I feel compelled to read it, and furthermore, be an activist for art education. There’s something that happened a few years ago that still sticks with me…
I was volunteering for my company, reading to 2 boys, or they were practicing reading to me. The kids were about 7-8 years old and class troublemakers. Basically I was there to read with these kids so they could practice their reading, and so class could go on schedule without interruption. One day, unbeknownst to me, a local art therapist (AT) came to the school. Had I known I would have rescheduled. Anyway, the AT invited the kids to a room of large tables, about six chairs each, with pieces of paper, pencils, and crayons. She had a boombox playing soft, tranquil music in the background. She asked the kids to draw whatever they felt like.
I like to draw, I can draw, but I wasn’t going to show off in front of children. I slowly and carelessly doodled a penguin mom and baby in a cartoony way.
When I looked up, the kids at our table were not drawing–instead, they were watching me. Some handed me cash to do theirs. I didn’t accept any cash, and didn’t do any kids work for them. I was completely appalled at this experience. I still am years later.
I knew this was an underprivileged K-4 school when I volunteered, and the emphasis was on literacy more than anything else. But I was and still am angered that these kids probably hadn’t had anything like an art class since coloring in daycare or kindergarten; why else would they be stumped and just want to get it over with? Why would 7-8 year olds not be thrilled to “play on paper’, and draw from their imaginations? I know they had it in them, all children do.
If the minimum investment is made in American children, how do they know their value and potential, and share that value and potential with the world? As American children, they deserve so much better than what they are getting.
- It scares me when kids (who aren’t even teenagers yet) are just doing what they have to do to pass the test or fulfill a task.
- It scares me that we expect talent to be displayed early on in many activities, or a kid just shouldn’t bother with it at all. A talent, even if someone possesses it, must be practiced regularly to increase skill and mastery. By encouraging quitting instead, all we teach a kid is give up when things are difficult, and keep looking. And life promises much more difficult than easy. Quitting everything means achieving nothing.
- It scares me when I encounter kids don’t have art, music, theater, or PE in their school. If they didn’t have it, they won’t demand it for their kids, and they won’t care about arts in their community, or on a national level.
So A Choice of Weapons is on my list.I have a feeling its themes are as timely as they were in 1967.