Thursday, August 30, 2007


How to stomp out artistic talent in children

Backstory: Some teachers from our local Wickliffe Progressive Elementary school went to Harvard this summer to attend Project Zero Classroom 2007 (usually zero means worthless, but perhaps I'm behind the times). They studied with Melissa Rivard and Mara Krechevsky for a week, which the participants called "a great opportunity." Upon returning, the participants shared what they learned at an in-service day, and it was reported in our local SNP newspaper.

Here's the technique that caught my eye, and I hope the journalist got it WRONG!
    "I'm excited to use the thinking routines, where children are making extensions or connections," she said.

    Instead of a child creating a drawing, then explaining to the other students what the picture means, the other students will talk about what they see in the drawing.

    "This leads to discussions," she said. "Instead of just telling the information, the kids are creating it by thinking about it."
Oh yuk! I suppose it depends on the age of the artist, but if Johnny has worked very hard drawing his dog and her puppies playing in the kitchen, and the other kids decide it is a cow and her calves entering a barn, I think it's the last time he'll be willing to try his hand at drawing.

None of these techniques sound new to me--my kids were getting this "let's have the children discuss their own ideas" instead of telling them things so they have meaningful content from which to draw even in the 1970s. My children graduated from high school not knowing which came first, WWII or the Vietnam War (both were ancient history by the time they finished). It wasn't popular to teach facts or time lines, but I'm sure they had fascinating discussions filled with their own fluffy ideas.

This was drawn by a 10 year old Chechnya child. It says, "Family" at the top, and Mama, I, and Papa at the bottom. It's from a war site, but I hope no one tried to get the child to draw pictures of bombs or torture. The drawing ability, balance, design and use of color are wonderful, and show that this child had some traditional art training and didn't waste her time in frivolous discussions of her classmates' drawings.


Anonymous said...

Why are the schools trying to save children from reality. The good sisters taught me that it was wonderful to have my own thoughts and ideas, but truthfully few people cared.

Those ever patient nuns didn't care that I felt the cube root of 27 should be blue. It was 3 and it didn't matter how I felt about it. We learned things we need to know including the timeline of what wars our country was in (and we were in Vietnam when I was in elementary and we prayed for the soldiers every day - not that they lose and come home, but that they be watched over by God.)

I have seen it at the public library and I have seen at at my office when I worked at big firms, young adults -the 20 year old crowd, are at a loss when their work is judged mediocre and when executives don't want their unsolicited opinion.

Kids need to start learning in school that every day the world is not going to be your oyster every day and that you will just be one of the straphangers most days.

I recall reading an article recently in which a 20 something young woman was put off because she was sent home from the office because she insisted on wearing capri pants because they were cute. Her boss saw her and he sent her home in the middle of a meeting to put on something appropriate for their office enviornment. She felt that 'she was not valued for her originality and style'. Well sister you got that right. You are valued for the work you do and they give you a check every two weeks for it. No one cares how you feel about yourself, your outfit, or your job, they just care that you earn your keep.

Discussing another kid's drawing does nothing for anyone. In real life you will learn to do what you enjoy -such as drawing or playing the violin- and for most people that will simply be an avocation. You must balance that with work (real life) where nobody cares if you can draw a nice cow (or dog) but they do care if you can get the pivot table in Excel to work.

Kids need to learn balance and elementary school is a great place to start. Sure get out the crayolas - even I enjoy a nice fresh box of 64 -the scent of a new box of crayons is a smell you always remember. Draw to your heart's content and enjoy it but remember that you have to go to work and put food on the table (or for you third graders reading this learn your multiplication tables).

There is a time and place for everything and now it is called work - life balance. When I was a kid it was just called life.

Have some fun, do some work, support your family, put some money away for retirement, be kind to animals, help those less fortunate. Those are the things my parents and the nuns taught me. Nowever was it mentioned that I was special, but I've made it this far quite happy so my teachers must have been doing something right.

Ladybug Crossing said...

And people wonder why I refuse to send my children to Harvard...