Whither the art

November 20, 2012 in Comment, General

Whither the art - at school. Considered by UK @ procartoonists.org

© Bill Stott @ Procartoonists.org

Our wise old cartoonist Bill Stott contemplates the state of the, er, art.

Interesting discussion on the Radio 4 Andrew Marr slot (19 November 2012) all about arts, arts funding, art in schools, and the new National Curriculum, which doesn’t include art and design as a compulsory subject.

The artist Antony Gormley and others sang the praises, quite rightly, of all the craftspersons and technical experts who make artists’ work possible, but the bit which stuck with me was that fact above about the National Curriculum.

I know a bit about art education in secondary schools, having been a teacher in the past. Its standards and performance nationally are much like that of maths or biology. i.e. good, bad and indifferent.

However, it always struck me that decisions about what subjects should be taught were never the remit of art teachers. It was fine for a head teacher, or a head of curriculum as they became known (usually a deputy head) whose specialist subject was English or physics, to decide how many periods of maths, geography, history, science, languages, PE, RE and art etc, should be taught.

It was always taken as read that maths and English were the most important and I’ve no argument with that. What does make me wonder is the grasp, or lack of it, that these decision-makers have of good art teaching. My experience is: not a lot. When I was teaching art, there was still a deeply irritating belief, from those who didn’t teach it, that being good at and enjoying art was a “gift”– the stamping ground of the very few. Which is nonsense. Just as having a “gift” for geography is nonsense.

Bill Stott cartoon

© Bill Stott @ Procartoonists.org

OK, some kids are naturally able. But some kids are naturally able at PE, that doesn’t mean that all kids don’t get the opportunity.

So, given the new non-compulsory nature of art in schools, and the fact that curriculum decision-makers in schools were rubbish at art when they were at school, I fear that art may soon be relegated to after-school clubs. A pastime. How sad.

If you have something to say about BIll’s opinion please jump into the comments below.

5 responses to Whither the art

  1. Please support this:

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    As you may have seen, the campaign was a leading story in The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Evening Standard and on BBC Radio 4. In this coverage, a range of influential individuals also spoke about their grave concerns regarding the absence of creative subjects in the new English Baccalaureate (EBacc) proposals, including Andrew and Julian Lloyd Webber, Nicholas Hytner, Tony Hall, Tasmin Little and Nicola Benedetti to name but a few.

    Since then, we’ve received over 16,000 signatures to our campaign petition and some 43 major organisations have become supporters, from the BPI to the Rambert Dance Company – you can see who else at http://www.baccforthefuture.com and sign the petition there too.

    It’s been an incredible start for the campaign but the challenge now is to keep up the momentum.

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    At present, the proposed EBacc will focus schools on maths, English, science, a language, including Latin and Ancient Greek, and either geography or history.

    Worryingly, this list does not include any creative subjects. (Do have a look at http://www.baccforthefuture.com to find out more about the proposals.)

    If you’ve not already come on board, you can show your support by:

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    If there are other ways you can support the campaign, it would be great to know. We must act to ensure that creativity is embedded at the heart of education.

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  2. Dear Curriculum Advisor,
    Art.  You know art?  And design, of course.  You see that tie you’re wearing?  It may be terribly bad taste, but somebody designed it.  Along with that suit, that chair your lardass is sitting on, the car you drive, and the house you live in.  In fact everything around you has been designed by somebody, apart from the things which are capable of spontaneous creation (like seagulls).

    Chances are, that person who designed your lifestyle had done a bit of studying in this direction, too.  In fact – dare I say it? – his/her interest was probably sparked by art lessons in school.  Yes, those things that you are now intending to consign to the status of hobby, along with lots of other fun but insignificant activities, like skittles and hopscotch.

    This may come as news to you, but there’s rather more to art than drawing twigs, or pictures of your classmates still in school uniform, which you were so crap at when you were at school.  You get to do research, to solve problems, to understand the visual world, develop your ideas, think laterally and be creative – in the sense of putting together pieces of previously unrelated knowledge.  I appreciate that in your price-of-everything-value-of-nothing world, producing works of art which serve merely to delight and inform may cut no ice – but look at the list of skills outlined above.  Some of these might well be useful to future inventors, engineers and architects.  But they probably won’t get the chance to try.

    We used to be inventive in this country.  Not any more.  And although you’ve expurgated most of the curriculum which was capable of lifting the spirit, our kids are just as illiterate and innumerate as they were forty years ago.  They’re just not creative any more.

    And if you wish to persist in a philosophy which has left us not only spiritually but financially bankrupt, then carry on.  You’ve done remarkably well so far.


  3. Two brilliantly worded pieces that I defy anyone to improve on. They say it all.

  4. As someone who was pushed away from Art (“It’s almost impossible to make a living as an artist”) towards Science at school, and took years to get over it,  I  applaud my esteemed and eloquent colleagues Stott and Simpson, and strew their paths with rose petals.

  5. It would be interesting to read the views of, dare I say it, younger members – say those still at school in the last 15 years or so. Their views may contradict what’s been added above.

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