Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, and…Drawing?

Once upon a time, drawing and sketching used to be part of the curriculum. Students were expected to be able to model through drawings for art’s sake and for subjects that benefited from sketching skills. As being able to draw or sketch recognizable images and models is a skill useful to so many fields, it made sense that it was a required subject.

But somewhere along the way, long before I was in school, drawing and sketching were reduced to units in a prescribed general arts course, and then that general arts course became an option. Today’s children are lucky if they even get that option because the arts are being squeezed out by the testing culture.

I don’t know about you, but I use my artistic skills far more often than I use my ability to fill in tiny bubbles with a number 2 pencil. And I’m not even good at drawing. Just ask my former math students. 😉

Maybe it’s because it’s not as easily quantifiable as reading, math, science, and social studies that any art is so easily shoved out of the curriculum, but it really shouldn’t be. Anyone who has ever had to grade writing will tell you that it is based in part on demonstrated technique, and in part on the subjective taste and opinion of the grader. Art is the same way. We can score it on the demonstrated technique; we can score it on some subjective measure like we do writing.

But I’m really focusing on one art in particular here: drawing. Drawing at basic levels can really be boiled down to two roles: expressing and illustrating. That’s not entirely different from boiling writing down at the schooling level to creative and business or technical writing. We teach writing to give students a tool to communicate their knowledge, ideas and opinions. We should also be teaching drawing for the same reason: to give students another tool to communicate their knowledge, ideas, and opinions.

That’s what drawing really is. It’s not strictly the purview of artists. It’s a means of communicating and modeling ideas that are better expressed visually rather than textually. And as such, it needs to be a skill we teach to all children.


Some great additional reading on making drawing part of the curriculum: