Thursday, 21 February 2008

Five hours of high quality culture a week for kids

I have been churning and turning this issue over in my mind for days and just can't get to grips with it. As someone who has spent all her working life in the arts I should be cheering and clapping my hands, imagining the crocodiles of children snaking past exhibits, crying in theatres and snapping eagerly with cameras, but instead I can't help feeling more than a little bewildered.
How, exactly, are children going to get the equivalent of an hour a day, five days a week of high quality cultural activity? Are artists going to be the new teachers? I suspect that the only people who get 5 hours of HQC a week are art critics, and they have to watch/walk past/read through many tens of hours of dross to attain this. And what is it with the government and the target number five?
Now, I'd love to think that I could spend an hour on Monday having a go at throwing a pot with the help of a fabulous local potter, Tuesday bursting my lungs with contemporary song, Wednesday touring the region's best art gallery and museum instead of munching on a lunchtime snack, and on Friday using up my last two hours on a thrilling performance. But I know that this just isn't going to happen. And on a rural note it'd take at least ten hours of my time to get to these things; not everyone lives near city amenities.
Are we also being ridiculous in expecting this "Find your Talent" scheme to produce hundreds of thousands of artists that wouldn't otherwise exist because of some lingering idea that Cool Brittannia was a real concept and accessible to all?
Yes, I want schools to incorporate music and art and literature and new media and drama and every aspect of the arts within the school day. I want arts organisations to enable people of all ages to engage in their work in thrilling ways. I want people, including children to feel proud of their artistic and cultural achievements, and to have opportunities to get hands on with things they couldn't do at home - I always wanted to have a go at sculpting with stone rather than fiddling with potato prints. Professional artists working alongside communities and individuals can and do deliver extraordinary life-enhancing experiences.
But should this activity be circumscribed and headlined by a highly improbable numerical target? I suspect that rather than creating real, new, extraordinary activities that the most routine will be included by this number crunching daftness. Spent Sunday watching the telly and caught a bit of the latest period drama because your Mum insisted on watching it? Tick. Double period drama class on Thursday afternoon? Two ticks. Eng Lit on Friday morning? Tick. Recorder lesson? Tick.
I really don't mean to sound like a killjoy, but if we want a vibrant, culturally aware population it should be for everyone, not just a few pilot geographies in competition with each other (that post-code lottery thing). And all the pressures that stopped teachers taking pupils to the theatre (cost, overburdened curriculum, transport fears, excessive responsibility etc) and strangled peripatetic music services (too expensive, natch) is the stuff needing tackling. Humph.


Welshcakes Limoncello said...

I totally agree, Mopsa. I think this target-setting kills creativity and dampens enthusiasm. Great post.

mountainear said...

I wish I could get 5 hours of high quality culture a week too...

There can't be enough hours left in the school week to accommodate all these initiatives.

Winchester whisperer said...

I think your photo is apposite and am surprised they haven't suggested combining portions of culture with portions of fruit & veg.

kissa said...

The joke of all this is that this country has targets for the sake of targets.I have taught in the Primary sector here in the Uk when the word target was connected with archery. There was more time to experience 'high culture' with children being exposed to live theatre, visiting musicians, going to the ballet and participating in many types of hands on creative making opportunities. Where does the 5 hours come from? We have such a prescriptive overloaded curriculum.Dream on dear government!

Mopsa said...

Thank you Welshcakes - I feel very pulled by this issue.

M'ear, perhaps we could indulge in 5 hours of LOW culture more easily?

WW - that's the next logical step?

Kissa - how good to have a new visitor - how did you find me?

kissa said...

The blogosphere has amazing routes through which little lanes can be travelled and discoveries can be made. Actually via welschcakeslimoncello.

rilly super said...

I don't think I experienced five hours of culture in my entire school career. You'd think someone quality-checked these ideas for idiocy before they were allowed out of the marketing chaps' whiteboard session into the real world wouldn't you

Mopsa said...

Rilly - it must have rubbed off from somewhere!

Rob Hopcott said...

I couldn't agree more. I nearly gagged on my toast and marmalade when the announcement came on breakfast TV. (Er, I was only watching it for the weather forecast :-) honest)

But how can we, the real people with common sense and everyday experience, get through to the ivory tower mandarins and their puppet elected representatives that this sort of stupidity serves no purpose?

Being a dreamy, unrealistic, artistic type of person, I couldn't imagine anything more wonderful than five hours of culture - but what about the pragmatic, business studies / engineer types. They'd probably want to pull the picture frame apart to find out how it was put together or check out the museums cash flow. Surely school is about maximising each individual student's potential.

It's a pity more of them don't have blogs and then we could all go and comment :-)

Mopsa said...

Welcome Rob - first time visitor? Had a look at your profile but with more than 20 blogs to your name I didn't know where to start!

Rob Hopcott said...

Thanks for visiting Mopsa :-)

Others have had the problem on my blogs of where to start too so I created yet another blog called Cafe Hopcott where quite a few of us meet up to exchange chit chat that is not theme related. See you there perhaps some time :-)

Thanks again for your visit.