Imagine children in public schools today, who do not read well, but who are undiscovered, gifted artists. They are continually drilled in reading and get few opportunities to express themselves artistically.
In some schools, if a student does not test well in reading they do not get to be in the band, or they are not permitted to sign up for art.
If a student does not test well in reading, their fate is usually sealed. They get repetitive reading remediation–reading drill–to prepare for the tests.
In fact, often struggling schools no longer offer the arts because administrators and state officials are obsessed with testing.
But students with reading difficulties need the arts!
Jane Piirto in her wonderful book Understanding Those Who Create, writes about the Goertzel, Goertzel, and Goertzel (that’s right there are three of them) biographical analyses of eminent people in 1963 and 1978. The Goertzels’s studies looked at famous people in politics, literature, artists and others.
In the artistic category they included sculptors, painters, actors, composers, film directors, dancers, and performers.
In the 1978 analyses, 75 of the 300 people they studied fell in this category. Some of the artists were Renoir, Picasso, Charles Ives, Georgia O’Keeffe and others.
The Goertzel’s found four key differences in those in the artistic group.
- They were less likely to have gone to college.
- They were not known for being good students.
- They were not likely to be omnivorous readers.
- They had special schooling.
- They were more likely to be first-and second-generation immigrants.
- They had family members who practiced the same kind of art.
I find all of these factors sadly fascinating for the following reasons.
- Think how all students are pushed to go to college. Many are made to feel like failures if they do not do well on college entrance tests or are not accepted into higher education.
- How many talented students languish in reading remediation classes and don’t get art? If a student is not a good reader from the start–if they have dyslexia that goes unaddressed and other learning difficulties–they get repetitive reading drill and testing.
- How many talented students especially those living in poverty get special schooling in the area of their art abilities?
- How do we identify second language students or provide multicultural education when it comes to the arts?
- Who considers the artistic capabilities of the family members of students? Could there not be a role in the school for them to share their talents with students?
And how many students are bored and feel like failures because they are not good readers? They might well have no understanding of the remarkable talent that could lie within.
Not to mention that their artistic expression could bring the world joy and much to think about!
Goertzel, B., and Goertzel, M.G., and Goertzel, T. Three Hundred Eminent Personalities: A Psychosocial Analysis of the Famous. (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1978).
Piirto, Jane. Understanding Those Who Create. (Scottsdale, AZ: Gifted Psychology Press, Inc., 1992) 154-155.