“Art Teacher”: An Assembly-Line Coordinator, or a Creativity Facilitator?

This post is prompted by the insightful and helpful suggestions provided by Melissa Purtee, in the Art of Education’s latest article, “3 Ways to Teach for Creativity in the Art Room“.

Her writing challenges educators who may be relying on outdated teaching styles; ones that prohibit true creativity for the sake of orderly lessons.  You may know of these lessons:  those that follow a step-by-step format in order to “create” an artwork that looks good.

We are educating people out of their creative capacities.  

~ Sir Ken Robinson

It takes a lot of courage for a teacher to question these tried-and-true projects.  The ones that can be repeated.  The ones that make bulletin boards look great.  The ones that are easily marked.  The ones that make the teacher look good.  Who wants to mess with such a lovely system?

Projects like these have been great throughout the twentieth century, because they also helped to develop skills that could be used in students’ future careers; those that enabled them to follow directions, to hone a skill, and to respect the hierarchy of creative thinking that was available in the classroom.  The teacher thought of the idea, and the students produced the teacher’s artwork.

All kids have tremendous talents and we squander them, pretty ruthlessly.  ~ Sir Ken Robinson

Time moves on.  Things change.  Careers change.  Education changes.  If we don’t change, we become irrelevant.  If we are still teaching according to meet the needs of a factory-based economy, our classrooms are nothing better than living history museums.  Our students become the actors.

Yes, we must teach skills.  Yes, yes, yes.  But what is being valued?  Assessed?  Evaluated?  What do you do after you teach skills?  How are these skills applied?  In projects you have designed?  Do we have enough faith in our students to allow them to step outside of the limits we have imposed?

Our education system has mined our minds in the way that we have strip-mined the Earth for a particular commodity…   ~ Sir Ken Robinson

Creativity is the process of having original ideas that have value.  [and] more often than not, comes about through the interaction of different disciplinary ways of seeing things.     ~ Sir Ken Robinson

Our students need to be given the time and opportunity to develop skills, and creativity is a skill that can be developed.  It is a skill that can be used in our classrooms, in other classrooms, in the future.  Why would we choose to ignore it?

You are not teaching creativity when you are simply allowing students to make something. You can say that it is art, but real art involves creative thinking.  If the “art” has been produced in a factory-style setting, the artwork loses credibility, even though you have something pretty to hang on your wall.  We must stop fooling ourselves into believing that we are allowing our students to become artists if they are simply following our directions.  They are merely factory workers.


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