? Because not only are schools still prescribing what we can and can’t do as young people, nowadays, you don’t have a choice.
Enter Dusti Blair. I read this story about my home state and thought. Why is this amazing?
Don’t get me wrong. It is amazing. This girl’s dedication in the face of all the obstacles put in her way is incredible. Most high school kids are just trying to survive without dropping out. When test performance is the end all, be all purpose and you’re no longer guaranteed a job with a college degree – what is school preparing us for?
Certainly not to be complete individuals. You see, we need things to do that are different from each other. We need to stimulate all parts of our brain so that we can continue to utilize the whole thing and not shut parts off. And we need to teach students how to creative problem solve so that they not only know what the world might have in store for them – mathematical equations that need solving (how many page views do I need before my website goes viral) or communication involving strict use of the English language (lol) – but HOW they might go about creating a solution.
Art does this. Not in a superficial way, but as an intrinsic part of the artistic process. By participating in art making, we make individual choices. Aesthetic choices. Choices that we decide in favor of because, given the parameters or criteria of the situation, they make sense to us. Not because someone told us they do. And that’s where real authentic assessment comes in. If we’re asked to make these kinds of choices as adults – and we are, everyday, from how we are going to file our taxes to devising new processes for our employers – we need to know how to problem solve. Problem solving involves multiple sets of data and inputs, trying different ways of combining and illustrating these ideas, and putting together a final outcome that makes communicable sense to another person. Do we really think learning how to fill in a bubble does this, or memorizing an answer, or telling the teacher only what they want to hear?
Here’s my point – we shouldn’t have to choose. Physical education or artistic expression? As citizens of the United States, a nation that likes to purport itself as the greatest on this planet, why are we limiting what our children learn in school? Why aren’t we striving to make sure they have every opportunity to experience every part of life, the standardized testable part as well as the creative expression part? It’s a fact that students who have art in school not only graduate at higher rates from high school and college, they also end up in more satisfying careers. So what’s the point of limiting the curriculum? Is it because Education is no longer a priority? Are we more worried about the current economy than what our future might bring us?
It feels like most schools are currently in crisis mode. They feel pressure from the government to perform on tests, pressure from parents to provide a school worthy of their “choice” and pressure from the students to provide curricula that doesn’t bore them to tears. How do we solve this problem? Art. Keep it. Fund it. Teach it. Integrate it. Expand it. It’s that simple.