I know that I’ll be sparking quite a bit of controversy in this post, but I feel that in light of recent budget cuts and a general misunderstanding about what art teachers actually do, some light needs to be shined on this subject.
Let me first be clear – ALL teachers are important.
I think, however, that there is a tragic misconception when it comes to art teachers, and other teachers in the Fine Arts for that matter. Some schools refer to these teachers as “Specialists”, which is a bit derogatory. Referring to them in this way, makes them sound expendable. And unfortunately when budget concerns come up, they are often the first teachers to be cut. This practice simply has to end, because our future is at stake.
The World Has Changed
In the last decade, our world has changed dramatically. If you look at the changes that have taken place in just the last twenty years, it is even more overwhelming. Yet educational philosophies and practices have been painfully slow to keep up. We are teaching students today in the same manner that we taught them twenty years ago.
Preparing them for a world that simply doesn’t exist anymore is a massive mistake.
We are starting to see the results of this educational debacle in the number of young people that are college educated, yet cannot find a job. Twenty years ago, if you were qualified, jobs were easy to find. You went to work for a corporation, firm, factory, or service industry and earned a nice paycheck. These jobs still exist, but they are fading away. Our world has changed, and if we don’t wake up, our future generations will suffer greatly.
We are teaching students to go to college to learn how to work for someone else in positions that are disappearing. It’s no wonder why we have so many “qualified” young people that are jobless.
The following video by Seth Godin, one of the most influential thinkers of our period, nails it…
Why Are We Testing So Much?
Our students are tested far too much. The result is that students want to know the answer so that they can put it on a test. We have taught them to believe that there is just one right answer to a problem and if it’s not on the test – it’s not important. The world doesn’t work this way. Testing has its place, but it should be a measure of the teacher’s success or failure in teaching the material – not a measure of the student.
The problem is that our students are not learning to be thinkers. Instead, they are learning to be memorizers, which is pointless in the new Information Age in which we exist. Students possess the world’s collective intelligence at their fingertips, many of them carry it around in their pockets, yet so many schools ban the use of cell phones.
The Internet Has Created a New Period in Human History
The internet and related technology has changed the world and should change the manner in which we approach educating students. The internet has made it possible to accomplish things that were not dreamed before its inception. It has changed the way commerce works and it has changed the world economy for which we are preparing students.
We should be preparing students for the new world, one that harnesses the technology that exists, one that pushes humankind forward. The key is creativity and innovation, and teaching these two things are the art teacher’s specialities.
The New Renaissance
Never in the history of mankind has there ever been a better time to be a “creative”. It is the creative individuals that are finding success today. Simply look at at the world around you, and you’ll quickly notice the opportunities that exist for those willing to be creative, to take chances, to innovate.
It is my opinion that we have already entered into a new Renaissance, one in which true artists are flourishing and will be for the foreseeable future.
What Art Teachers Do
Art teachers teach creativity and innovation. They teach multiple answers to problems. They encourage mistakes and experimentation. They teach students to be thinkers – not memorizers.
Art teachers are teaching the essential skills that are necessary for students to be successful in this new age.
So why are we cutting the most important positions from our schools?