A plea for more art in schools

May 27, 2007


I recently took a short course on how to string a pearl necklace. In attempting this on my own for the first time, I was a bit rushed; I ended up with tangled thread and broken needles. Seeing how difficult things became when I didn’t approach the task with enough care made me reflect on what practicing my art and craft is continually teaching me about life in general.   

Daily I learn about how intimately one’s state of mind is related to the nimbleness of one’s fingers and even the willingness of the materials to cooperate!! For instance in stringing the necklace I encountered several pearls with holes too small to push the needle through a second time. Forcing it seemed to create more resistance. Only later, when I had more patience, did I discover that if the needle was allowed to find its own smoothest path inside the pearl it worked: there were some tight fits, but they went through. 

When I got into a flow with the work, I was aware of each pearl shining with a gentle lustre, I felt a sense of care in handling every single bead, and I had attention left over for my posture and breathing. Everything went easily.I realized that when I lose myself in my art or in craft work, there is a sense of timelessness, and oneness with the task and materials.  

Imagine what the world would be like if our children were taught to cultivate these qualities in their work. How much care would flow into the society through people who took pride and pleasure in the tasks they were doing and the materials in their hands?   There is so much emphasis on sports in schools and youth clubs; it is argued that sports teach young people team spirit, discipline and competition. I agree that these skills are handy in the tough world of business. But if there was as much emphasis on art, we’d get kids who could do creative problem solving; people who would never deliver shoddy workmanship; and children who could invent and experiment and think independently.

 Matthew Fox says: ‘If you are awakening ordinary people to their own creativity they are going to become better citizens, better parents, better educators, more imaginative solvers of human problems and conditions…the work world, and neighbourhoods and homes that we live in will be recreated.’

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