Time for a revolution?
When I was about 10, my family and I moved back home to Brittany from the UK. It was a pivotal moment in my life – and the time I suspect I changed from a happy-go-lucky little thing to super angry about most, the pre-teen hormones probably didn’t help of course, as well as the encouraged revolutionary spirit of my French roots, which I was quick to adopt (strike, anyone?).
I love France, but like any time and place, there were ups and downs to moving back. And the education I received definitely left me in a state of increasing frustration. I soon realised that creativity was not considered something of value, and being a child, who, like most other children, was inherently creative, it was devastating. We only had an hour of art and an hour of music a week, and I was told on several occasions by incompetent teachers to stop focusing on these, or indeed on any of my strengths, and focus instead on maths and sciences, as those were ‘the only subjects that would allow me to get a job’ (I can hear Monsieur Thomas’ exasperated voice as I write this). I know this is a cliché. I know most of you reading this will have experienced something similar growing up: ‘art doesn’t matter’, ‘creativity isn’t important’, ‘you’re not good enough anyway’, etc…
It is unacceptable.
Is it not? Is it not devastating that people grow up believing that their inner creativity doesn’t matter? Doesn’t exist? Is of no value to society?
I know too many people who have spent their entire lives trying to bring that inner creative child (as Picasso so famously put it) back to life. And sadly, in France of all places, these beliefs were actively encouraged.
I am one of the lucky ones – I was angry (as aforementioned) and fought back. Growing up, my identity was based around my creativity, I didn’t have an option but to nurture it. I also had the opportunity to come back to the UK and continue my creative education at university, and even now, years later, at SCA (amazing!). But I know this option isn’t available to most. I am currently having to work full-time and do the course remotely in order to succeed, which is tough, but I feel incredibly grateful that this option even exists.
In the past few years I have noticed my son’s education change too, with a gradual focus on academia, not on talent or creativity. I can see the very familiar machine of grades, SATS and academic success grinding slowly into our children’s lives. The other day, I overheard a parent of another child say, ‘it’s only art, who cares? It really doesn’t matter’. I used to look back at my British education as something to be envied, where art is considered a challenging, exciting and essential part of school.
Sadly, in July 2021, I was proved wrong, as it was announced that the UK government is moving ahead with plans to cut funding for art and design courses by 50% across higher education institutions in England.
There are so many reasons to want to start a revolution at the moment, I know, it’s overwhelming – where to even start? But the thought that our children will now grow in a system that discourages them to express their creativity breaks my heart. Because a society that denies its creativity, dies, becomes soulless.
So, does anyone want to start a revolution? I think it may be time.