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Opinion: Cheerleading for art, part 2

September 25, 2013 in Comment, General

Bill Stott at the Shrewsbury Cartoon festival

Bill Stott at the Shrewsbury Cartoon festival @ Procartoonists.org

Bill Stott continues to put the case for better art education in schools.

You can read part one here.

Of course, Michael Gove could be a keen and knowledgeable student of the arts – first in line when there’s something new at Tate Modern, burning his thumbs on disposable cigarette lighters at Glastonbury, and clamouring for Bob Fosse retrospective tickets at the Albert Hall. Could be. He could be utterly distraught at the arts’ demotion.

Maybe he removed the arts from the core curriculum because he simply had to make cuts. Something had to give. And he couldn’t possibly cut maths or English or the Blessed Sciences could he? Couldn’t he? Why not? Well because there’d be a national outcry wouldn’t there?

And he couldn’t dare cut P.E., not after the glorious Olympic Games and their glittering, noble legacy. And we simply must have more physicists. We’re way behind Norway here, and standards in English literature in the UK are bettered by kids in Japan.

How about standards in arts education in the last 20 years? Anybody bothered looking at those in comparison with other countries? The UK would probably do well enough. But doing well in arts education overall, certainly in the secondary sphere, has never counted for much in the UK, mainly because those who judge it had a meagre arts education themselves.

So in demoting arts education to the fringes of the National Curriculum, Mr Gove is on safe ground. The majority of the enfranchised population will not rise up in horror. They are drip-fed the notion, mainly through the popular media, that dance is only for the naturally violently talented Billy Elliots of this world and that their dogs could do what Tracey Emin did to become a millionaire.

And yet, while we all know that nobody can expect to live a fulfilled and rounded life without having studied compulsory geography, the arts will out. Arts workshops, nearly always run on a shoestring, abound. Successful arts professionals give their time for not much money, and often for nothing at arts festivals, like – dare I say it ? – the Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival.

Their workshops are always full, not with the naturally capable but with all ages who want to know how. Is that how geography workshops operate? At geography festivals? Is there a “Big Geog” jostling for a place in the nation’s affections with the evangelic barnstorm that is the Big Draw? Of course not.

Who’d go to a geography workshop? Don’t need to. That’s all looked after in school after cheerleading on Tuesday afternoons. The Big Draw probably doesn’t ask for tick-box answers about Jasper Johns, but it IS hands on.

Making communicative marks is probably the one thing the human animal can do which other animals can’t. Yes, some humans can draw well naturally. But by the same token, other humans like Sebastian Vettel can drive cars naturally well. Their prowess doesn’t put the majority of us off learning to drive. But we do that for socio-economic reasons. We don’t learn to draw for the same reasons.

© Bill Stott @ Procartoonists.org

© Bill Stott @ Procartoonists.org

So why do we/should we do it? Why should Mr Gove do it? Its because its EDUCATIONAL, that’s why. To “educate” means to “bring out”, and I’d bet a pound to a penny that an arts workshop or a practical, hands-on Big Draw session will bring out more hitherto unseen natural ability than would a geography festival.

I suppose I’d better apologise now for having a pop at geography. Its probably down to Mrs Leeming fifty-odd years ago. She was very keen on my class knowing all the facts and figures surrounding worldwide ground-nut production in countries that are no longer part of the British Empah and have names of their own now. It was hugely boring.

Mrs Lemming (her nickname) was a bit limited. There’s nothing limited about the arts education potential in this country. Sadly, should the essentially inexperienced, non-drawing, non-painting, non-sculpting Mr Gove get his way, that will all get booted into the long grass (quite close to where they’re practicing core curriculum cheerleading).

And who’s fault is it? Let’s start alphabetically: The Arts Council?

Editor says: Thanks,  Bill. Feel free to join the debate by commenting below.

Opinion: Cheerleading for art

September 20, 2013 in Comment, General

Bill Stott at Big Board

Bill Stott at the annual Shrewsbury International Cartoon Festival

Bill Stott writes:

Remember your school reports? They become ingrained. Like your first snog. Mine weren’t bad. English, history, art, even P.E. (he was a bully) were all good but then they fell into the maths abyss. That bit was never good. I really didn’t care how long it took six men with rubber teaspoons to fill six wheelbarrows etc.

Last week I saw my 11-year-old grand-daughter’s report . She’s in Year 7 (that’s first year in old money and is a term thought up by some non-teaching think-tanker to give the impression that the learning process is seamless. It most definitely is not.) It was a good report apart from maths where the rubber teaspoon brigade didn’t quite click.

But there were a couple of subjects Grandad didn’t quite understand, i.e. why they were being taught and how they being taught. One was, you won’t believe this, cheerleading. That’s right, cheerleading. I mean, dear God, this is an all-girl comp. What on Earth is the school encouraging here ? Cheerleading is where a group of comely young women wiggle about celebrating male sporting prowess, isn’t it?

And the other was – gimme an A, gimme an R, gimme a T – Art, art art! (See? We got there eventually). Emily – for it is she – got a good comment in art. So I asked her what they did in art. “Well,” she said. “We’ve just done Jasper Johns.”

Now, I think that art, unlike cheerleading, is useful and teachable, and I’m all for the Big Draw events. But Emily and her 11-year-old chums don’t get all hands-on with clay, ink and paint. No. They DO Jasper Johns. She did say that “sometimes” they were allowed to draw. But mostly they DID artists. Don’t misunderstand me, nothing wrong with history of art. But exclusively? With 11-year-olds?

So who’s the villain here? I will tell you. It is Michael Gove, that’s who. I know that cheerleading sneaked in under the common-sense radar because apparently it’s accepted as being an alternative to P.E. Do they do history of cheerleading too?

Mr Gove doesn’t care about the arts subjects – quite possibly because his own art education was a bit thin. He sees dance, drama, music and art as hobbies. Pastimes. They no longer merit a place in the core curriculum (from September 2014) but because it bumps and grinds in under the P.E. banner, cheerleading does.

A pound to a penny Mr Gove believes that being able to draw is a “gift” and cannot be taught. He probably believes he can’t draw. I could teach him.

Ed adds:  We hope Mr Gove takes up Bill’s kind offer. We think a lesson would make some fine Reithian-style television for the British Broadcasting Corporation or similar. Don’t miss part two of Bill’s thoughts on art in education which is due next week.

Cartoon © Bill Stott @ procartoonists.org

© Bill Stott @ Procartoonists.org

 

The Fog Days of Summer

July 6, 2012 in Comment, General

Foghorn cartoon strip  for July 07 @procartoonists.org

© Andy Davey @procartoonists.org

Foghorn and the Victorians

June 14, 2012 in Comment, General

Foghorn and the Victorians © Andy Davey @ pprocartoonists.org

© Andy Davey @ Procartoonists.org

Our anthropomorphic Foghorn delves into the history of UK cartooning.

 

 

Cartoonist refuses to grin and bear it

June 13, 2012 in Events, General, News

Matthew Inman, the cartoonist behind popular US website The Oatmeal, wrote about a website that was stealing his images a year ago.

His blog post about FunnyJunk.com received a response and the subsequent removal of Inman’s images was welcomed, even though not all of them were taken down. Eventually, Inman decided it wasn’t worth the energy to continue to pursue the remainder and he let the matter lie.

To his surprise, this month, he was served legal papers informing him that the owner of the FunnyJunk.com site was filing a federal lawsuit against him alleging defamation and false advertising. It also asked for a payment of $20,000 as a remedial act.

In response, and after taking his own legal advice, Inman wrote a new blog post, featuring the legal letter in question, and offering to undertake the following:

To raise $20,000 in donations, to take a photo of the money, to post the photo, along with a deliberately crude cartoon of the website owner’s mom seducing a Kodiak bear, below, and finally to give half the donation to the National Wildlife Federation and the other part to the American Cancer Society.

Cartoon © Matthew Inman at theoatmeal.com

The campaign, which he has dubbed “Bearlove Good. Cancer Bad” was set up on the fundraising website Indiegogo with a 15-day deadline to raise the money. Within the first hour it had raised the $20,000 target, and now stands (at the time of writing) at $142,753, with 14 days still to go.

The lawyer acting for FunnyJunk.com, Charles Carreon, is reported by MSNBC to be “bewildered” by this response.

Of course, websites that use cartoon artwork without consent are nothing new – Procartoonists.org member Royston Robertson recently tweeted about an article on Citizen Journalism that uses a cartoon of his stolen from the CartoonStock website. Matthew Buck had a similar experience with the Guido Fawkes political blog and the US cartoonist Mike Lynch reports this story from 2009. There are doubtless many more examples. Please tell us about them in the comments if you would like to share your experience.

Inman has been drawing caricatures of his contributors’ avatars on Twitter as a way of saying thank you to those who chose to donate to his successful fundraising.

Foghorn cracks up

May 24, 2012 in General, News

Foghorn cracks up @ UK procartoonists.org

© Andy Davey at Procartoonists.org

Foghorn mixes his metaphors

May 17, 2012 in Comment, General

© Andy Davey

Our old friend Foghorn muses on cultural differences in the trade of image making.

 

Foghorn: The prehistory

May 10, 2012 in Comment, General

© Andy Davey

In the second of our weekly series about the Foghorn take a dip into the prehistory of werd, sorry, word and picture cartooning in the UK. We will be publishing a new one at 5pm next Thursday.

 

Foghorn goes forth once more

May 3, 2012 in Comment, General

Foghorn Cartoon @ procartoonists.org © Andy Davey

© Andy Davey

Regular readers might recall our previous life as the Bloghorn, the digital relative of the old-time printed magazine Foghorn. This legendary creature is a sage about the cartoon artform that our members exhibit, so we are pleased to welcome his weekly strip to the Procartoonists.org blog.

Flying to Shrewsbury 2012

February 29, 2012 in Comment, General

Pete Dredge submitted this charming image to the selection committee for the Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival 2012. Will it make the cut for the big exhibition? The only sure way to know, is to go! Read on for details.

Bloghorn: Pete Dredge on Flying for Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival 2012

–>Shrewsbury Cartoon Festival starts on 5th April, opening of with ‘Flights of Fancy’. The weekend for ‘Cartoonists Live’ is 19th – 22nd April and sees around 40 UK and international cartoonists descend on the medieval market town to draw giant cartoons, free caricatures and run many workshops and free cartoon advice sessions. There is also, always, a lively ‘fringe’ with many other non-performing cartoonists, friends and fans in attendance.

Watch Bloghorn for more or subscribe to our email reading service using the link at the top of the second column on this page.