While my mom was a fan of all things cultural (and a really good artist who gave up what could have been a fabulous career in favor of raising a whole bunch of wild street urchins, otherwise known as my brothers and sisters), dad couldn’t tell a Picasso from a piccolo. Between my dad, the high school choir teacher and several very tactful ladies who taught ballet, my enthusiasm for pursuing any sort of career in the arts was dampened. Okay, it was drowned with little hope of resuscitation.
One of the instructors at ASU’s art department explained their every-semester “welcome back event” as an effort in encouraging students “to think about displaying their work as well as creating it.” He should have met my dad. The overall objective of our education was to GET A JOB. We were not “millennials.”
Happily, (for me, anyway), writing was not considered as much an art as a necessity in getting through school with acceptable grades. Plus, my grandfather was a newspaper reporter. Writing a novel as frivolous as “Gone with the Wind” would have gone over as well as the proverbial lead balloon. Not even if I’d changed my name to “Bronte” would dad have been persuaded that a career writing romance novels was socially acceptable.
By the time I returned to ASC to add secondary art education to my wildly diverse resume, dad had mellowed considerably. Teaching art was, as he saw it, not the same thing as BEING an artist. I’ve known some hugely successful artists who are terrible teachers; I know several art teachers who are only passably fair artists. Somehow, I managed to slip between the cracks of both categories. I had far too much fun playing with my students to be a great art teacher and I have too little talent to be a great artist.
Periodically, I check with my great-grandchildren and their friends to ask “What do you want to be when you grow up?” I’m still looking for ideas.
We had counselors in our high school. They administered assorted I.Q. tests, preference tests, breathalyzer tests (just kidding) and provided a holding-tank where misbehaving students could await pickup by a parent. They did not tell us about career choices, about colleges and universities or alternate education opportunities (excepting recommendation that some of the aforementioned charges consider enlisting in a branch of military service.) But, by the time we graduated, most of us were really proficient at taking tests. If we couldn’t impress someone with our intelligence, we could confound them with cow pies. I loved essay exams.
Judging from the number of youngsters who’ve told me they aspire to be “rappers,” I’m not sure the school counselors today are doing an improved job of guiding students to a productive future. Unless, of course, I’m mistaken in my spelling and these kids want to be “wrappers.” Gift wrappers, meat wrappers, people who put all sorts of things into those hard plastic wrappers that defy opening with anything smaller than a chain saw. Are there openings anywhere for people who can unwrap?
Based on the amounts I pay for plumbing, electrical or mechanical repairs, there is a huge need for more vocational programs in the high schools and more vocational-technical schools everywhere. The guy who put a new pump in my well makes more than any teacher I know, and probably more than my cardiologist. “You Gotta Have Heart” is only the title of a song; a good well pump is worth gold.