I have been an artist my entire life. I want to be an art teacher because I believe that education is the best method we have to prepare our children for the future. However, the education system we have today needs to change. The modern system of education was created for a different time, long since passed. It was modeled after factories during the Industrial Revolution. The ringing bells, the way all subjects are separated and taught in different facilities, grouping children by their age instead of by their interests—these are all remnants of an antiquated system of teaching that is no longer appropriate or sufficient.
I believe students who are gifted in the visual arts are being marginalized and discouraged by our current education system. All young children draw. They do it because they love it, and it does not even occur to them to question whether or not they are good at it. I agree very much with the quote commonly attributed to Pablo Picasso, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once they grow up.” When children first enter school, they do not worry about being wrong. However, as they progress through our education system children grow more and more fearful of being wrong. Ken Robinson says in his TED talk Do Schools Kill Creativity, “if you’re not prepared to be wrong you’ll never come up with anything original”. We cannot teach children to come up with new ideas if they are terrified of giving the wrong answer. The special and unique thing about art is there is no right or wrong answer. Through art education children can learn to generate new ideas without the fear of being wrong.
It is our job as art educators to help all students maximize their creative potential. In that same talk, Ken Robinson speaks about creativity. He defines it as “the process of having original ideas that have value”. He says “creativity is as important as literacy”. I agree. We should prioritize art education in schools the same way we prioritize mathematics. Art teachers must be advocates for greater integration of art into the general curriculum. It is also very important for teachers of all subjects, including art, to focus on interdisciplinary learning. People from different disciplines working together to solve a problem fosters creativity and innovation. When possible, art teachers should work with their peers to connect their art lessons to those in history, math, and science classes. In the future, our students will be expected to solve real world problems using the skills they developed through art education.
In his book, A Whole New Mind, author Daniel Pink writes about our society’s transition from the Information Age to what he calls the Conceptual Age. Due to the rise of material abundance in western society, we are no longer encumbered by the demands of providing food and shelter. As a result, our society is increasingly in search of beauty and meaning in our lives. Additionally, automation and the outsourcing of “knowledge work” have resulted in a society that now places greater value on artistry, authenticity, and inventiveness than they do on having the right knowledge-based skill set. Those who wish to succeed in the future must develop a number of new aptitudes, including creativity, pattern recognition, storytelling, and empathy. I believe art teachers are uniquely equipped to cultivate these aptitudes in our students. Instruction and practice in the visual arts has become even more instrumental in preparing our children to thrive in modern society.