Let’s get rid of Art Education in schools.

Art, they say, is great for kids. Art and music programs help keep them in school, make them more committed, enhance collaboration, strengthen ties to the community and to peers, improve motor and spatial and language skills. A study by the College Board showed that students who took four years of art scored 91 points better on the SAT exams. At-risk students who take art are significantly more likely to stay in school and ultimately to get college degrees.

Awesome.

Nonetheless, arts education has been gutted in American public schools. A decade ago, the No Child Left Behind and Common Core programs prioritized science and math over other subjects. In LA County alone, 1/3 of the arts teachers were let go between 2008 and 2012 and, for half of K-5 students, art was cut all together.

After the recession of 2008, 80% of schools had their budget cut further. Arts programs were the first victims. And, predictably, lower income and minority students were the most likely to lose their art programs. Only 26.2% of African-American students have access to art classes. As the economy has improved, there is some discussion about reversing some of these cuts. But it is not enough.

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IMG_2467 They don’t need to be taught to be creative!

I’m no expert on education but I have spent a lot of time in school art programs over the past year.

In the lower grades, kids just have fun drawing and painting. They don’t really need much encouragement or instruction. In middle school, the majority start to lose their passion for making stuff and instead learn the price of making mistakes. Art class is all too often a gut, an opportunity for adolescents to screw around. By high school, they have been divided into a handful who are ‘artsy’ and may go onto art school and a vast majority who have no interest in art at all.

In short, every child starts out with a natural interest in art which is slowly drained — until all that’s left is a handful of teens in eyeliner and black clothing whose parents worry they’ll never move out of the basement.

Here’s a modest proposal: Let’s take the “art” out of “art education.”

“Art” is not respected in this country. It’s seen as frivolity, an indulgence, a way to keep kids busy with scissors and paste. “Art” is an elitist luxury that hard-nosed bureaucrats know they can cut with impunity. And so they do, making math and science the priority to fill the  ranks of future bean-counters and pencil pushers.

So I propose we get rid of art education and replace it with something that is crucial to the future of our world: creativity.

We need to all be creative in ways that we never could be before. We have so many wonderful tools that put the power of creation in our hands and we use them every day. Solving problems, using tools, collaborating, expressing our ideas clearly, being entrepreneurial and resourceful, these are the skills that will mattering the 21-century, post-corporate, labor market. Instead of being defensive about art, instead of talking about culture and self-expression, we have to focus on the power of creativity and the skills required to develop it. A great artist is also a problem solver, a presenter, an entrepreneur, a fabricator, and more.

Imagine if Creativity became a part of our core education…

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High schoolers develop a creative solution together.

Instead of teaching kids to paint bowls of fruit with tempera, we’d show them how to communicate a concept through a sketch, how to explore the world in a sketchbook, how to generate ideas, how to solve real problems. Theatre would be all about collaboration, presentation and problem solving. Music classes would emphasize creative habit, teamwork, honing skills, composition, improvisation.

We’d teach creative process, how to come up with ideas, how to find inspiration, how to steal from the greats. We’d teach kids to work effectively with others to improve and test their ideas. We’d teach them how to realize their ideas, get them executed through a supply chain, how to present and market and share them.

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Middle schoolers discussing a story through sketches.

We’d also emphasize digital creativity, focussing on cutting edge (and cheap) technology, removing the artificial divide between arts and science, showing how engineering and sculpture are related, how drawing and User Experience (UX) Design are facets of the same sort of skills, how music and math mirror each other. We’d teach kids how to use Photoshop to communicate concepts, to shoot and cut videos, to design presentations, to use social media intelligently, to write clearly because it is key to survival. We’d give kids destined for minimum wage jobs a chance to be entrepreneurial, to create true economic power for themselves, by developing their creativity and seeing opportunity in a  whole new way.

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IMG_3485 Here’s what 100 8th graders collaborating looks like.

Yes, I know that there are high-school video classes and art computer labs, but they need to be turned into engines for creativity and usefulness, not abstract, high falutin’ artsiness based on some 1970s concepts of self-expression. Don’t make black and white films about leaves reflected in puddles, make a video to promote adoption at the local animal shelter. Don’t do laborious charcoal drawings of pop stars, generate ideas on paper. Fill 100 post-its with 100 doodles of ways to raise consciousness about the environment or income inequality or saving water. Stop making pinch pots and build a 3-D printer and turn out artificial hands for homeless amputees.

(And, by the way,  if we teach kids loads of math and science but don’t encourage their creativity, they aren’t going to grow up to be great engineers and scientists and inventors and discoverers — just drones and dorks.)

Creativity is not a ghetto, not a clique, not something to be exercised alone in a garret. It’s also not a freakshow of self-indulgent divas and losers.

Creativity is about helping to solve the world’s many problems. We need to make sure that the kids of today (who will need to be the creative problem solvers of tomorrow) realize their creative potential and have the tools to use them. That matters far more than football team and standardized test scores.

What do you think?


Related Post: How to make anything

94 thoughts on “Let’s get rid of Art Education in schools.”

    1. i agree with you completely!!
      art does make life better. it makes life not as boring.
      i’m a beginning artist (barley starting in the world of art) who’s is still in school, yes, but is seeing what art can do for you.
      like imagine the world without it? pretty boring right? black and white. same things over and over again.
      but again, like i was saying. i agree with you.

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  1. YES! YES! YES! This is why I will usually refer to myself as a “Creative” rather than an “Artist”, it gives a very different, and much broader, impression. It refers to an attitude about life and possibility, not just an occupation or hobby. Beautifully said, Danny!

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  2. Excellent essay! I’m forwarding to all my friends and acquaintances in schools. You have nailed the importance – can you go testify for government funds for creativity education please???

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  3. Danny, how eloquently you put my arguments. I got out of teaching because of the cage in which educators in our province have been put. Before standardised testing, I had my students do research on a self chosen/generated, BIG question based on whatever unit we were studying. As the topic was one that rang their chimes, they invested in the information gathering. When they had enough information to answer the question and satisfy their curiosity, they were given free rein to create a presentation that would teach their peers what they had learned. They could use art, music, writing, drama, computers (those were just beginning to appear in classrooms) or whatever means appealed to them. The children were engaged in active learning and they loved it as did I. Learning/teaching was FUN.
    As you say…if we squash the desire to learn and create out if our youth, they will just become little automated cogs and not the brilliant problem solvers of tomorrow.

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  4. Agree. The problem is our country is set up so that corporations, banking and lawyers make all the money. The elite 1%. You need to convince them the value of free thinking. Unfortunately free thinkers question when things are not right, when people are not being treated right, and when there is a disparity between corporate drones not being able to pay their medical bills and corporate execs making over 7 & 8 figures. This is reality for many families.

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  5. Yea Danny. You have hit a homerun here! I have very creative daughter in middle school and can only hope that our school system listens to what you have to say. Wonderfully stated. You’re my hero!

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  6. YES!!! This is exactly how I feel too. Art has been suffering for a long time with endless cuts and layoffs and I fully agree with where you are headed with this. They need to take Fine Art out of school and put in Applied Art–meaning Creativity! But don’t stop with children Danny, this goes all the way to the top. And I think what you wrote here is the answer to yesterday’s class on why more men don’t take art classes.

    Twice a year I’m a guest speaker at our Junior College’s Adobe Illustrator class. It’s always jammed packed with people trying to learn creative solutions. And by the way, I always bring my sketchbooks and tell them anyone can do it, there’s no magic here.

    But most importantly here is that I’m teaching creative process to people who have had little background in art and they are absorbing it all like a sponge because it applies to real, modern world activities.

    Sure there are lots of people taking traditional art classes and I’m not against having them in schools. But we need more practical, creative solutions and not just one path towards Fine Art.

    Even schools that teach Applied Arts are still caught up in the past. I have a degree in Illustration from the Academy of Art in San Francisco and even there I was taught figure drawing with chalk on a large sheet of newsprint. It’s a great experience but the tools one learns doing this activity with chalk is geared towards painting figures on canvas. This doesn’t translate to the modern world. What they should be teaching is how to draw on sketchbook sized paper with a pen or small brush and also working digitally on a tablet.

    Many of the drawing classes should be clothed figure drawing not just nudes. Nude drawing is great for learning structure but it’s equally important, or even more important to understand how clothing covers and hangs on the body. Besides, costumes are so much fun to draw!!!

    So I’ve made my point here with figure drawing but this same outdated concept exists throughout the school system and in every department. Let the Picassos learn to be Picassos but for everyone else, we should be teaching CREATIVITY!

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  7. Well spoken.
    In the homeschool circuit we have a lot more freedom to teach unconventional art classes and parents and students appreciate it.

    It’s been my desire for a long time to see art integrated with other subjects. It’s mandatory that my art students learn fractions and geometry in some of my classes. Knowing a little about chemistry is even beneficial for watercolor painting.

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  8. Your new curriculum title has just revolutionized education. All education! IF we can get the politics out of public school.

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  9. Art, Music and even English Composition enable a child to see how the pieces to anything fit together, can be re-arranged and, in effect, they can allow children to compose their thoughts and ideas into basic concepts. And, they they can re-arrange them. That basically is Creative Thinking.

    For instance, a drawing can take basic ideas and assemble them into a picture. Musical notes can be arranged into a much larger piece. A composition is a way of demonstrating a better understanding of the subject matter–or, at least, one’s viewpoints about it.

    In fact, in college, Philosophy is one of the least emphasized areas of study. When you think of all of the problems in Society, how much better would things be, if only: Ethics; Logic and Creative Thinking were emphasized a bit more? Just think how helpful these Philosophical Areas could help attorneys, politicians, bankers and businesspeople, in general.

    When you are in the various stages of a basic education–Elementary, Middle and High School–how many of us knew what our career paths would be? How many of us have changed college majors, if not several times? Sure, STEM may be valuable today, but who knows…? A well-rounded education is better preparation for the unknown that lies ahead.

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  10. A lot of good Monkey talk. Do gooders mess it up for everybody, first of all by making rules. Then they start ostracizing, then come the value judgments, then come the entrepeneurs, then comes the hate, then come the moralizers, us against them. Then comes the privatizers, confusing the issues. All I wanted to do was draw and color all I still want to do is draw and color, but first I have to talk to my monkey or your monkey or the governmental monkey. It is all good don’t misunderstand me, I have no answer other than I need want to get back to work and find my creative friends. We really cannot afford to get fucked up by doogoders. It is hard enough to deal with my monkey, sometimes….. Thanks for all the stuff you do including all of the comments.Of course I will have offended somebody, then again is that what happens when art happens? I surely did not mean to. Offend that is not do something that includes art.

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  11. I was an Art teacher until the state of California decided to pull most of the funding for Art. I then became a Science teacher…my second passion. Most of my students had low reading skills and couldn’t begin to make sense of the text book so I taught them by having them draw and label things from the text book…cells, microscopes, geological formations, etc. I taught them scientific drawing skills and we had an art show of bugs and shells and critters. I’m proud to say my “science students” were the best “art students” in the school. Through drawing, and labeling, hands-on experiments and discussing what we had drawn, they learned much more about how science works than if I had tried to teach from the text book alone. Art can be part of any curriculum!

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  12. That would be so great! How can we make this happen? It’s the same here in Germany. Poetry is just allowed like so because we have a tradition with poets; but the love for it gets killed in school by dissecting every single line and analyzing, instead of feeling the language and see the whole as an organic thing. The same happens to all forms of art in school, is my perception. Art has to do with trusting your heart and mind and soul, I think. It’s about being brave, it’s not what school wants to teach you at all – it wants you to function in a system. So, how can we make (y)our thoughts and ideas come true?

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  13. HI Danny, the situation is the same here in the UK, it saddens me how little opportunity there is for creativity at school, especially as my husband and I have always funded our lives through Art based careers. the policies are so narrow minded that my 10 year old is expected to know what a “subordinating conjunction” is and will get marks for this in her end of primary school tests but she will NOT GET A SINGLE MARK FOR CREATIVITY IN ANY TEST – honestly when did you last use the expression “subordinating conjunction”.
    Here’s a great quote from an article on creativity in ‘Psychology today’
    “Creative individuals are remarkable for their ability to adapt to almost any situation and to make do with whatever is at hand to reach their goals.”
    Surely this should be encouraged…

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  14. Same in the UK – government doing their absolute best to remove all art education from the curriculum, as others have already commented. Tragic. What is worse is that the media, schools and politicians are telling children that they will have no future if the study arts in higher education. My very smart daughter has been discouraged from the age of 13 from pursuing arts-based subjects in school and we as parents have had to stand up for her and push her to do them because that was what she wanted. Delighted to say she is now going off to one of the few pure Arts Universities in the UK in September but she got very little support in making her application because she wasn’t heading to a traditional course or uni. Seriously worry for the future of the arts in my country – but this is why people like you and the creative possibilities offered by sketchbook Skool and the Internet generally are so important!

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  15. I could not agree more. It is really sad for the kids who WANT and NEED to be creative to be stuck in a desk chair for their entire school education. Art, music and theater at least give some kids a reason to stay in school. For that matter the sciences and math need to be hands on about problem solving as well. Too many kids think I will never use this information in real life so why should I learn it? I spent 27 years of my career doing algebra for people who never learned how to figure things out. Simple things like if you want to add 1 inch of mulch how many yards do you need to cover so many square feet. Not complicated but if you can’t do algebra you can’t figure it out.

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  16. That’s a great idea. I am tired of hearing how art helps match scores and art helps SAt scores. Art (oops, creativity) is it’s own gift. There is an intrinsic value and joy to the process. Period. Until we stop using the crutches of math scores and such, we’ll never give it equal standing.

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  17. I just read your comment in Shut Your Monkey about Van Gogh. Did he get training in grade school for art education? I don’t think so. By all means, be creative. Teach the children what creativity means when applying it to bettering mankind…paraphrased – “By all means, be creative!”

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  18. Another person here whose career as a middle school art teacher was gutted by back-to-basics. So sad for the children. Even now, I teach children who want ideas “fed” to them like little baby birds. So teaching creativity, in whatever form, would be an improvement.

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  19. In England there is very much a tick box mentality towards art in primary schools. It is so sad to meet even quite young children who are convinced they “can’t ” paint, or are terrified of making a mess (this last inhibition often comes from parents.) And I am always surprised by how many people have no idea how to mix colours, which is surely as basic as times tables.

    Much the same applies to writing skills. Children are encouraged to pack their work with adverbs, words like “furthermore” and colons, just to gain extra points.

    I work with elderly people, many of whom deny themselves the pleasure of being creative because they think they are “no good.” I tell them that I can’t sing very well, but I can still enjoy singing in the bath.

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  20. Jasmin is right. Oftentimes, creative things are tough in school as though we are copying the so-called “Great Masters”. Technically correct, however, doesn’t necessarily mean creative–or even interesting.

    Following those will only lead to Older and Older Masters. And frankly, they will be boring…and everyone knows what any boring subject matter can be like. Many of those Masters, however, were on the cutting edge–the avante garde of their day. It’s always best to follow your own drummer–but with passion.

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  21. Great article and as a science teacher and also passionate about art and creativity I would love to see more creativity within the curriculum for kids …. not just in ‘art’ classes. 🙂

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  22. I love all of this. I think it would be great for what you are saying to happen and I think it would have to start in Kinder. I had a professor in a Research class in my Masters program who wanted to know what I thought and what questions I was asking. I didn’t have to memorize stuff and regurgitate it. Honestly and sadly, I didn’t know how to think and yet when I gave her what she asked for those were the best grades I earned. During the presentation of one of my papers I had one of those ‘aha’ moments and she saw it. I felt it. I earned an A.

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  23. I do love your “modest proposal” and I agree with most of it. However, there is also something to be said for teaching basic use of materials and skills. As an elementary school art teacher, I have found that many students feel stymied when they feel that they can’t visually create what they see, and they blossom when they learn the tricks of how to mix color, how to create a sense of space (with overlap or value change, etc.) Teaching these sorts of skills and encouraging full throttle, no-holds-barred creative thinking don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

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  24. I’m a primary school teacher in New Zealand. Our system isn’t perfect but I think we’re in the right lines (I started my career in the UK so have expedience of over proscriptive, test obsessed education). We have the usual pressures to help our kids perform well in maths and literacy. We also have a huge focus on Inquiry learning. And it can be everything you described. The focus is on learning how to learn and developing and applying the skills you need to complete an action at the end of each unit. We use art and technology as motivation and as ways of communicating our learning. Our children are motivated and enjoy learning. Core skills are valuable to them because they get to apply them in meaningful situations. I’m lucky enough to work in a system where teacher judgement is still trusted and where we have avoided standardised testing until Year 11. And although I haven’t taught much at this term, I know my class have learned a lot and expressed themselves this term. I wish it could be the same around the world, and hope we continue to avoid the Standardised Testing Trap.

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  25. I like the sentiment of your article.

    Art teachers know, when we grid, measure, and draw—we use geometry. When we make sculptures—we use engineering. When we mix colors—we reveal information about physics. When we create illustrations for stories—we learn about literature. When we review the styles of art from da Vinci to Banksy—we teach history. When we write about art—we strengthen these skills. When we create works of art, we solve complex visual problems in creative ways.

    A big portion of the fight is not just educating our students (Which really should be everything) but to also educate our colleagues, administration, and community in terms that THEY understand, terms used outside our subject. Concrete verifiable information they can hang their hat on and become our advocates. As a community of creative persons it can be hard for us to break out and be proactive when we are so overwhelmed already.

    When we talk to “outsiders” about how creative, fun, and full of self expression our subject is, those same outsiders hear “frivolous.” But if instead we tell them that art is about problem solving, divergent thinking processes, making connections within core subjects like math, science, literature, and that our students score significantly higher on important assessments like the SAT, they “get it.”

    We must learn to speak the language of “outsiders,” who believe what is important can be measured, tested, and rewarded. We continue to do what we have always done, teaching joy.

    http://www.artedguru.com/home/naea-webinar-recap

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  26. I heartily agree with your premise that creative problem-solving is more important than art techniques. However, the creative process requires messing around with materials without knowing what ‘should’ happen, and idea generation can be thwarted by a specific end product result every time. How many homeless amputees can there be? Let’s solve real world problems, yes, but let’s also make black and white films of leaves in a puddle….knowing that the abstract can lead to more interesting and beautiful solutions to our current problems.

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  27. You are suggesting similar views as found in Daniel H. Pink’s book, “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future”. Incorporating your ideas would be an appropriate move to the evolution of teaching in general. I believe Common Core was an attempt to teaching to the “Whole Mind”, however, they failed to sell this idea to the public (including many in education) because they really didn’t understand that it was about developing abstract and holistic thinking. As you stated here and Pink in his book, in order to be globally competitive in this technologically advanced world we need to teach children HOW to think creatively.

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  28. I am the first Elementary STEAM teacher in my district this year. I took additional STEM training this past summer (STEM because my district and admin is years behind in recognizing the art component as valuable) and the instructor said that I was already advanced, was already doing this in my classroom, and sort of ignored me during her training. She was so busy trying to make sure that regular Ed teachers understood the Engineering Process… They struggled and complained. Your entire article is STEM based. Unfortunately, although my Admin knew that I was already incorporating the engineering process of STEAM in my classroom, the trainer herself knew I was advanced, I still have not gotten their respect and understanding this school year. I am still seen as that frivolous activity time that has to be earned as a reward, rather than a necessity. I’m not sure if you spending some time over a year into our classrooms constitutes a valid opinion….. You said it yourself. Changing the name for what we do would be possibly a good idea, like a new start. But it’s just a name. Not sure how they will respect what we do, you don’t by stating elementary art is a place for mischief, this IS NOT my truth and an insult. And middle school IS a place of growing from mistakes. Too many wrong judgements in your article to address

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  29. An art teacher here, and creativity has always been the foremost consideration in my teaching. Why are we so stupidly believing everything said about what is or is not needed in schools. The tech pendulum is swinging so far right that it is trying to sweep out anything that doesn’t fit into the “bill gates corporate education reform” movement. Can’t we teach the creative mindset ( my approach to students being more creative) in all subjects, including ART!? Stupid sheep following the tech revolution over the cliff.

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  30. I like your train of thought in the beginning, until you mention that young children don’t really need art instruction. Then you get to your lead; that we ought to teach Creativity. Today’s instruction in art education is exactly what you describe for Creativity.

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  31. I have to say, that I am torn between agreeing with some of what’s in this article, and disagreeing with many of the unspoken arts, (theater, dance, music) and a deeper thinking that is a part of the art environment. A part of this description of including creativity in our classrooms is true – we should all include creativity in each of our subjects. Yes, the standardized testing has crushed our extra-curricular classes (also the homec, shop, and some sports have been cut), in our school systems in the USA. However, if you have a school without an art teacher (or a couple of them), and without a classroom (or a space) devoted to fine arts, visual arts, ceramics, etc, then where are all of the students (from all walks of life and backgrounds, not just the stereotypical student in all black clothing), going to communicate & collaborate with one another to foster ideas? Yes, we can do that in a math or science class – if the student is allowed to be open and share their ideas. I find that when you have a creative art space, the students learn that they can open and share their thoughts in a safe environment – and the art teachers (who usually know hundreds if not thousands of different forms, and mediums of art, artists, history, methods, techniques, & skills), hone in on each students interests to help them grow that spark of curiosity (and we also advocate for sketchbooks), that will transform into creativity! It’s a part of a community of creative thinkers that happens, when we have a safe space for students to come and share their love for the arts. I’m sorry to say this, but we would have to change the entire public school system in order to have it be a mecca of creative thinkers in every room, teacher, & student in our schools. I would love to be a part of this kind of school that was briefly described – but the reality is that this article is more about the maker movement, (which is also a big deal and should be included in education) than the arts education. I am a big advocate for learning about our current technology such as 3D pringing, and as an art teacher, I go to take classes to learn about this to share with my students. There is a path that has started with the makers and this has to be incorporated into our schools for our future generations. This, however, is one part of the greater whole of the arts community and learning.

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  32. It will be a real good way of knowing what and how a child feel. Creativity will help them speak more in drawing than in words. Good work Danny

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  33. Couldn’t agree more! We need the stimulative nature of creativity to empower future engineers, architects, entrepreneurs, and scientists. It’s imaginative thinking that will move us forward in solving the world’s problems socially, economically, environmentally, etc.

    Recently, the elementary band program was cut from my former school district. I made some similar points as yours in my post recent “Open Letter” post. Arts and Music have to stick together in a world thats currently trying to make us seem insignificant to a child’s education and diminishing the importance of having a creative outlet. You’d think with it being 2016, the system would recognize the value of all types of learning.

    https://silenttreatmentblog.wordpress.com/2016/04/16/an-open-letter-to-those-who-find-music-in-the-public-school-system-irrelevant/

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  34. In Texas, we are already moving towards process. Studio based classes where students are presented a challenge and then rewarded for different outcomes is the expectation. That being said, by 9th grade, many of my students have decided they don’t want to think or find solutions to answers and many do not care about their education success.

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  35. Creativity and problem solving are one of the biggest gaps, in my opinion, that we have in the workforce today. Finding qualified individuals who can think their way out of a paper bag is not overrated. Being able to break down complex situations or work to achieve a future design is an imperative. I’m fully in support of this article and the concepts presented.

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  36. Hey Danny,

    Respectfully,

    I think you’ve missed the mark this time.

    Every now and then, I read an idea like this one. The last one that made the rounds was “Replace art education with design education.”

    A big problem with art education is that – decades ago – it fell victim to one of these over-simplifications: “Jackson Pollack proved that skill doesn’t matter any more. Let’s replace art education with self-expression.” The problem with this train of thought is that – just like you said – creativity does not belong to artists alone. It belongs in the science lab and the math class and in every other room in the school. Creativity, growth mindset, self-expression, problem solving, design thinking, perseverance, they all belong in every class room.

    If it can be taught in other classes though, why do we still need art?

    HERE’S THE QUESTION WE SHOULD ALL BE ASKING:

    What does art offer its students that the other subjects don’t?

    Art teaches you to make things! Creativity is required, and it is FUN, but it is much more than that. Whether you become a fine artist or an engineer, a solid art education teaches students how to see clearly and how to give form to their ideas. That is vital. To all of society. I could give a thousand examples, but I know I don’t have to.

    The problems that you listed at the beginning of this post ARE the fault of art education. An entire generation of art teachers embraced a simplification of what art could be. “It isn’t about drawing like an artist,” I still hear some teachers say this, “It’s about THINKING like an artist.” That sounds great until you get an art teacher who never learned how to draw. Then, because she can’t teach you, you think that you can’t draw either. A few kids manage to learn it on their own, and the myth emerges that art is a talent that you either have or you don’t. The worst thing is that some art teachers still believe that myth too. Those students who don’t figure it out on their own – the majority that you mentioned – give up on art. They miss out on the skills AND the thinking.

    That’s where those pinch pots and those still-lives come in (and the art history and the aesthetics and the criticism). The projects and the mindsets go hand-in-hand. A good teacher works to make the projects fun and to turn those lessons into life skills. Pinch pots and still-lives are incremental first steps towards a new way of thinking. How do you familiarize yourself with a new tool or a new material or a new challenge? How do you make the best decision when there are no correct decisions? What do you do when you are dissatisfied with your results? Recently one of my students articulated her boredom with a one-point perspective project AND HER SOLUTION to that challenge. I am never surprised by those statistics about art students doing well in school, because a genuine art education is all about familiarizing students with investigation, trial and error, perseverance, growth and, ultimately, the joy of learning.

    There are two wonderful books that you might appreciate: Creative Confidence and Growth Mindset.

    To solve the many problems that you listed, art teachers need to educate more than just their students. We need to embrace the full scope of our field, advocate for it, and demonstrate its importance to others. Architects, engineers, film makers, fine artists, forensic artists, fashion and furniture designers, product designers, web designers, etc. all use the art skills that we offer. If we want to build a better world, we should provide the best art education.

    That’s my two cents. (Two dollars? Sorry for the rant.)

    All the best, Rama

    P.s., If you’re ever curious to see how these ideas are put to use in a contemporary K-8 art program, I am happy to share. I think you’d be surprised at the scope of skills and applications that we tackle.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you, Rama. My thoughts exactly. There has to be a bridge, and a comfortable medium between Danny’s idea and Art Education as it is today. The pinch pots and the drawing, painting, printmaking, photography, sculpture basic skills are invaluable in and of themselves, AND they are invaluable for the reasons that Danny speaks of. They are invaluable for the person that they are shaping with the learning, the success and the failure, and the learning from the failure. If we don’t take the time to build the student, we will not have a student who can solve the problems. I think that Danny assumes that students will miraculously already know and own the skills involved. I liken his ideas to throwing a student into an engineering project without having had the years of math and science necessary to be able to solve those problems. However, I totally agree that we need to encourage the creativity and problem solving in all the ways that he speaks of in art classes WHILE we teach the Arts. We simply need Art and Art Education for both reasons. What we need to do better is educate the public, and the administrations as to how that works.

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  37. As an ART Teacher for 30+ years I’ve seen kids grow as a result of being creative. ART / MUSIC are key in the development-cognitive, intellectual, social-of children. Kids LEARN by DOING. Lately ART as been cut from 45 – 50 minutes to 30 minutes. ART Teachers are STILL expected to reach all grade level benchmarks within the new allotted time frame. NOW they want to get rid of ART or label it an “elective”.

    Administrators, board members and even parents need to see the importance of ART / MUSIC in our society.

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  38. It seems you are talking about teaching art as a visual language – not just as self-expression, but as a way of communicating ideas, thoughts and emotions. Many of the projects you list above serve as a foundation for the type of creative education that you propose. In many art projects, whether a charcoal portrait or watercolor still life) there is a focus on the elements of art and principles of design (often referred to as Discipline Based Art Education or DBAE). I believe that learning the elements of art and principles of design in ART education are essential for learning in the CREATIVE education as described above. I have taught K-12 and college level art as well as college level rhetoric and composition and there is a great deal of overlap between the two as well as many other interdisciplinary connections. In the written language we use certain tools to communicate – grammar and punctuation to arrange words into sentences and then arrange those sentences into paragraphs in a logical order in order to clearly communicate our thoughts, ideas and emotions in an overall effective composition. In a visual language, the tools we use to communicate are the elements of art and principles of design. We make certain choices about color, shape, line etc. We arrange these elements of art using the principles of design – variety, balance, pattern, emphasis, etc in order to create an overall effective composition in order to communicate our thoughts, ideas and emotions. Knowledge of the elements of art and principles of design (that are often the focus of portraits and landscapes, but unknown to many viewers) are the foundation for effective communication in creating the visual/creative documents (or rhetorical artifacts) you mention above. In teaching visual rhetoric in the English Department, we discuss the elements of art and principles of design and how to use them effectively as appeals to ethos, logos and pathos based on the creator’s purpose and audience, whether creating a pamphlet about animal adoption or website/blog about the importance of solar energy. These must all be considered in creating the types of visual projects you list above that would be part of a “creative” education. I like where you are going with this. I think that watercolor portraits and pastel landscapes and coil pots are all necessary lessons, though, as they are a way of teaching about history, culture, art as a language for visual communication, and so many other things that provide a foundation for creativity in the many visual aspects of our life that function to influence our thinking and essentially shape our life and world. Today, especially with technology, we live in an visual world. I think we need art education, creative education, and visual education and that this occurs across disciplines – rhetoric and communication, web design, science (the experience of the creative process helps to prepare one for the exploratory and experimental process of science), business and entrepreneurship, etc. Creative Education is a good idea, but I think it must include those foundational projects that many people see visually as kids just making “pretty pictures.” There’s is so much more learning that occurs in the process of creating these art projects and afterward when many teachers have students reflect on the process and self-assess on the outcome – not just on the final product but on what was LEARNED in the process. OK. I think I’ve said enough.

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  39. As an ART Teacher I’ve seen the benefits of creativity in the Art Room. However they have cut ART in elementary schools in my district from 45-50 minutes to 30 minutes. Mind you we have to cover the same amount of grade level benchmarks and produce art work as well.

    A great disservice is done when ART is taken away from the public school systems. Inside of STEM [Science, Tech, Engineering, Math]we need to incorporate the arts and develop STEAM: Science, Tech, ART, Engineering, Math!! It’s the ARTs that propel Mathematicians, Engineers and Scientists to be MORE creative in their problem-solving.

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  40. After re-reading this article, I’ve discovered the logic behind Danny Gregory’s argument. ART should STILL be taught in schools; lately there’s been emphasis on CREATIVITY, COLLABORATION, CRITICAL THINKING and COMMUNICATION. These a called “$ C’s to ART SMART Success”, that’s what we call it in our school district. Across the Educational community they also called “21st Century Skills”.

    But as Art Educators we have been teaching these concepts for years: it seems the Educational Community has caught up with us after all this time.

    Author Daniel Pink in his book “A Whole New Mind” proposes that “the future of global business belongs to the right-brainers”. He stresses that the greatest civilizations and societies thrived becuase they produced, encouraged and developed a “Creative Class”, which propelled the arts, science, engineering as well as politics. Perfect examples are The Egyptian, Greeks, Romans, pre-European West Africa and The Renaissance.

    Our country nedds a creative class in order in compete within this new “global market”.

    As I stated recently: A great disservice is done when ART is taken away from the public school systems. Inside of STEM [Science, Tech, Engineering, Math] we need to incorporate the arts and develop
    STEAM: Science, Tech, ART, Engineering, Math!!

    It’s the ARTs that propel Mathematicians, Engineers and Scientists to be MORE creative in their problem-solving.

    Like

  41. Best post I have read on this topic! I am a professional artist, and I have been creating and supporting my family on my art alone for the past 10 years. I recently decided to go back to college to get a degree in art education to give back to my community and offer my knowledge to children in a school setting. The debate has been whether or not art will be available in schools and is it worth my money and time? This article is dead on… let’s get rid of art education and bring back creativity!
    I love it! Thank you for your post!
    Karrie Evenson

    Like

  42. Music education in schools is very important and is proven to have many benefits. I am in multiple music programs, and personally, if music was taken away I would be devastated, and I know that my peers would be too. In my school’s music and art classes, we are encouraged to be creative and follow our artistic passions. There are a large variety of music and art classes to take. This article has upset me greatly, and the thought that so many people agree is disturbing.

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  43. I agree although one problem remains, money. All of the tools and supplies you mentioned is costly. And for one teacher to teach creativity, you might need a teachers assistant to cover all of the creative subjects. If not, how can you break it down to separate classes?

    If we are to truly convince schools to bring this up to practice, they will always be looking at their budget.

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  44. I have to disagree on this one. I am a 15-year-old visual arts student at Northwest School Of The Arts and I will just start by saying that i have reviewed an incredible education from my art school; which is overflowing with brilliant minds or as you put it “a handful of teens in eyeliner and black clothing whose parents worry they’ll never move out of the basement.” Us artists who where born with our gifts are also sometimes born with some problems or develop them overtime but art is almost always our outlet because it’s something we know we’ll always have. A scientific study says that students with testing anxiety or dyslexia are often relieved during tests or quizzes by doodling on the side or on a secret sheet of paper because it helps get out whatever it is that they’re thinking about. I have severe anxiety and sometimes, drawing is the only way I am able to cope with my thoughts and feelings.
    By cutting art programs, you are limiting the future job options for children. I know so many lovely little ones who tell me that they want to be artists or painters when they grow up and i have never once had a child tell me that they want to be a doctor or lawyer when they grow up. Yes, you have a point on the creativity idea but I’d like to say that is it weren’t for all of my elementary art classes and quirky art teachers, I wouldn’t have discovered my talents as soon as I did and i wouldn’t be the person that i am today. Art class has always been my happy place because unlike science or math class, I feel that I am able to express my talents and individuality through my art work. And there are many who are just like me who feel the exact same way.
    I am happy with the education system that i grew up knowing and loving because every Monday (or whenever it was) I was most excited to go to art class and impress my teachers and fellow students and learn something that captivated my interests and made me feel completely accepted for who I was.

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  45. Yes, creativity should be taught in schools. And so should art. I’m always leery of people who had all the privileges and benefits of skills-based learning declaring that the learning of skills should be taken away from students in the hopes that they will “flourish.” It didn’t work with Whole Language, which took the learning of grammar out of English (and why we now have millions of children and adults who can’t properly express themselves in writing). Skills were taken OUT of art education in the 1970s after Abstract Expressionism had well and truly seduced a generation of art teachers into believing that creating was more important than learning. It’s EQUALLY important, but not MORE important. Drawing is a skill that can be taught to anyone; assuming it’s something that people just learn on their own with practice is like assuming a surgeon can show up in the operating theatre without having gone to med school. The truth is that enough skills aren’t taught in many art classes anymore. I propose that we put the art education back INTO schools.

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  46. I think that art programs in schools need to encourage creativity in an experimental way. With the current art in our public school systems allow students to find who out what they like and who they are. Yes, art programs need to be refined, but they shouldn’t remove them.

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  47. This has been my mantra from the day I left college and became an art teacher, then a mom, then a graphic designer, then a salesperson, now I run a business and use creativity each and every day. What a concept! I’m so glad you are getting the message out to others. Let’s hope the schools listen!

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  48. Schools all throughout the country would be better off keeping their fine arts programs or offering more.

    Art classes, whether they are visual or performing arts, provide students with the opportunity to study and immerse themselves in something they may actually be interested in. Even if they don’t end up pursuing it as a career, the art could always be something that they turn to as a hobby or just an extra skill. It is important for people to have a source of recreation in their lives; which, of course, doesn’t necessarily need to be an art of any kind, but if someone has been trained in a certain art, that could, at the very least, serve as an impressive addition to a resume. Now, in order to learn, no matter the subject, at some point there is going to be some form of creating going on. The two (learning and creating) absolutely do not have to be conflicting ideas, in fact, they should be thought of as corresponding.

    As a high school student, I know that fine arts courses teach students more than just skills specific to that one field, like how to connect with something and even how to better one’s communication skills. Schools do not need to make learning those types of skills a priority over arts because those underlying aspects will be included in the knowledge students take away from the class. After all, it is much more exciting for people to perfect those types of skills while practicing something they are passionate about.

    While it is true that not everyone is an artist at heart, arts electives allow students to take a break from the standardized testing, usually without taking a break from the rigor. Sometimes, students (particularly high schoolers) need a space and a time to forget that they are stressed about the next big exam or project. There is no better way to do that than getting their minds off of stressors by getting them engaged in a work of art.

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  49. I don’t think you are current with emerging trends in art education…..the worse thing a writer can do is assume and generalize in a complex situation or setting.

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      1. “By high school, they have been divided into a handful who are ‘artsy’ and may go onto art school and a vast majority who have no interest in art at all.”

        This is a generalization….not my experience with K-12 learning groups at all.

        Art is a very big transdisciplinary subject. What do you know about an abundant art education curriculum? Is there such a curriculum?

        Savvy art teachers adept at working with such a curriculum spin creative learning experience through emergent curriculum that is learner driven, meaningful and authentic. This art education curriculum exemplifies creativity. So please…let’s not make generalized statements to do away with art education.

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  50. This touches on an issue (in my mind, a misunderstanding) that always comes up with my new Art students, especially ones with parents concerned about their job prospects (and unrightfully so, as they’ve consistently gotten a very wide range of creative jobs).

    Creativity and Art are two different, complementary and intricately connected things.

    It seems that your vision is to harness Art, the thing that is all about opening up perspectives, expanding people’s minds, creating richer, deeper individuals and society, and finally get it to perform predictably, one-dimensionally – you know, like an ad – then calling it “creativity”.

    I don’t know what schools you visited, but I’ve seen up close the amazing, thoughtful, skillful, interdisciplinary and socially involved work that youth (many from low income, disenfranchised backgrounds) at our local arts center do. I’ve also taught high school and middle school kids for a few years, and my experience there was the same. It couldn’t be farther from the terrifying (and very outdated) vision of Art education you’re outlining in this article.

    Art, to me, is not about learning some better tools for advocating for this or selling that – it’s about conveying complex situations and perspectives, making people ask questions, form new neural pathways, introduce the strange and the wonderful and the other, be critical and generous. I’ve seen a lot of students who studied this kind of art, go on to do wonderful and wildly diverse things in their lives.

    I’m happy to report that none live in their parents’ basements.

    I do, however, know quite a few people that were interested in Art but were forced, often by their parents, to study advertising instead, so that they “have a secure job”, supposedly. By and large these don’t do better in life, and are often a lot more cynical and depressed. If you’re looking for people where the creative spark was really snuffed, and replaced by a lot of cynicism and bitterness, that’s a good place to start.

    The Art I believe in and teach is not learning how to better sell your audience on X, which propaganda and advertising has always aspired to. Yes it is 100% about creative thinking and making, but not in the service of a single measurable market-goal. It’s wild and unruly and all about breaking boxes and challenging boundaries.

    Here’s a thing: Art (at least some of it) has for a long time not been concerned with pinch pots and still lives. It’s concerned with people, with justice, with the environment, with technology, with basically all the many components of our lives. The Art educators I know all do work that addresses these big issues and questions, but not by narrowing down and taming the wildness of Art to an office-friendly term such as “creativity”. They do it by introducing Art as an incredible tool their students can use for creating rich reflections on the life they are living. These can be calm or violent, revolutionary or analytical. They can involve computer code and ceramics and field recordings and sketching. But the experience they generate, if properly cultivated and pushed through to its maximum effect, is wonderful Art – driven by creativity.

    Liked by 1 person

  51. Art is a vital part of culture and is a means of expression that speaks to our emotions and imaginations. Pablo Picasso once said, “The purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” Art allows us to see the world in many different ways and fulfill the need to create and explore. Art throughout history has been one of the major ways that people study culture. The history of art spans the entire history of humankind, from prehistoric times to the twenty-first century. Whether it is observing caveman paintings, hieroglyphs, or one of Jeff Koons’ sculptures, it is easy to find visual arts that challenge your creative mind and inspire you to find beauty in things made by man. Creativity is the power of re-inventing reality with the use of imagination. Fine arts in schools are vital to the students demonstration of creativity because they are a way of expressing individuality in the things they do. This means looking for, and discovering, the essence of everything that we encounter. Art is not only a way of expression but a way of life and fine arts in schools should not be overlooked.
    The general public understands the importance of sports such as, football, baseball, volleyball, and basketball on the lives of students, yet the impact of having students participate in a theatrical production is often overlooked. In high school, I was in a drama class and it was seriously underfunded. For events and competitions such as State and International Thespian Convention, we had to fundraise for all of the expenses; a few specific examples being transportation, hotels, and entry fees. The schools fundings instead were put towards the sports teams and other programs. The same problem is occurring in schools nationwide. The fine arts department of the Katy Independent School District in the article, “The Importance of Fine Arts Education,” argues that the, “study and participation in the fine arts is a key component in improving learning throughout all academic areas.” Fine arts improve writing because they teach a student how to think creatively and expressively, while enhancing their critical thinking skills. Arts such as music improve math and science skills due to the different patterns that occur within each song, as well as the presence of numbered beats that allows students to conceptualize numbers in a completely different way. Due to the fact that fine arts subjects and programs heavily impact a students creativity, they reduce student dropout rates, raise student attendance, teach students to find inspiration deep within themselves, and produce a more prepared citizen for the workplace. According to the results of the study conducted by East Carolina University, “art education experiences teach a variety of skills and abilities that are used often in many creative and non-creative industries.” The ultimate value of art education is not simply entertainment during formative years, but the skills necessary in order to be successful in every aspect of life.
    Some people believe that the arts are insignificant, not important in schools, and should be cut from education systems completely. Danny Gregory insists that, “art class is all too often a gut, an opportunity for adolescents to screw around,” and suggest that we should, “take the art out of art education.” Although, in some cases this may be true, the possible benefits for a large number of students outweighs the risk of having a few students that are not interested in the subject. There are cases in every school where students take advantage of the arts programs offered. Some only take a class in the fine arts department in order to earn an easy A, but these classes should not be treated like that is their only purpose in an educational system. A study by the NEA (National Endowment for the Arts) suggests that, “students with access to the arts in high school were three times more likely than students who lacked those experiences to earn a bachelor’s degree (17 percent versus five percent).” This exemplifies the important positive effects that arts programs have on students in their lives outside of high school all over the nation.
    We use art for entertainment, cultural appreciation, aesthetics, personal improvement, and even social change. We use art in order to thrive in this world. So, art is not just important; it is the fundamental principal of who we are as a species. Art is what makes us human, that is why it is so important in schools. Art teaches students to step out of their comfort zones and explore new horizons in self-expression and creativity, which in turn, will allow for greater advancements in society. Arts programs are a vital aspect of education as the educated of today become the leaders of tomorrow.

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  52. I know you said you are not an educator and that is very clear by what you have written. I am about to graduate college with a music education degree and everything you said is already included in art/music education. Just because there are teachers that arent doing those things well and there is older styles of teaching we are phasing out of, does NOT mean that this is how it should or will be in the future. Education and teacher programs are way ahead of you

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  53. No way. I am a junior in high school and i think that not many kids would want to take a “creativity class” I think In fact it would probably have to become a requirement in my school, because only 10 students would take it. I am also in band. If we got rid of our band and drama department you would lose 500 kids. My band consists of at least 200 kids and the drama department al least 200. This would devastate my school. Music is also really healthy for the brain. Music is needed in all schools!

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  54. Part of the problem is that students are not being taught the SKILL behind the production of Art. They are only being instructed on this false idea of creativity. All things are derived from the prior. While I agree that an art class should be a center of exploration for a student, to remove the acquisition of the skill leaves the world with teenagers in dark eyeliner. Art is a balance of utilizing science (materials and medium) and skill to produce an aesthetic creation.

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  55. This is stupid art is everywhere you could argue that it is everything and everything is art.Also creativity is ART!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The definition of art is the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power.HUMAN CREATIVE SKILL is RIGHT FREAKING THERE!!! Art is beautiful and powerful this article/essay is the onlyu thing on this earth THAT IS NOTY ART! Leave a like if you agree

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  56. This is my first year teaching Art in high school. Your ideas are exactly what I am trying to change . First, I told the kids and administration to change name- Art to Creativity, when they asked Why do we need this course (it’s a required class in Cleveland, OH). All visual, spatial, non verbal observations, reflections, hand-eye coordination, scale, etc. stimulates that side of brain. This then creates more brain cells and “snapses” to the other side of brain.
    The problem is in the “Art Program”. How to innovate a classic drawing class for example. Ok. You can scale up size of object, u can use a grid to compare what you see to what u think u see. I introduced Photoshop to deal with creating their own magazine. And how to enhance photos, etc. And I am going to introduce animation – here’s drawing g, imagination (invent character, robot, etc to animate) and interfaced with computer. The concept of fractals – what is it? How to ? Create a fractal? Find fractals? Architectural drawings – geometry magnified, etc. Just the beginning…. This also is taking a lot of research + development time I don’t get paid for. A work in progress. And not boring.

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  57. OMG…I’m a secondary visual arts teacher who drives home in tears more often than not due to EXACTLY what you’re saying!! I pass bright-eyed elementary students in the hallways craving to CREATE, yet spend my days trying to coax, drag, bribe, and *b-word ANYTHING creative, original, or worthwhile out of disinterested, disengaged, depressing AF, high school students who don’t give a rat’s a*word about anything but instaGLAM. They don’t want to listen to or follow instruction and yet want everyyyy step of everyyyy process magically done FOR them AND get their skinny jeans in a wad if told to dig deeper, aim higher, see it through, make it work, problem solve it, figure it out, come up with a plan B…plan at all!!
    I exhaust myself trying to get them to see that it’s about creative problem solving, design skills, flexibility, observation, ingenuity, work ethic, etc etc etc…things used in everyday life and valuable in basically every field of work they could ever hope to find themselves in!
    But, no one seems to see it…instead, it’s fluff..it’s an elective and ‘doesn’t count’ blah blah blah! Whew! I SO needed to vent alllll that! ..and I’m only in my 3rd year! LOL
    Thank you for your brilliant blog!

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  58. Although I do not agree with this article, there are many valid and reasonable claims. The one thing I am always frustrated about is the need that people have to turn our schools into places that others, such as myself, see as a sort of jail. Schools are taking away all our supposed “break” time and filling it up with homework and other assignments. As a student I would really dislike the thought of not being able to do anything but core classes and spend so much time away from home in a place where kids are being brain washed into thinking like everyone else. Another thing is that not all minds where made to work with math, sciences or english. I know the same goes for the arts but we already have the other subjects. Not every student would make a good doctor, lawyer, mathmatician or scientist. I say keep the arts and let the students do what they will. I came upon this website because of a reaserch paper and this sounded like a great apposing view point.

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  59. I just graduated high school, and man do I wish my art classes were your proposed creativity classes. I have some degree of technical ability that led me to be a “great” artist in my class… but I can’t formulate complete ideas to hash out on paper. I feel like I get half way then get blocked. Maybe this type of program would have helped. Regardless of my connection to it, this is a really great post. I’m happy to have read it ❤

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  60. Art is about showing the world through your perspective and interpreting it. Not everything has to be useful for a boring non changing society. In other words you’re a woozel and the heffalaumps could get you.

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  61. I’m gald the article was written and is still up for deabte: I wish more Art Teachers in inner city/ urban settings read this and would give their feedback. Especially school with a high ELL population

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