Now I get it…

Today the little taxicabs showed up at school. Hundreds of toy taxicabs, with paint sets, in boxes. And it turns out that the teacher who ordered those carnations last week had no idea what he was getting us into, and now we have dozens of taxis, no plan for what to do with them, and he’s sort of washed his hands of the whole thing. So that great lesson plan on social issues that is supposed to accompany the taxis, the lesson plan that someone described in my comments last week, how impressed she was with her son’s work and thought about universal health care? Now somehow we have to get that together for our kids. It’s not that I think the whole thing is a bad idea. I’m sure it works great in settings that consciously choose to do an arts project that also raises awareness of social issues… but here we are, first with the flowers, then with the taxis, with no plan and it just feels like one more thing that I have to figure out and then convince my team of teachers to implement when we were never consulted about it in the first place. It also feels like a one-off. Not that it’s so bad to do something different once in a while with no follow-up, but really I think to do something right you have to find an authentic context for it, the setting where kids are already researching social issues or making art, so that it can be done carefully, deliberately, with attention to the quality of the research and discussion and artwork that comes out of it. Because otherwise you marginalize the topic by rushing through it and then pushing it to the side again.  And it makes me wonder about ownership, because while I’m 100% sure the kids will love painting taxis and talking about social issues, on another level it feels like they are tools in someone else’s art project rather than taking ownership and initiative in a truly empowering way to decide how art could be used to communicate about social change.

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Filed under education, New York, teaching

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