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The Secret Cevennes - articles by Samantha David

Arty Farty

At the local school kids are taught art by rote - every child has a sheet of white paper, every child draws a large circle towards the top of the paper and then waits for teacher to be sure that everyone’s circle is the right size and in the right place. Then they add the branches and, once the entire picture of a tree (including smiley sun) is correctly drawn, they colour it in.

Grass is green, sky is blue, sun is yellow, trunk is brown and top marks go to the child who can colour everything in without going outside the lines. The end result? Thirty identical trees and twenty-nine sets of satisfied parents.

Naturally I’m the odd one out. I hate the friggin green tree, the stoopid smiley sun, the poxy blue sky and sodding dimwit green grass. The sight of thirty identical paintings makes me want to smash up the whole bleedin art room. I mean smiley suns for 12-16 year olds?

French music teaching is no better, and other arts disciplines (dance, drama, creative writing, sound production, media studies, for example) are simply ignored.

Because of course accuracy and neatness are far more important in French schools than passion and anarchic creativity. The school system isn’t interested in unlocking each child’s potential, but in moulding each child into a model citizen. And perhaps they’re right.

After all, do we really understand the Turner Prize? Just how many Salvador Dali clones do we need? Isn’t the world more in need of doctors and dentists than crazed boho artists? Why should any sensible civilised country bother with art or music?

Well, right or wrong, I think developing children’s creativity gives them gifts for life; a key to intellectual passion, a refuge in times of need, a voice for celebrating, a skill for rebelling, an alternative way of problem-solving, a never-ending source of amusement.

So I’m secretly leading a counter-attack. I do the moronic homework, I even colour the pig in pink so that those good marks keep rolling in. But I won’t let my kids do that crap. No way. While I’m knocking out the art homework, they’re downstairs in the cellar chucking ten litres of vinyl matt at an outsize canvas.

Is that art? Course it friggin is. Bugger the smiley sun. They’re exploring exuberance and it can be expressed in paint.

So un-French.

Next column will be uploaded around 1st April.



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