I’m finishing up entering grades for several classes I teach online, all survey courses.
This first assignment asks What Is Art?, and students are to find an image reproduced in their textbooks as a point of departure for their individual ideas of Art…and art.
Even if they think those two are one and the same.
This is always a great time in the semester for me. I love to read what other people think of when they think of art.
And I love to read about how many of them wish they’d had more exposure to art and its history in public school.
Many of them lament that they’ve never had any exposure to art history, and that they only got to take one or two art classes.
I’m not about to get political here, but I did have a few random thoughts about how art could actually save our nation.
Or something like that.
Think about it this way: It’s at once fascinating and perplexing that we do not offer art history courses to young minds in this country, in every year from preschool until graduation.
Why wouldn’t we?! This is so…elementary!
We love hearing about other lives and loves that are different from our own…for better or for worse.
Why do you think celebrities are such bedazzling, alluring night lights for our dazed, collective American insect consciousness…even conscience?
Actually, our shared love for a good story, especially if it’s True! – is universal.
Bad press is good press and all that.
If this is how we learn, and remember, and relate, and come to a cultural understanding of This Present Life, why in the world are we NOT teaching our children the world’s history through the great art from our past?
I mean, we can all readily agree that we don’t have any written records dating beyond our earliest complex civilizations.
But we do have Art that scientists and historians believe dates over 35,000 years ago.
Why not turn to visual aids – truly amazing visual aids – to help our citizenry understand and identify events, people, places, and trends from the past?
History repeats itself, right? Just look at our cycle in the Oval Office: One U.S. President instates the Mexico City Policy (Reagan) and then another (Clinton) rescinds it…for the most part.
Then the next one (Bush) reinstates it and his successor (Obama) rescinds it.
And this little mini-cycle began, like, yesterday! (It was 1984.)
You’d think this gag rule was President Trump’s idea! That this kind of action is unheard of!
To hear even a little of the rhetoric being thrown about regarding this policy in the last few days should tell us something.
Don’t you think we’d all be better prepared for our future – not to mention kinder to and more tolerant of one another – if we all knew a little more about our past?
Art history does this! It’s the visual history of humanity.
It’s so simple.
And yet we hand this nation’s youth some crayons – if they’re lucky – in elementary schools in districts that haven’t quite been bled out of funds and call it Art Class.
And then we wonder why the only art work they know for the next 60-odd years is Starry Night?
Magnificent as that work is, that’s it.
And this is so sad.
President Trump, if you need some help with reforming our public schools in this country, I’m up for it.