The Importance Of Acceptance In Art Curriculum At The Elementary Level

After re-reading a bit of Viktor Lowenfeld’s “Creative & Mental Growth” recently I have found myself more interested in elementary education than ever before. The process of nurturing the human mind towards understanding the world at the foundational level of childhood is fascinating.

“No attempt should be made to censor the child’s creative expression, but rather we should try to stimulate the greatest variety of responses.”

Lowenfeld, 1947, p. 124

Student behaviors are being shaped and formed to create a vital vocabulary that they will use for the rest of their life. How exciting is it to think that a teacher will be able to interact and shape these more basic behaviors in a fundamental way that will affect every facet of their life?

It seems amazing to me that some of the more vital traits of a future practitioner in the arts is formed mostly during the primary school years.  Even as I was reading Lowenfeld I started thinking about my own formative years as a young person.

I remember that everything was a struggle for me.

I have recently come to the attention that I may have Adult ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). It is most likely that I have had ADD for most of my life. In fact, I was actually held back from first grade at the time I was tested for school entry which meant I graduated high school closer to 19 years old than the rest of my classmates who graduate closer to 18 years old. All of which is to say that school was quite a struggle for me. I was highly intelligent, read a lot, and was very creative, but I did not listen very well, had a hard time focusing, and tested poorly.

I struggled, and often I felt very stupid and different in the school environment.

I persevered however. I attribute a lot of this to my mother – Deborah Bickford-Yurick (a 33 year+ elementary art educator). As long as I can remember she was patient with me. She always told me that is was ok for me to be different and that there was nothing I couldn’t do if I put my mind to it. She also, as every mother should, adored every piece of art I created even if I didn’t like it.

It is my belief that this supportive voice is vital and more important to ensure we are giving our children. At the high school level I was shocked at how many students had never heard these sentiments by an adult. If we are not nurturing our students basic emotional construction we can never expect them to be able to move on to advanced construction of thought, care, and retention. If they cannot have a fundamental basic belief in themselves and their ability to persevere through difficulty how will they ever confront obstacles in their own education? How will they better themselves if they fundamentally do not believe that they can be bettered?