I wanted to write a quick follow up from yesterday’s post about cultural appropriation after a chat with my dad, a retired science teacher and deputy head. He commented that if he were choosing a career today he wouldn’t go into teaching, with the profession denigrated in the media and by politicians and the funding climate so difficult. “There isn’t the time to digress and have conversations about issues that emerge from the lessons.”
This, in part, was what I was mulling over when writing yesterday’s blog post. The main issue with students working with culturally sensitive subjects is that year on year we have less and less time to properly discuss the projects in sufficient depth. The tutorial would involve a conversation to explore the reason for the student’s interest in the subject and what they already know opens into identifying what they don’t know, what they need to find out, prompting discussion of the cultural sensitivities discussed in the last post. But over ten years, as the further education budget has been cut over and over, the focus has necessarily been on getting the same quality of work produced with less input instead of getting it done in the way that prompts the deepest learning. The conversations about context, interpretation, subjectivity, which develop their understanding of not just how to deal with subjects sensitively for projects but through developing their critical thinking it informs how they interact with the world more broadly, have been increasingly hard to fit in. This is especially hard on Foundation Diplomas in Art & Design where developing a varied and visually enticing portfolio in preparation for university interviews from February onwards is the priority of the first five months of the course. These five months only amount to around 15 teaching weeks, within which time a student also has to interrogate and update their understanding of art, design and craft, analyse their strengths and weaknesses, interests and aptitudes to help them choose a suitable pathway and degree route. The value of art and design education is lessening with each year that the funding is reduced, as we are less able to intellectually challenge our students beyond the remit of necessary project output. My former colleagues all worked so hard to maintain standards but until a value is placed back on learning for the sake of learning and funding for further education starts to increase again, I fear the educational climate will only get harder and society will suffer.