An Art Lesson

I hated math and science classes when I was in school.  I hated them a lot.  My math and science teachers were dull at best, condescending at worst.  I hated the subject matter, that it was so black and white and so, so dry.

I loved art classes when I was in school.  I loved them a lot.  My teachers loved what they were doing, and were thrilled to share it with us, regardless of our level of talent.  I loved that there was no black and white, no right or wrong answer.  I loved that we were graded on how well we expressed an idea, regardless of what that idea was, on how well we expressed ourselves.  My art classes were what made me opt to pass up an early graduation, because I wanted to stay and learn more about drama, music, painting, and pottery.  Without art classes, I likely would have dropped out of school the instant it was legal for me to do so.

Today, having been out of school for a couple of decades, I can say honestly that I have yet to find myself scrambling to remember the formulas and theorems of algebra and geometry or the mass of the elements on the periodic table.  But every day, without fail, I find the need to think creatively.  Every day, I have a need to express myself in one form or another.  And every single day, I find cause to appreciate the beauty around me.

Seeking to eliminate the arts from a standard school curriculum is hypocritical.  We all enjoy movies and television.  We like good books.  We have prints and paintings hanging on our walls.  Without art, we have no actors, no cameramen, no script writers, no authors, no painters, no photographers, no public speakers, no musicians… the list goes on.  Look around you; your home was designed by an architect– an artist.  The car you drive?  An artist decided how it would look.  The magazine you’re reading, from the photographs to the layout is all the work of (say it with me, now) artists.  And most artists find their passion when they’re young; they find it in art classes.

Without art, we lose a lot of what makes life so enjoyable. And where does it end?  Creative writing is an art!  Get rid of it!  Literature?  Nope, that’s art, out it goes.  In fact, get rid of Language Arts altogether; it’s even got “art” right there in the name, so it’s gotta go.  Wait, those cheerleaders… are they… dancing?  Oh dear, dancing is an art form; we’ll miss you most of all, cheerleaders.

There’s a reason why we start school with crayons instead of compasses and paints instead of protractors.  There’s a reason why, as children, we loved to play dress-up, and why we loved pretend games like cops and robbers.  Imagination is a vital part of what makes us human, and it’s so very important that we nurture that instead of doing such a great disservice to future generations as teaching them that the world is composed entirely of dry facts.

Life isn’t black and white.  Education shouldn’t be, either.

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