Sunday, February 28, 2016

YAM 2016 Remarks

Greetings to all of YAM participants, to all their Families and to all their Teachers!

I am honored to stand here once again in this great building and share with you critical knowledge on the importance of art education in Indiana Schools.  

This is my 32nd year of teaching art in our State.

My first teaching position was at School #74 at Theodore Potter Elementary off of 10th Street about 2 miles East of here. I remember the children came in once a week for 50 minutes of painting, drawing, sculpture, printmaking... mural making...I remember many times when class was nearly over and it was time to clean up, the children would say in unision….. “Nooooooo….we don’t want to go yet.”

During art making, the children were in states of flow, a psychologically powerful mindset where one becomes intensely focused on the act of creation. They didn’t want to return to their regular classrooms. Why is that?

I’ve had other art teachers tell me the same thing about their students. Many times, they don’t want to leave the art room.

There is something special about the subject of art and art making. What is it?

Could it be that art is the first language of human beings?

If you ask me if I think art and creativity is biologically innate in all human beings... I will tell you ‘yes.’

One of my favorite works of art are the pre-historic cave paintings in Lascaux, France, discovered in 1940 by 3 boys.....have you seen images before? The cave walls are covered with these large painted and etched animal images, horses, antelope, bison, but they are dominated with images of bulls. Why was that? What is it about the hall of bulls in these paintings?

The bulls around the time of the Lascaux cave artists, were not like Indiana farm cattle of today. These bulls were Aurochs, nearly twice the size as domesticated bulls. Three thousand pounds, Over six feet at the shoulder with horns over 3 feet wide. These bulls were roaming the countryside where the Lascaux cave artists lived….and if you ran into one? Hope you were a fast runner.….What the artists of Lascaux were doing was telling the story of the beauty and danger that existed in their lives on those cave walls…

What artists were doing back then is essentially what they do today.

Observing, envisioning, recording, experimenting, making meaning out of shared experiences, their lives and their stories through art.

Today...Quality Art education supports the telling of children’s stories. It is empowering. It empowers.

Thinking about a child’s formative school years, the experiences that determine the intellectual capacities utilized during adulthood...  in a democracy….the kinds of learning experiences children have in our schools should prepare them for civic participation.

Is the curricula an abundant curricula that includes regular opportunities for self expression? Self-empowerment? Or is the curricula narrow and scarce. Restrictive.

Not just in what subjects are taught, but how it is taught and how learning is experienced from the child’s perspective!

When we consider that children spend upwards of 15,000 to 16,000 hours of their formative years in K-12 school settings we need to look carefully at the curriculum, the psychology of learning and the totality of that experience. Curriculum is, a mind-altering device.
Indiana State Superintendent Glenda Ritz, myself and New Palestine High School Art Student Will Burgess.
Parents and citizens should ask themselves this question: Should the education, the curricula in schools today, prepare children to participate in the World’s most important democracy?

Do we offer children extensive experiences that heighten the capacity for self-empowerment and self-expression? These are the kinds of learning experiences that are the bread and butter of art education. Quality art educational experiences are democratic.

In our schools of course we teach about democracy, but outside art education classrooms do we actually offer children experience that is democratic? One where children have time and space to develop and integrate a heightened awareness of self and other human beings into their consciousness?

Or are they competing against each other for test scores?

Do we educate children for democracy or do we educate them for something else?

If current curricula offerings and school experiences are adequate, why is voter turnout for 18-25 year olds in the State of Indiana so abysmally low despite having the eligibility to vote?

Voter turnout for our state general election of 2014 was a national low of 27.8%. Voter turnout in the 2015 state-wide municipal elections was 20.5%.

Ladies and gentleman, you cannot educate children using authoritarian methods and expect them to practice and participate in democracy as adults.

Quality art education fundamentally supports democratic educational principles of self-empowerment and self-actualization and I want to introduce to you our next speaker.

A champion of art education, a National Board Certified Teacher, elected by 1.3 million Indiana Voters, Our superintendent of Public Schools, Glenda Ritz!

Photo by Kevin Schulz.

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