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The Art of Education

I love art; in fact, I have just purchased two original paintings to hang in my living room. My wife and I visited a number of galleries to get advice. We were told to buy the work of an artist who was seen as a safe investment, because they were judged to be good, we were also told not to buy art as an investment... contradiction after contradiction.

It became very confusing except for one piece of advice, which did become our mantra, mainly because it sounded so sensible: "buy art that you love, that you can relate to; art that you can sit and look at whilst sipping a glass of wine and listening to some good music." So we bought two paintings, a natural pair by the same artist: two beautiful watercolours, early morning landscapes seen through dawn mists and dappled sunlight. You see? You can tell we like them, I'm getting all poetic!


We are all born different, with different tastes and opinions. The joy of life in a free and civil society is our ability to live lives of choice and discernment, lives where we are lucky enough to be able to choose what music we want to listen to, what books we want to read and what art we want to hang on our walls.


As a species we should be proud of our glorious uniqueness and we must continue to fight hard to protect it.


This is why traditional education fascinates me. So much of it flies against this celebration of humanity, of uniqueness. We create policies that are always about conformity - an expectation that every child should learn the same things, in the same way and at the same time. More surprising is that we expect every child to do it with an equity of enthusiasm and interest; if they don't, we punish or label them.


For me schools should be a little more like good art galleries - places hanging with all kinds of art from many different sources. They should be places where children get to view it all, so that they can make informed judgments but then, then they should be allowed to choose what matters to them and we should encourage and celebrate that.

Human beings always learn best when something matters to them, when it links to their own contexts and emotions, just like art and music. As teachers we must make sure that we don't just tell children that they have to like something because we do, we have to make sure that we paint pictures that link to them and their lives...


...learning has to matter, it has to provoke feeling and meaning. If and when we do that, we will create education worthy of a child's wall


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© Richard Gerver