Ok so I did a day at a private school this week to see what teaching art would be like. I know from the news and reading the papers that teachers are really feeling the pressures to create high child performance within the mainstream education system. I also wanted to observe what that was like in the private sector.
It is the same!
No different in fact it is much worse as the pressures are also coming from pushy parents who are paying for a “good education”, but still don’t look at art as a viable career choice, so pupils don’t put the effort into something they actually love because of it.
They are being conditioned to live the same system like their parents, yet some of these parents are the ones that hate the system, cheat the system, support charities that are dealing with people the system has abused. Why?
It’s like the film I watched at the beginning of this year “The bed sitting room” By Spike Milligan, based on a book by Bernard Braden. People didn’t understand the book at the time, but it’s so correct and things haven’t really changed, in fact its only got worse.
In an interview back in 1988 on ITV Bernard Braden said,
“ Nobody ever got the point about what it was about. What we were trying to say through all this laughter and fun was if they dropped the bomb on a major civilization, the moment the cloud had dispersed…………….. It would just go back to square one. I think man has no option but to continue his own stupidity.”
Although the facilitates are much better the teaching is the same not enough time for teachers (who may want to engage, not all seemed bothered) to really engage with the pupils on a level that is needed within the arts. The whole day is timed down to the last three hours of the day being dedicated to sports, even the students who don’t do sport have a non-sport three hour sport lesson!! The departments don’t mix they keep to their own, the dinner hall although amazing in size and quality lacks personality, its like a really upper-class conveyabelt of Ai’s (artificial intelligence).
So did I enjoy my experience at the school?
Well the people were nice to me; the shelves are full of art books, (no theory, no critic, no politics, no philosophy, nothing on curation or even careers in art, not even much work post 50’s/60’s) the facilities within each art department were amazing for a sixth form school. (But were not being used to there full potential)
Being told I couldn’t input anything but aesthetic art, was a struggle, when I suggested a book or installation/film artist for a student who was clearly interested in those issues I was told they didn’t have the space or time to explore that kind of art! I did ask about running a free workshop on anything they felt would be helpful, first thing I was told was why should we, we could ask any artist to do that? (not for free) the second reply was, well I wouldn’t want the students thinking they could go and create vast installations and not create art???? And that was from the head of the department!!
Were the students engaged with the art?
Less than 10% were fully engaged and some even said to me that family didn’t look at art as an option for anything other than a hobby!! Neither did one of their teachers!
Maybe that’s because this school didn’t engage with contemporary art post 1950. Or maybe it’s because none of their parents are in the real world.
Would I want to work in an environment like this?
In one word NO.
I don’t want to teach art I want to open students eyes and minds to the world around them, I want to show students that art is something you need to be passionate about; you can learn the basics any one can. You need to want to engage with all of life to really find your calling within art. Showing students all the different careers art can lead to, whether engaging, roaming, political or aesthetic. What informs different artists and how this can lead to exploring issues that may not be the norm.
Studios should be open for them to come and go as they please in their free time, not made to do tasks that are irrelevant and create more problems with self-esteem. Yes students need to release their energy but that can be done in any number of ways.
May be its just this school, I don’t know, I’m going to try and do a day in a few other schools too. Several good art teachers had recently left, and the techs told me they are not allowed to help students with ideas or work they are only there to set-up, wash-up and tidy-up. What a waist of talented minds.
The diversity in cultures and gender was also noticeable. Although this school had only been a mixed gender school in the last 30-40 years its ratio of boys to girls and male teachers to female teachers was shocking. Being told less that 30% were female. Within the whole of the art classes from year 9 to 12 so from GCSE up to A level, four year groups, and only seeing one black student and two Asian students and about six boys. Now I could be wrong as I didn’t question this, and it was a Friday but I am quite sure that truancy isn’t tolerated in this school and only a hand full of the students were off at drama rehearsals.
Ranting aside as this wasn’t my intention. I wanted to go to this school to engage with the students and see what creativity was up and coming. I am afraid with no creative or critical engagement other than aesthetics, unless a student really pushes there won’t be many go on to fine art at Uni from this school.
Only one student spoke to me about going on to do fine art at Uni and she told me that her mum is an art tutor and her elder sister is also studying fine art.