By: Gigi Protasiewicz
In many conversations, I have experienced people complaining about having to receive a letter grade in art class. Their main argument tends to be that art is subjective. They say that getting a good grade in art requires an immense amount of effort and a degree of natural talent that few people possess. I do agree that art is subjective. Yes, there is no one right way to paint a painting or make a sculpture. However, there is also no one right way to write an essay. By this, I mean to say that even in academic subjects, you are graded subjectively, just like in art class. I recently got back an essay, and one of the sections on the rubric was titled “Ideas.” How is an idea for an essay that much different from an idea for a drawing? Another example of this subjectivity is demonstrated by participation grades. There is no set number of times a student must speak in class, no required length of a comment, and yet a participation grade is a significant part of many classes, such as English and foreign languages. If it were fundamentally wrong to get graded in a subjective manner, then that would call into question most academic classes as well.
With regard to the claim that art classes require talent, and it is not right to grade based on that, I would say that other classes require some type of talent as well. It would be incorrect to suggest that, for example, all students have the same aptitude for math. Additionally, there are many art classes that you can choose to take. If you feel like you are completely unable to draw or paint, then taking a visual art is probably not the right choice for you. Learning to strategize and make good choices is a very important skill, and in a way, getting graded in an art class forces you to make effective choices concerning what classes you sign up for. With all of the different options for art classes at HB, it is possible to find amongst them some class in which you are interested and in which you feel you may succeed.
Finally, getting a grade in art class legitimizes the class, and makes sure that people take it seriously. Without the fact that you will receive a grade as motivation, people would not try as hard in the class. I know that when I took freshman gym class, I knew that it was pass/fail, and so I was not particularly concerned with trying my absolute best. If indeed there is some value to taking an art class (which I presume there is, as most schools require art classes), then it would be optimal for students to do their best work, and try just as hard as they do for their academic classes. Receiving a grade is an effective form of external motivation for students who might not otherwise treat art as a real class. Art class is an important part of the curriculum here at HB, and letter grades only serve to emphasize that.
Photo Source: gentlepurespace.com