Inspired by this piece by Ken Robinson, and also by my mother, who studied teaching under the Brazilian art educator, Augusto Rodrigues. Augusto Rodrigues founded the Escolinha de Arte do Brasil upon his belief that everything could be taught through art. My instincts tell me that a creative education is the way to go for everyone. Certainly when you read about the Waldorf schools there is strong evidence supporting this idea.
Perhaps, before becoming a nationwide shift in educational thinking, a creative education could be first introduced where it is needed most. I have many friends who have been teaching in the NY public school system. Mostly elementary and middle school special ed teachers, working mainly with emotionally disturbed children. Two things most of their kids share is poverty and the lack of a stable, supportive home life. The kids have individual education plans (IEPs) which should, but don’t, protect them from the humiliation of being subjected to standardized testing that has no bearing on their progression through the school system, the tests do not reflect their curriculum and only manage to make them feel even greater failures. This approach of forcing these students to do the same as everyone else when non of their experience of school or of life is similar to everyone else, feels too much like trying to ram a square peg into a round hole. No thoughtful consideration is being given to their integration into society and quality of life beyond school.
The ability to “create” can drive a life. It can fill what is empty, it can inspire. A deep skill in and passion for one or more of the arts is certainly more likely to result in fulfillment than traditional academic skills – if you have no hope of finding employment to use them.
In my exploration I found this shift in approach for at-risk students has been implemented with positive results:
The T. E. Mathews Community School in Yuba County, California serves high-risk juvenile offenders, many of whom have learning disabilities. The school switched to Waldorf methods in the 1990s. A 1999 study of the school found that students had “improved attitudes toward learning, better social interaction and excellent academic progress.” This study identified the integration of the arts “into every curriculum unit and almost every classroom activity” of the school as the most effective tool to help students overcome patterns of failure. The study also found significant improvements in reading and math scores, student participation, focus, openness and enthusiasm, as well as emotional stability, civility of interaction and tenacity. –Wikipedia
I would love to know, 20 years on, the long-term impact of the students creative education.