The New York Times reports that eighth graders have “mediocre” art skills. This is based on a comparing results of a 2007 nationwide test with results from 1997.
More depressing than the result, though, is the methodology, which borrows unironically from the very thing that is most hurting art instruction in schools: testing. According to the test,
“[O]nly about half of eighth graders who listened to a passage of George Gershwin’s instrumental classic, ‘Rhapsody in Blue,’ were able to identify the solo instrument as a clarinet.”
Horrors! They also point out that only half could identify a Renaissance painting or a half note.
This kills me. Yes, those things are easily testable, but they’re not art. Art education should be as much about doing art—writing, fine arts, music, whatever—as it is about rote knowledge of art concepts. It’s the creative part that’s missing from test-driven education, not the acquisition of knowledge part. It’s the rarest of children who becomes interested in art without ever creating art first.
(At the moment, this article is on the web next to a big ad for John Updike’s last collection of stories. Advertising-as-social commentary at its finest.)