Thursday, April 18, 2013

Geek Speaking Gesundheit Arts

Geek Speak: Gesundheit
I don't remember what prompted this strip. It's one I did a while ago, and I think I was in the middle of dealing with a cold at the time. Nothing more to it than that, I'm afraid.

This actually reminds me of a collection of Bloom County cartoons I've had for most of my life. In the collection Berke Breathed included an illustration he'd done for an art class when he was a kid. It was of an astronaut sneezing mid-EVA and accidentally ripping out the hose that provides his suit with its atmosphere. Of course the astronaut's head is exploding, an effect he achieved by filling his mouth with red paint and blowing it onto the paper. His teacher, according to the anecdote, took one look at it and said, "It's awful. You're going to be rich." In his case it turned out to be true. Maybe I'll catch the same lightning with this.

Arts Education: Where Do the Oddballs Go from Here?
One of my oldest friends is a drama teacher in Colorado Springs. He recently put up a post expressing frustration with the state of his chosen vocation and lamenting that it gets harder for him every year especially when teaching an "arbitrary," "untested," and "useless," art. I don't know if the quotes he used were pulled from the article he was referencing, or things he'd heard from parents who don't approve of their kids getting involved in the theater, but it does reverberate with the rhetoric of current educational policy.

For most of my life it seems as though the rich, (predominately) white, (mostly) men who serve as our elected officials have been crying about the state of education. The remedy has ranged from shouting from the hilltops about the "three Rs" (anybody remember those? only one actually started with an R) to "no child left behind."

The trademark of legislative activity in education has been a stalwart focus, a zealous commitment to promoting education in math and science above all else. The way a co-worker jokingly put it recently was, "we're not going to beat the Chinese with art."

Arts education is something that is near to my heart. My dad was an art teacher, my friend is a drama teacher, and I took several art classes in high school and eventually went on to major in Theatre. Art is a diversion, a hobby, an avocation, but for me it goes beyond that. Creativity and the being engaged in a creative pursuit, be that writing, or cartooning, or acting, is the thing that pushes blood through my heart and fills my lungs with oxygen.

Arts education is more important even than that. Not all of us are meant to be programmers, or business leaders, or politicians, or accountants, or scientists, or mathematicians when we grow up. There are the oddballs, and I count myself in with this group, who see the world a little differently. The oddballs who place value on intangibles instead of material gain. The screwballs who see accumulating wealth as a means to an end, not the end itself. In a culture that values only how well you score in math and science, where do these people fit in?

The arts gives the oddballs, the misfits, the people who don't fit a place to go; a refuge. The world can be unkind to people who see it differently. I know I wouldn't be the person I am today were it not for the shelter provided by the theatre group in high school or the catharsis I find in writing and drawing.

To my friend I would say this:
Art, any art, is not useless or arbitrary, it is essential. You never know what a person educated in the arts is going to go on to become, be it CEO of a world changing software company or being elected president. For the sake of the oddballs, the misfits, and those like you and me who don't fit anywhere else you have to hang tough. Give those of us with nowhere else to go that place of refuge, a place where to belong.

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