When I filled my core requirement for the arts, I took Classic Mythology. At the time, I was just relieved I didn’t have to take a genuine art class – that is, something involving drawing, painting, sculpting, etc. I’ve always been pretty bad at those, so having the option to take a class on something I’m really interested in instead of something I’m bad at? It seemed perfect!
Unfortunately for those that like art, I didn’t just get a chance easy course. I didn’t just get lucky. All of the art core classes are like that. You can take Architecture History, Popular Music, Art History or Classic Mythology. But if you want to actually learn how to draw, how to sing or how to ballroom dance, that’s not something that’s ever going to be covered underneath the art core.
Instead of letting us participate in the area of the arts, all the classes in the art core are about appreciating and understanding the fine arts from an outside perspective.
On one hand, that’s genuinely not a bad objective – some students at Calvin have little to no experience with anything related to the fine arts, and looking at the topics from the outside perspective can help in that situation. However, it becomes a problem when that’s the only option offered for the arts core. If students want to, in order to fulfill that core, they should be able to learn how to actually participate in the fine arts.
If I had been able to learn the art of hip-hop dancing instead of taking Classic Mythology, I might have gone for a class like that. It would be really interesting to learn, and dancing isn’t something I’m horrendously bad at, like drawing. We don’t have options right now. Everything’s a textbook.
In math, you learn how to do mathematics, not just learn the history of it. The English and literature cores are actually about writing and reading. In both history cores, you learn about history. Same with science.
So why is it different for the fine arts?
Sure, some people aren’t good at them – but some people aren’t good at memorizing dates, or solving equations, or reading a book in a timely manner. That doesn’t mean they get to just learn about biology from an outside perspective, examining the history of it instead of learning how it functions, do they? Of course not!
I don’t know what would be best. Should we make half the art core options ones where you actually join in an area of the fine arts, instead of simply learning about it? Should we have two art cores, one for learning about, and the other for learning an activity? Or should we completely revamp the art core so that you have to come out of a music class knowing how to read music, or learn how to draw, or maybe learn a few steps of the waltz?
By making all of the art core classes about looking in from the outside, we lose the chance to truly teach people who want to learn about the arts. Learning about how to experience music isn’t the same as learning how to make it, and people should have the option to learn if they want to. We can’t just learn art appreciation and have that be the end of it. How to change that, I don’t know.
All I know is that the art core needs to change from how it is now. (And I still want to learn hip-hop.)