The child is why

Inexplicably, I thought about Milly-Molly-Mandy this morning. I was a distracted kid and didn’t like reading much, but I loved Milly-Molly-Mandy.

That thought led me to revisit her life. She was busy, independent and interested in lots of things. My life at her age was similar—I lived in a seaside suburb of Newcastle that may well have been an English village; I had a loving, relatively uncomplicated family; I liked making things; I had enormous freedom and loved exploring outside; I was always finding and scoffing mulberries, loquats, mushrooms, honey suckles and even wild onion grass; I tolerated fishing and adored swimming; I collaborated with friends to make up games and songs; I had to do ‘chores’; I learnt to cook; I looked after and loved my pets; I valued and saved my pennies. I was also bratty but that doesn’t fit into M-M-M’s story.

I’ve been going on for some time about how much I love my simple domestic life; musing about how different it is for me since I retired. Today I realised that this life isn’t new, and the child is why. That M-M-M child is just a sentimental version of my more constructive current self. That M-M-M child is also why I’m doing and making—doing and making up for lost time.

I remember when I was 5 I practiced writing my name in my books. Not just in my books, but also in as many books from the family bookshelf as I could, before getting caught and stopped (bratty kid!). Here’s an example:

It’s a pretty strong statement—a signature of considerable size. Practice made perfect!

Mmm…using my fingers to count that it is Day 984/17 📔😳

Australian curriculum: visual arts. What were they thinking???


I have just posted about the publishing of the dance curriculum on Violet’s blog. Nothing hugely new or controversial there.

But on the area of the site that details learning in the visual arts, there is a video that I just have to comment on.

What were ACARA staff thinking?

The video shows Ruth Flaherty, who is the President of VAESA (Visual Arts Educators of South Australia) talking about learning in the visual arts. I want to try to empathise with her point of view but I can’t. Her view of visual arts education is outdated in the extreme and fills me with horror. Her words don’t even bear any connection to the curriculum content that is detailed on the site. Her words demonstrate the limited view held by artists and other community members who don’t understand arts learning in a contemporary context.

Flaherty may be reading from a script that someone else has written, but that’s no excuse. She is sitting in a primary classroom where the ‘artworks’ on display can only be described as ‘cookie-cutter’ (Are they meant to be artworks?). She talks about the value of visual arts learning as being about ‘fun’, ‘building self esteem’, developing ‘creative problem-solving skills’. And she trots out old chestnuts like ‘students love art’ and ‘there’s no right answer’. As she goes on, she seems not to understand the meaning of the words she is using (e.g. art is a ‘process, not just a practice’). And the vision of students making artworks must have been chosen to match what she is saying. I won’t say anything more about that.

I won’t comment on Flaherty’s own practice, but I think ACARA staff should have found a spokesperson who was more representative of visual arts learning in the 21st century. Unfortunately the view we receive from Flaherty would have been amusing to my own wonderful art teachers 40 years ago!