Should there be Grades in Art Classes? NO

By: Isha Lele

When I was in primary school, art class was my favorite part of the day. I was never very creative, or even had that big of a passion for painting, but getting to freely express myself on a daily basis was great. There were no right or wrong answers in art. Every stroke or line you made was correct in not only the teacher’s mind, but your own. However, now, in my first year of high school, I have come to realize that art classes have become a major part of my GPA. Whether you are in orchestra or photography here at HB, the grades you get on certain assignments dictate your final grade and even influence your GPA. But now I ask you, why is our first amendment, freedom of speech, being questioned? I believe that art, whether on a stage or on a canvas is truly someone’s personal speech that they are presenting to the world. My opinions don’t always have to be stated through words, but rather visual pieces of art that help me get my message across.

Art classes teach us to be creative, see the world in different ways, and use our imagination. When our personal creative work is judged and graded, however, it defeats the purpose. Students begin drawing what will give them a higher grade or please the teacher, and don’t express themselves freely and openly. I have spoken to many students in my grade and found that art is no longer a safe haven for them. One student stated that she went in during her free time to finish her 80 point assignment instead of meeting another teacher about her math homework. In many students’ eyes, art just becomes another class where we stress, cram, and spend sleepless nights worrying. For us, the ones that are not naturally gifted, art has become something we are forced to succeed in. It is no longer what we want to make or portray, but rather a specific, guided assignment that has only a limited amount of correct answers.

A few days ago I received my report card and had come to find out that my worst grade was in orchestra. Every night I was forced to practice for at least a half hour, learning and memorizing pieces for our monthly exams. I ended up doing well in the concert and on tests, yet still managed to receive a grade lower than that of all of my other classes. Trumpet and piano were two of my favorite pastimes before I joined the orchestra. Now, they have just become a daily chore that I dread. The commitment and expectations of different art classes have taken out the creativity and love that I had for my favorite activities. Art is supposed to teach us to be ourselves and live our life with a different perspective of our world, but I now find myself doing whatever will please my teachers.

I personally believe that art classes should switch to the pass-fail system. Like freshman gym, pass/fail classes test our participation and ability, but still give us room for error and creativity. A letter grade and its impact on our final grades just adds to our stress. In PE, those who are athletic and flexible have no advantage over those who can’t run or touch their toes. Everyone who follows directions and reaches their full potential is rewarded. In art, we are now tested on what ideas are most liked by our teachers and who draws the most elaborate sketches. Other classes, such as math and history, have obviously unbiased, objective grading scales, whereas art has room for opinion from teachers. However, no matter how talented the teacher is, they will never be able to fairly grade the work of students. It isn’t a class based on fictional readings and memorization of facts, but one in which you can express yourself. I believe all art, whether basic or extravagant, is beautiful to all eyes and the creativity of our work should not be compared to those of our peers through a letter grade system.

Photo Source: BBC