‘We good at – art and sport were

‘We are students of words: we are shut up in schools, and colleges, and
recitation rooms, for ten or fifteen years, and come out at last with a bag of
wind, a memory of words, and do not know a thing’ Ralph Waldo Emerson.

 

In this
research project I wish to explore why the Irish Education system is failing
many adolescents.  Why the lack of
facilitation for different types of learners could be a contributory factor in
teenage depression and the benefits that could occur by revising the current 2nd
level curriculum to a curriculum where creativity art and design take centre
stage.

While the
reason I chose this subject comes from a personal place, during the course of
my research I discovered that many of my peers shared my experience.
  Myself, and two of my siblings have learning difficulties which
range from dyspraxia, dyslexia and ADHD.  These difficulties meant that we
couldn’t engage fully with the 2nd level curriculum.  With the
majority of my subjects I experienced failure on a daily basis which did nothing
to help my self-esteem.  Despite my best efforts I couldn’t keep up with
most of my peers which left me feeling incapable and stupid.   The
subjects I was good at – art and sport were not considered important and given
very little time on the curriculum.   The teachers once they saw that
I was not good at a subject largely ignored me and left me to my own devices in
order to concentrate on those who were going to do well in the exam.
 Looking back now I probably didn’t help matters much because I effectively
disengaged as most of the subjects made no sense to me – I couldn’t imagine
what good they would do me in later life.    

However I
was one of the lucky ones, I got the opportunity to go to Art College where I
discovered how easy it was to learn through creativity.    I am
specializing in glass blowing an activity that constantly engages me.
 While blowing glass, I need to come up with a concept, a theme, see what
other artists are doing. I then have to design and figure out the best way to
execute this design.   In the words of Edwards (2001 p 4) I feel ‘alert and aware yet relaxed and free of
anxiety, experiencing a pleasurable, almost mystical activation of the mind’.
 Any research I have to do on this topic is not considered a chore because
I wish to find out everything I can about my medium.  Everything I do has
relevance to glass blowing but also to other subjects.  I have discovered
that I’m not a failure in the education system, in fact I am quite good at what
I do and this has a far reaching effect on everything else in my life.
   If this discovery has had such a profound effect on me, maybe
by changing the curriculum to allow learning to happen in a different way it
could be of benefit to all.

To help
with this research I explored relevant topics from Howard Gardner’s Frames of Mind the Theory of Multiple Intelligences,
Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice and The Unschooled Mind.
  Gardner is a professor in Cognition and Education at the Harvard
Graduate School of Education.   He challenges the widely held notion
that intelligence is a single general capacity possessed by every individual to
a greater or lesser extent.   This helped me question the relevance
of the 2nd level curriculum and why it is designed with not every
student in mind.   Betty Edwards Drawing on The Right Side of the Brain,
Edwards is a professor emeritus of Art at California State University; she
received her doctorate from UCLA in art education and the psychology of
perception.   Edwards explores recent developments in brain research
that relate to drawing and using the right side of the brain.   This
book gave me insight into a different way of learning.   I also examined Art Therapy and its benefits
when used with patients with health issues and how it could be incorporated
into everyday use in the curriculum.  For
this I found Aggression and Depression
Assessed through Art by Rawley Silver very helpful.  Silver is former
director of the National Institute of Education project.  She uses her
Draw-A- Story art assessment to identify youth at risk.  Also the Arts Therapies, a Revolution in Healthcare
by Phil Jones.  Jones is a MA course leader of Childhood and Community,
Leeds Metropolitan University in this book he provides a thorough and
up-to-date overview of the arts therapies.   Curriculum Matters in Ireland by Anton Trant looks at how Ireland’s
education system is currently influenced by marketplace values that go largely
unquestioned.  In the book Trant looks at the negative impact of exams and
a results-oriented approach.  Trant is teacher in Ireland and abroad.   I also researched a number of other books
such as Learning to Teach Art and Design
in Secondary School and the Art of
childhood and Adolescence to see how a curriculum in art and creativity
could be incorporated in 2nd Level curriculum. An introduction to developmental psychology by Alan Slater and
Gavin Bremner gave me insights of the developmental stages of adolescence.   I studied Internet Articles around the
success of schools in Finland in order to compare it with Ireland’s educational
system and to gather statistics.   I watched
TED talks and documentaries.