Monday, January 23, 2012

In your face Jerry Maguire

Dear Schools,

I'm writing this because I'm growing tired of listening to frustrated students abandon their gifts and talents because of either failed parents or a failed system.

My name is Josh Robinson and I am an artist.  I'm not an artist because I make a living creating art.  I'm an artist because that is who I am.  It defines me as a person and I'd be an artist no matter what I did for a living.  Now before I begin, I should say that I do happen to make a living creating art but this is in spite of the educational system and not because of it.

Most people go to school in order to find a job that will allow them to succeed instead of identifying their greatest talents and then creating an environment in which that talent can flourish.  One of the biggest issues we face in education is not only the dismissal of the arts but creative thinking in general.  There is an educational  pyramid where things like math, language and science are at the top and things like art, dance, music tend to be at the bottom.  What are the odds that a school faculty will sit in a circle and have a discussion on how to save money and one of their solutions is to cut the Math program?  Why then do we feel it acceptable to do this with respect to the arts?  You strip the creative thinkers of the one area where they may have an opportunity to blossom.  The very environment in which we learn implies that being an artist is either not the correct path to take or at the very best, an unsuccessful one.

So how do we learn now?  Well, from the moment you step into a school you are blindly lead down a road that completely disregards your unique talents as well as your comprehension abilities.  Maybe you're like me and you absorb information brilliantly when it's oral but not when it's read?  Instead you tell us the answers to many questions and then you tell us to memorize it because there will be a test on Friday.  Is this creative thinking?  Probably not.  Are you maximizing the likelihood of a creative thinker?  Probably not.  If a child thinks outside of the box is he or she rewarded for his or her unique approach?  Not only are they corrected for their different approach but the class is rarely structured in a way for this spontaneous thought to developed in the first place.  You go out of your way to teach us about people like Newton and Einstein.  People who thought creatively in spite of their surroundings and yet you teach it in an environment that stifles the very creativity that you're teaching. 

When I was in High School I was told by my student counsellor that I could never be an artist.  Not because I didn't have any talent but because he could not imagine a world in which that was a way to make money.  What a deflating thing to say to a young person.  To tell a young artist that the very thing that defines them.  The thing that they need to do in order to feel fulfilled as a person they can never be.  How profoundly wrong was this person to say such a thing.  Simply because he could not see an immediate opportunity.  Simply because he was not a creative thinker.  You are preparing me for jobs that don't even exist yet.  You owe it to me to be better than this.  You owe it to me to push my talents and not hinder them with your short sidedness simply because I'm not operating within the guidelines that you deem appropriate.

Like many artists I was placed on Ritalin and diagnosed with ADHD.  At one point it was even suggested that I had a learning disability.  Why?  How can this be?  Why am I able to flourish outside of school and succeed profoundly and yet you think I have a learning disability?  It's because everything that I had a passion for the educational system didn't.  The system has a very linear track and if you are not on that track then you are told that you are broken.  Moreover you are told you will not succeed.  How is it possible for me to get a genuine education in the thing that is best for me when you decided what track I should be on before you had even met me?  This approach to education is profoundly incorrect.  Human talent is incredibly diverse and it should be a schools primary function to create the conditions in which a talent can flourish.  Not disregard talent or dissuade a young person's passions.

Josh Robinson


  1. Dear Josh Robinson,
    I've been following your blog for a few months now, and I love to see the amazing art you create. I am aspiring CG artist still in High School, and this post has really made me consider a few things in my life that I never really thought about before. Mostly about which higher education I want to peruse and the fact that I really do want to keep creating, because it's something that I can honestly say I love.
    Thank you,

  2. You're welcome Eli and thanks for always following. I'll try to be more active in the coming months with my blog. I have been lazy the last month cause work was a bit busy. =)

    I wish you the very best!

  3. This is beautiful I can relate much to it. I went to art university and I saw people who couldn't even draw get higher grades than me. Thinking outside of the box doesn't seem to get a compensation anywhere most of the time. You are true in every word you're saying, keep it up.

  4. I couldn't agree with you more. I am a very creative person and all my teachers make things so... so... tedious and repetitive that it's hard to learn. For instance I'm very very good at Algebra, I find way to solve problems that even the teacher hadn't seen. This year I have a teacher that told me that the way I solve a matrix equation is wrong even though my answer will be right every time and that I need to do it his way or he will mark me wrong on the test. I am also a musician, and very good one at that. and even my own family is telling me that I will never be able to make money from it so I should give it up and find something else to do. Is it just me or is this world destroying creativity and originality as they see fit? I would like to say that I'm a beginner in CG character design and 3d modeling just for fun. And I also love your blog. Keep em comin' you're a very inspiring artist!!!!!

  5. hi josh, long time no see, thank you, this was a real "nail on the head".. i m working in a local school and the situation is such, "the lives and potential of our kids are being thrown down the drain" especially in this myopic land.. i cant help but feel sorry for them and get pissed at the policy makers..

    anyway.. its jude (cheeseball) (u trained me in mma at FWA for some time) (add me on FB, its Rajiv Kratos Jude)

    cheeers man.. and once again, good article...

  6. YES! Its like they forget art is also an empirical aspect of all human culture. I am glad I read this..especially the part about Ritalin, ADHD and the proposed "learning disorder." It really messes with how you prioritize things in general...I am trying to get off that medicine because I think I might have been more creative without it..Do you still take that medicine? The more I ease off that stuff the less motivated I am and I feel like prescribing me that was a great disservice.


  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

  8. Oops, looks like I deleted my own comment!
    I was reading your profile statement, and wow... you're one of the few people in this world who turn problems into opportunities. Thank you for posting such personal experiences... you are an inspiration to all who have ever had to overcome obstacles and prejudices.

  9. Brilliantly written.

  10. Great article... Gone through the same way for my life. Shared this on my facebook page too :)

    many thanks...