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New Media Arts Education | 8 comments
[new] Broader context (Avg. Score: none / Raters: 0) (#1)
by amy on Mon Oct 6th, 2003 at 08:35:47 AM EURODISCORDIA TIME
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Wow, Trebor. There are a lot of points to discuss in this post, but to just address one: the vocational approach sometimes seen in US students.

I think it would be useful to consider the broader context of arts and education in US vs. European and/or other cultures.

Artswise: as you mentioned, there's little hope of a US student surviving after graduation on government arts grants. Per capita spending on the arts in the US is, as far as I understand, many times less than in Western Europe. This also points to a cultural difference as well; art is considered a frivolous luxury in the US. I realize this is also the case elsewhere, it seems to be more extreme in the US, due to its culture of extreme economic pragmatism. Aspiring to be a non-commercial artist will get you laughed right outta here, Mr. or Ms. FancyPants. (Also see below on class considerations.)

Educationally: in the US, college is typically paid for by students, parents, and student loans, and students feel a great deal of pressure (from parents, peers and themselves) to make sure they can get a job which will eventually recoup their financial "investment" - or at least not leave them hopelessly mired in debt which they cannot dig their way out of.
Beyond that, there's the continually-increasing economic stratification in the US. It's not necessarily that college students aim to get rich - but they feel that they need to get a decent paying job in order to avoid living in unsafe conditions. Unemployment payments and food stamps don't go very far; neither do paychecks from WalMart.

So it can actually be an elitist position to dismiss students' vocational concerns. To working-class people, "don't worry about getting a job" sounds like the mantra of someone who doesn't need one.

On the other hand, what I find often somehow doesn't get communicated well enough: that critical thinking skills are the skills that serve you in the long run - vocationally *and* intellectually. (As Geert has pointed out, and most of my college professors did as well, fortunately.) And that once you work full-time for awhile, you'll realize how amazingly unfulfilling jobs are, and that you'll want an engagement with culture outside of your employment. (Many students sadly seem to figure this out about a year or two after graduation.)
And in general, that intellectual development and survival skills in the U.S. Economic Rat Race are not, in fact, mutually exclusive...

I'm not sure how to communicate this better other than for those of us who teach to keep discussing these issues with our students... it does seem to sink in sometimes. It did with me; then again, I'd been in the Rat Race before going to college, which definitely shifted my perspective. Maybe US students would benefit from a work/service tradition before college, i.e. a Gap Year?

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New Media Arts Education | 8 comments


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