Thursday, April 28, 2011

Gettin Educated

Does an art degree prepare students for real life after graduation? Should it?

Is education now job training? Should employers and the market dictate the curriculum?

Ponder on that.


FetishGhost said...

No... yes... no/yes... no

Dan Finnegan said...

With no degrees of any kind I am proud to be completely unqualified to do what I do...3 colleges for me...little connection to the real world. A damn shame...

Joseph said...

The only thing University taught me is if you ever want to learn anything you have to do all the hard work.

It really didn't prepare me for a job in real life as there was never any discussion of what to do next, how to price work or anything like that.

My degree in ceramics just gave me a safe place to start on the journey of learning my craft.

I was at uni for six years due to two courses I dropped and my little boy been born in the middle of my ceramics degree so a three year degree took me four. So I have debts of over £20000 not really worth it to learn my craft, though I have to earn over £15k to slowly pay it off.

I get on with my tutors now I have left and they give me more advice and support now I have graduated. They are even firing the pieces that are too big for my kiln.

ladyofclay said...

IMO, Yes,an art degree should prepare students for real life but, I'm sure mine didn't. Young people have different ideas about what they want to do with their art degree and where it should take them. They often go into a program with very vague ideas but I think its part of the educators job to assist the student to sharpen and focus the goal so that the student can hit the ground running after graduation. Of course it is up to the student to apply themselves and get as much out of the teachers as they can or switch schools if they feel the need.
I'm not sure if employers and the market should dictate the curriculum but having a say in it would help both the students and the employers have people coming into the job market better prepared.

Tracey Broome said...

I went to a "university" for one year and knew it wasn't for me. I transferred to a technical college, got a two year degree that focused only on what I wanted to do, and got an education that totally prepared me for what I wanted, which was to be a showroom designer for the furniture market in High Point NC. We had business classes, were taught how to make presentations to clients, taught how to bill clients, how to dress, even proper grammar(you would be surprised at how many of the students in my class used the word ain't!) Sometimes I wish I could say I had a BFA or MFA but I got a really good education, got hired by a company the day before I graduated, stayed with them for 10 years and traveled to every state in the country setting up furniture stores. I use skills to this day that I learned in those classes, one of the most important being excellence in craftsmanship and attention to detail. I even use the drafting skills I learned and I dig out my old Business for Artists book from time to time. I still have all of my school books and use them. So I would say money well spent....
I think too many in University settings are not in touch with the real world and encourage a snob factor, technical schools might be a good alternative for some. Gerry has kids right our of Journalism school contact him for jobs all the time and his reply is "it took me 30 years to get this job". I don't think enough emphasis is put on paying your dues and learning from those who already do the job really well and worked long and hard to get there. We tell Wes all the time when she gets out of school to start at the bottom, work for those at the top and learn all you can from them.

Unknown said...

I don't know if an art degree prepares students for after graduation.. I don't have a degree of any kind (well, can I count the school of hard knocks?). ;)

I think if someone spends years of their life and a ton of money, they had better pick up something about how to be a professional in the real world. In the real world, you don't get grades based on your work, you either make money or you don't.. and not making money in the real world means that you can't pay back those student loans from college (or support yourself).

I thought education was job training.. or, I guess a better statement is: I hope it is. Why would you go to college for 10-15 years to be a doctor and not end up knowing how to be a doctor? I don't know if that goes for artists or not, because most artists I know work for themselves and wear multiple hats (financial stuff, self marketer/promotor, maker of their art, etc).

As far as the employers dictating the curriculum, wouldn't it be helpful for the student if they had a good idea of what the real world expects after they leave school? If they don't know, they're behind before they even start.

Great questions, Brandon. :)

tasha said...

In today's education system, an art degree should prepare students for 'real life' after graduation. But does it? Somewhat.

While I don't expect students to graduate knowing how to run your own small biz, basic business concepts should be taught.

Real life experience is an education in its own element that you cannot learn in a classroom.

I graduated over four years ago and besides 'art' they did teach us how to interview, present work, etc.

I think there are two types of artists these days. Owners vs. employee. Self-promotion would be helpful to learn in a classroom setting, but it might not help the employee.

There's only so much you can learn in a classroom.

Meaghan said...

Experience seems to top everything. Even with an art degree, you still need to pay your dues somehow. Whether its shaking the right hands or landing in the right shows, a degree is no guarantee of anything.

It might give you a leg up because you have been surrounded by a community of artists and have hopefully learned from your colleagues and teachers but in the end, you have to be the one to make it happen.

Even though most universities require a BFA or MFA to teach, there are plenty of examples of teachers who have never had a formal education and are GREAT teachers. (Also some examples of teachers with an MFA degree and 20+ years of experience who are terrible teachers.)

Just depends on what you place your value in. If you want to make the most beautiful work of art ever created, having studied thousands of other works of art and design principles will probably help you. If you want to sell enough work to retire in Coral Gables, a business degree is going to be very helpful.

So in general, no, an art degree does not prepare you for the real world! It gives you some knowledge and experience, but you have to make the rest happen.

Just my $.02, I'm actually in the field of public administration where masters degrees are becoming required but don't do much more than demonstrate you can apply yourself enough to write numerous papers and show up for class on a regular basis. (All my preparation for life after graduation came from networking with the right people and being an employee/employer.)

bryce brisco said...

I think one should first define what being prepared for real life means. In the past it was the foremost goal of universities to produce responsible Citizens, rather than diploma holding worker bees. If education has only become job training then it is no education at all, and only training. The purpose of Education should, in the most utopian of senses, be to produce well rounded students with a sense of criticality about the world around them, and enough knowledge (different than information/data) to apply that to a worthwhile and hopefully lucrative career.

I would argue that the market/employers are already dictating the curriculum. Colleges and Universities are businesses, granted the worst run businesses in
America but businesses just the same. The point of business is to sell a product. The product is students and the consumer is the job market. Little wonder that Art Dept.'s are constantly losing funding, they dont produce a salable commodity to the job market. Instead they produce critical/creative thinkers without a market driven goal.
(Don't get me started on the economics of the Art World here...)

I attended a university whose president was a past CEO of Burger King. With this kind of corporate cross pollination how can the ivory tower keep its hands , or academic conscience clean? A meritocracy is only as good as the merits it values in the first place.

Julia said...

I got a BA over 15 years ago, and because I knew I wanted to be a potter, that was my emphasis. I was fortunate to have a ceramics program director who believed that part of a potter's education should be how to set up and run a studio and approach pottery as a business in addition to an artistic endeavor. When I left University, I was able to hit the ground running. There was still a "real world" learning curve, but I felt that I got what I paid for. My education, and the "esoteric" things I also learned in college - like how to stick with something even when it is hard - was well worth the money I paid.

Mr. Young said...

I come at this question with a little different perspective. I started college at the age of 50. Two former careers, and a lot of life experience, kind of gave me an unfair advantage over my fellow students. While they struggled to get through 4 or 5 classes a semester, I was able to do 7 or 8 classes because I already knew or had experience in the subject. Hence - 2 four year degrees in 3 years.
Now that being said, the art department here tried very hard to prepare the students for their move into "real life after college". They have all succeeded (at least the professors here have) at surviving and flourishing in the art world community, before coming to teach here. They did their MFA work at schools that made them work their butts off to graduate - so they in turn did the same to us. They taught us business classes, grant writing classes, resumé writing, interviewing, how to start at the bottom. They would tell us that "you have a good shot with the talent you have, and if you work hard at it you might make it in 5 years" (or 10 years). If they didn't think we could make it, they encouraged us in different academic directions. They didn't pull any punches, and held nothing back. They made sure the curriculum had included the necessary training. "Survival in the Arts" was one of the hardest and most demanding classes I had the entire 3 years. Have you ever had anyone take a small ruler and measure the spacing in your resumé to make sure it was perfect??? AAAAAGGGGGHHH! Did that resumé 3 times, some did it 6 or 7 times. We even had to come up with a feasible grant idea, and present it to a real grant board, to get a grade for that project.
In hindsight, and experience, I agree with most of you that most colleges and universities are just there to teach you "stuff". They can't, or won't, teach a lot of "real life" skill sets. On the other hand, there are some art departments (arguably-not many) that believe in getting their students as prepared for the real world as they can.
That's the perspective of this older student, not necessarily the views of the owners of this blog, or graduates of other institutes of higher learning. ;-)

Mr. Young said...

I will say that as a hands on learner, I would probably learn much more about pottery if I could do an apprenticeship.

carter gillies said...

I would say that different institutions have different missions. Almost all the big state schools are in the camp of research oriented programs, and probably a larger percentage of small colleges are more oriented towards teaching. This overall agenda probably plays out in most departments and maybe even trickles down to the dusty halls of art and ceramics departments.

Ceramics instructors at research institutions probably face different pressures than at small liberal arts programs. Its 'publish or perish' in these research programs, so the establishment art world gets to set much of the agenda, and instructors can end up endorsing and promoting the views of high end galleries and museums, not surprisingly the places they need to show their work. And so these priorities also filter down to the students, and in some cases you find departments that are not very supportive of pot making. These 'research' institutions at least nod in the direction of job training, even if its only so much as telling students to "make sculpture not pots". One instructor once told me that making covered jars was an anachronism, and you could tell he really meant that making any pot was. I think he was trying to offer what he considered sound advice.

In other departments, and especially the sciences, students are trained up for outside jobs and many schools are active in their placement. I tend to believe that most art departments are less well equipped to handle this. The only thing that truly qualifies as job training is the little piece of paper that says "MFA" which allows you to pretend to be interested in the few teaching jobs that are out there. Otherwise, you may be out of luck. My years at the big research U did absolutely nothing to prepare me for how I was going to make a living, and I have to think real hard about what they did for my education. So you might say I was an unhappy customer, but at least I left with no debt hanging over me. I only agreed to go back to school if I was given an assistantship to cover the cost of tuition.

Teaching institutions are ostensibly more about the students and less about how beholden the programs are to business concerns. Instructors are evaluated on the basis of their interaction with students, and only secondarily on the basis of their standing in the field. These instructors have a certain amount of independence from the business side that research instructors don't.

So, in these circumstances the learning process could be more about education and less about job training, but I'm not sure that's always a hard and fast rule. At least with a liberal arts education the idea is to prepare students for the outside world by making them more well rounded human beings. This is more about general ability than specific tools of a trade.

Who knows how this stuff really works. This seems to be some of the theory, at least. I think potters especially need all the help they can get because our livelihoods are so marginal at best. The only actual advice I got on my post education survival was that very few people can make all their income just selling pots. So I went into this understanding that I either had to have very limited expenses or I would need an outside job, or have a spouse with a stable income, or a combination of these. Eventually, maybe, I will sell enough pots to escape this cycle.

I'm curious if where you teach is considered a research university and if so how it plays out in the art department. Are you under any pressure to make concessions to the big business of art? Thankfully there still are enlightened departments out there and tolerant art department chairs.