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.
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.