Wednesday, June 1, 2011
What it takes to succeed
The very first job I had coming out of high school was being the courtroom artist for the Arcata Union, the local newspaper where I grew up. Arcata is a small town in northern costal California. Back then it consisted primarily of fishermen and loggers. Now it is mostly environmentalists, hippies and artists seeking an escape from corporate America. But that is not the context of this missive.
Above this body of text is a graphic. It is the landing page of a web site I am illustrating. Long before I got into politics I was a, and continue to be a professional artist. That means I usually draw for money. I haven’t really done so for a long time as most companies don’t seem to think that a man over the age of 60 is capable of handling graphic art instruments much less programs such as Corel Draw, Photoshop and Illustrator, even though every one of those software packages were created by someone who is now well over 60.
The map is an illustration of WobWorld. It is a site created to be an educational experience for pre-school and elementary school age children. It will never be seen as something valuable by the crowd that considers embarrassing bodily functions as the height of humor. However, what it does do is entrance, entertain and educate those children fortunate enough to visit it; and there is a reason for that. It includes an emormous amount of detail.
An illustration with that much detail takes time, talent and skill, but I am not being egotistical. I can easily tick of several names of artists I feel completely in awe of. The simple fact is that in order to do work of a professional nature the individual attempting such work needs to understand the nature of what is to be accomplished, the tools required to do the job and the skills to use those tools in the best and most efficient manner possible. You don’t get there by being unable to read or write, and you certainly don’t get there by spending all your time manipulating characters in a video game. You get there by learning what it takes to be the best you can be in the profession you choose to be in, and that takes both time and training.
At Arcata High School I was fortunate to come under the guidance of thee extraordinary women, Mrs. Anderson, Mrs. Smith and Olga Dahl, my freshman, sophomore and senior art teachers. Every one of these women was qualified to teach at the college level, but they chose to be high school teachers instead. I had the additional good fortune to have a great grandfather who is known as a prominent American Artist, Irving R. Bacon. Some of his artistic tendencies come my way through lineage, but even with that bent, learning had to be done and classes had to be passed.
Today some so-called educators are attempting to eliminate the letter grades. They claim that having the ABCDF gading system is labeling students and creating a lack of self-esteem among those who are not as gifted as their peers receiving the higher grades. There are a number of phrases I can think of in response to such a claim, but not one of them is something a gentleman would say. The least objectionable word that comes to mind is nonsense. By eliminating a system that records accomplishment you are also eliminating accomplishment. There is nothing wrong in having a child excel, but there is everything wrong in awarding praise where none is earned. Consider what that would do to the world of competitive sports.
Just like a professional sports team, the world of business that deals in using skills to create products such as the WobWorld website has no use for a person with no marketable skills. Those who counsel today’s children into believing that they do not have to strive for excellence in academics are abusers of the worst sort. Less than one tenth of one percent of this year’s graduating class will ever become a professional in sports. An even smaller percentage will become a sports star, but that is what is heard by those children who not only have failing grades but seem to be glad of the fact. Not one of them will ever move to the top of the business world without some kind of mental sweat. Many in today’s education hierarchy seem to believe that they must shelter the children from the harsh realities of the outside world. Either that or they believe that somehow a boy or girl with no marketable skills will somehow prevail along with those who do. Neither view is healthy.
If you are a parent and your son or daughter is in school, the best thing you can do for them is to be unbending where academics and homework are concerned. Force them gently, if necessary, to excel in class in all subjects, even if they don’t like it. Turn off the TV and hide the cell phone and music player until homework is done. Until that child is graduated you have two jobs and if you are a working parent the second is more important than the first. I have to stress that Bill Cosby and I have no agreement where ordinary politics is concerned, but on education we are in lockstep. To paraphrase the man, there is nothing to be proud of in being ignorant and even more shame in being the one who raised an ignoramus.