My beloved niece Katy just turned 13 and received all A+'s on her report card except for art which was a B+. Now, Katy is an amazing artist, creative, focused, conscientious, and disciplined, so the grade was a puzzle. My brother asked her about it, and I will give you his words on the subject.
"Apparently this teacher appreciates the abstract nature of art and of accurately grading it so she allows them to give a self-assessment grade and which becomes a key component of their overall grade. So, what do you think she gave herself? Yep…a B+. I asked why and she said because she didn’t feel she was an “A” artist."
With further probing, she continued to sa
y “How can I give myself and “A” when I didn’t think my work was worthy of an “A”?
One might begin by asking how art can be graded, and appreciate that Katy has a teacher who understands that. Why would we even think of dividing creativity into grades? Do we judge nature? Well, maybe we do, but isn't this division what leads to wars, this perception that one thing is better than another?
I watched a movie last night that consisted a great deal of blowing sand and it was beautiful, yet many people would choose to live by the ocean rather than in the desert. Before the Romantics, people did not like mountains. They were afraid of them. Now, to live on the mountaintop is cause for celebration, and costly.
We are all proud of Katy in her choice, immensely proud, while also recognizing that children are judged by their GPA's. The irony in this is that Katy is a fine artist by anyone's standards, and yet, part of what makes her an artist is the perception and discernment that allows her to know there is more there for her. She knows she has more to explore, uncover, express, and she may need to further refine her skills. She has the discernment to know this. This is not a case of not being good enough. It comes from a different place than that. She is seeing what she wants and knows. The fulfillment is her own. It has nothing to do with a grade.
Again, I say how proud I am of her, and I wonder about a world that forces us to judge the work of children. How has this happened? Children are tested to get into preschools. One can be a "failure" at the age of three.
No wonder this society has condoned torture. Look at what we do to our children.
A friend of mine who teaches eighth grade shared the story this weekend of a girl in her class who clearly plagiarized her work from the internet but she worked so hard to do it, she could have written it in her own words in less time. Also, it had been explained to her that it was fine to quote others, just give them credit. This girl so little trusted her own opinion that she did more work, cheated, was caught, was hysterical that her parents not be told, and for what? Why? She is a good student, my friend says. There was no need for her to cheat. What prompted her to not trust her own words and word?
I am proud of Katy, of her ability to confidently and comfortably self-assess, and I want a society comfortable enough with itself to have each child comfortably do the same, knowing they won't be judged by "powers on high" who see only a GPA.
What are we doing? How can we allow each of us to explore and be with our own state of bliss, and that does not mean a lack of discipline. It means assessment that fits.