Random Thoughts … About Art and Education
WHAT IS WORK?
by Jerome J. Hausman
Growing up, I was subject to certain assumptions that were firmly embedded in our language and expectations. One such term was “work.” I assumed those who could do so “worked” in certain kinds of activities: business, community services, education, health professions, and so on. People were paid for their work.
As I grew, I became aware of other categories: vacation, leisure, play, entertainment. Somehow, these were not considered “work.” Indeed, in the lives of many, work was not considered pleasurable. You did it because you had to! People were often heard to say, “I can’t wait until I have vacation” or “time off.”
It’s sad to note instances where people wished for work time to pass quickly so they could finally enjoy their living. In a sense, they were wishing a part of their lives to pass. How many times have we heard the refrain, “I can’t wait until it’s Friday”?
So much of this thinking has carried over into school experience. For many, there are the “serious and important” areas of study: mathematics, science, history, and so on. Then, there are the “recreational and pleasurable” areas of activity: art, music, theatre, dance, etc. The former are thought of as “work”; the latter are relegated to leisure or entertainment. No wonder when schools are faced with the necessity of reducing programs, the arts are the first to go. They are not “work.”
What a pleasure it was to come to the realization that one’s work could be in areas more akin to pleasure. This became clearer and clearer for me as I came to know artists. These were people who loved their work. They looked forward to time in the studio so they could do more painting, sculpture, ceramics or whatever activity they chose to pursue. Often, artists are heard to say, “Come and see my work.”
Of course, this is true in other areas of endeavor: Many scientists look forward to being in their laboratory. People can love their work! The key is in finding activity that is personally and professionally rewarding. It is more a matter of recognizing that both the arts and the sciences offer the prospect of becoming labors of love. What is common to both is the idea that creatively involved people can love their work.
What is exciting to contemplate is the idea that our teaching can look for ways that draw upon processes in both the arts and sciences. Instead of separating work and pleasure, we should look to their connections.
I have been long impressed with the Report of the Committee in Mathematics, Science, and Technology Education (1984–86), described by Lauren Resnick (Education and Learning to Think), in which reference was made to “higher-order thinking.”
What were some of the characteristics described? “The path to action is not fully specified in advance”; it “often yields multiple solutions”; “it involves nuanced judgment and interpretation”; it “often involves uncertainty”; it “involves self-regulation”; it “is effortful.”
We need to keep in mind that these are attributes of thinking and working in the arts as well as the sciences. Indeed, working in the arts and the sciences can be mutually supportive.
A&A Editorial Advisor, Dr. Jerome J. Hausman, is a lecturer, consultant, and a visiting professor at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.