Thursday, October 6, 2011

Who Will Be the Next Steve Jobs?

I have a big art show coming up, not the usual type of show that I have been producing for over a decade for kids, teens, or other artists, but for myself. This is a solo show for me, an exhibition for an artist who has turned to her own art to get her through one of the most difficult periods of her adult life: staying afloat during the recession.

This isn’t the first time that art has gotten me through tough times. Art saved me as a kid, too. I didn’t have a Father Knows Best childhood. I didn’t even have a father. He died when I was eight. The adults in charge in my life weren’t anything like Margaret and Jim Anderson. I was raised by a post-feminist movement mother whose new found freedoms were all consuming. Life for all of us was made even harder and more complicated by the abuse of alcohol. I learned at a very young age to rely on myself. This doesn’t sound that unusual by today’s standards, but back in the seventies, it was novel. The only constant in my life was my creativity. I could trust myself and my art. Making art was safe, dependable, and constructive. Whether I was alone in my room, or down in the basement creating something, I was master of my own universe. I could tune the world out, be free and in control.

This is one of the many reasons why I advocate for the arts in schools. It’s not just that an arts education makes for a complete education, or that participating in the arts raises test scores. It’s about finding and nurturing passion, about turning kids on who would otherwise be lost without art, music, writing, theater, etc. Offering arts education in schools is about giving right brained kids their due respect and much needed dignity, and helping them find and follow their bliss.

Tragically, however, our society is so busy, over whelmed and self involved, that we look upon these kids as being deficient in some way. They’re in the way. They won’t conform. They move too much. They don’t focus. They don’t go along with the status quo (all qualities that are usually revered after someone like Steve Jobs makes his mark, but are shunned, stifled and snubbed until society finally approves). We mistakenly label and medicate these kids so they’ll settle down and go along with the flow, or not upset the apple cart. Or challenge us. Or protest when we tell them to march and take their place in the status quo line.

Labeling and medicating children has become an epidemic in this country (and only in this country – we’re the only society that starves itself, gets depressed, and labels and medicates its young). This is a serious epidemic that needs to be eradicated by having all Americans slow down and take a good look at itself. Quit looking at kids and isolating their behaviors as if they are the problem. Our lifestyle and attitudes are the problem. We need to ask, what are we doing to our children? If we keep dosing our kids, who will be the next Steve Jobs? If the next generation is too zoned out to question, to take on challenges, or to push the envelope, what will become of them? What will become of us?