Unjust Grading of the Arts

Colored pencils

© Tammy Mcallister | Dreamstime Stock Photos

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you.. My first rant!

The grading of arts classes. Why, why, why do teachers grade me on not only my artistic ability but also the way in which I choose to express myself? I love music and visual arts, and I love the way I can pour feelings into my work. I understand that since, at least at my school, they count as credits and therefore have to be graded the same way that any other class is graded.

It makes sense to grade us on whether we did homework assignments and on tests/assessments on different musicians or painters. Written tests with clear, exact answers can and should be graded. Although I do not particularly enjoy taking quizzes on different types of stages or different art periods, the fact that they are assessed in the regular fashion meets the standards of grading that I expect.

I am taking an introduction to art kind of class, because I love it and wanted to expand on my ability to use different medians. We are currently making sculptures out of clay, then glazing them and baking them in the kiln. Unlike some others in my class, I chose to make an abstract sculpture right off the bat. As others sculptures fell apart at the seams or didn’t look quite like they expected them to, they switched to creating an abstract creation. We are being graded on the standard concepts, like if we used all four of the shapes of life, if it’s “in the round” (can be looked at from any angle and perceived correctly and interesting), and others. We are also being scored on our “creativity”, for which I’m not getting as many points because mine was nonpictorial.

I cannot help but be angered by this evaluating notion; just because my art isn’t sculpted after an animal (like half the ones of my class) does not mean that I was not being imaginative. I still put a lot of thought into form, sketching it first like everyone else and making sure it is pleasing to the eye from all angles. I also used the four shapes of life (cylinder, sphere, cube/rectangular prism, and cone) in innovative ways that were more unique than putting a sphere on a cone and calling it ice cream. I manipulated different pieces and made a creative sculpture that I felt better expressed my intention than any concrete form.

Teachers should not have the right to determine the worth of our art based on the way they would have done it or their personal opinion of how creative it was. Many great artists that we learn about in those very classes went against the norm, and weren’t accepted at first because it was different from the time period. Later, they changed the course of art history and were greatly respected, even if it wasn’t until after they died. We learn about that, it’s the basis of our courses in the arts, and the teachers stress that fact with every lesson. Yet when it comes time for us to express ourselves, they judge us on our ability and assess our projects on their personal opinions. Grading us on how we choose to specialize our work and make them more unique doesn’t make sense. I would always rather create art that expresses me from within than conform to someone else’s strict expectations. I leave you with this quotation from Crime and Punishment, “To go wrong in one’s own way is better then to go right in someone else’s (Fyodor Dostoyevsky).

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4 thoughts on “Unjust Grading of the Arts

  1. I find this as well, not with art (I’m not at all creative in that way!) but with dance. With one of my more recent pieces of choreography we had a stimulus (mine was a picture of a tree growing into the moonlight) so myself and the girl I danced with made the whole dance about the growth of a tree and its journey until it ‘reaches’ the moon. To help the teacher grade the piece we had to write a side of A4 explaining how we’d choreographed it and how the movements showed this journey, which we explained really well but we got the lowest mark in the class when all everyone else had done was copy well-known pieces already like the Nutcracker and Swan Lake. It really annoyed me how she said our creativity wasn’t worth even the similar mark to everyone else’s when we’d put in more work and thought than the rest of the class. Can completely sympathise with your annoyance!

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    • That’s awful! I understand how you feel entirely. Try talking to her about the time you put in and the symbolism involved, maybe you can sway her to see your side. And even though your teacher doesn’t think so, I consider abstract pieces to be just as creative as more realistic representations.

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  2. It’s unfair for you to be marked critically because you chose to work abstractly, that said if the assignment had specifically noted that you should start from life or create something figurative it makes sense. Whether the teacher was in the right or in the wrong depends on the exact criteria being graded.

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