A Return to Arts
- 3 Posts
- Age 23
To put it bluntly, the lessons I have learned in school are lessons I have vehemently tried to unlearn since leaving school and will continue to do so. I had the rather common misfortune of being placed in the care of awful teachers. On paper, I was in a good school that taught arts, literature, physical education, and crafts; however, in reality, I was taught none of that. Yet, the worst they have done to me is plaster pictures of the Egyptian president of 30 years above the blackboard in my class and all the other classes, the hallways, the entrance to the school, and on covers of history books. The pictures loomed large over my head all throughout my school years. I had to sing the national anthem to it, learn under it, and never question it. Those pictures sent a clear message to students and teachers alike: conform.
Experience taught me that a student's job is to confirm not to learn. You are meant to sit as still as the desk you inhabit for hours on end. If you really think about it, it is quite a lot to ask children and teenagers to go against our very nature. You ask a child who by nature is curious, creative, and filled with wonder to sit still long enough for adults to hammer into his head subjects like science and math that while important are alone not an adequate response to childhood. To ask a teenager who by nature is a rebel without a cause to stop being emotional and angry long enough for adults to continue hammering into his head their superior subjects is to squander his violent and passionate new found feelings of righteousness. Instead of leading him towards a valuable cause and mentoring him to better his character and his view on the world, you tend to his grades.
Education worldwide is based on conformity and rigid routines that seems to educate youth out of their creativity. If you look at African countries, they need to build their economy and lives on something other than non-renewable energy; a feat that has yet to be accomplished by any state in history. Yet, instead of an education system that values the new thinking that youth are naturally prone to, we installed a one size fit all system with a hierarchy of subjects that places arts at the bottom. The sciences while important are alone not enough to stimulate and unlock every child's unique intelligence. I remember a teacher of mine who spent an entire lesson yelling at me in class for signing up for after school music lessons instead of his Arabic lessons. This stigmatization of the arts is so ingrained in our society that we are quite comfortable with offering a child an education that penalizes his creativity and curiosity in favor of memorizing facts. We need an education with no hierarchy of subjects because a broad curriculum with equal attention given to the arts, physical education, and science can engage a child's whole being and not just his head.
For a child, a school should be an exploration of the outside world and not a world in and of itself. We should allow children to witness and experience different cultures in order to grow in them an appreciation for diversity. Some have suggested taking advantage of technology and having schools across the world partner together and for students to use online mediums to interact together. For me, coming from a poor background in a developing country, I cannot help but think such implantation would be quite expensive. I believe that we can install in children an understanding of the complexities of any culture by simply allowing students to experience arts and literature from around the world. That coupled with a child natural affinity to sympathy is enough to counter prejudice. Experiencing creative works can also increase a child's empathy as shown by studies. Thus, a return to arts can also signal a return to a mode of education with one of its purposes being the improvement of a child's character.
Growing up, I thought of teachers as villains who belittled me and my passions, but now with distance, I can see that they, too, are victims of a toxic system that devalued their profession and turned it into a delivery system. The teaching profession is creative by nature as a teacher's job is to respond differently to each child's need. We should allow teachers, like our students, to be insubordinate to the narrow curriculum based on political basis that many of our systems are slaves to, give them strong support by providing the necessary data on their performance and any training they require, and award the teaching profession the high statues it deserves.
I believe we need to have a broad and individualized education system that can shift and respond to a child's needs, to allow children to live in open spaces where they can experience the world through their education, and to build an atmosphere of curiosity not conformity in our education.