We’re in primary school art class, where the students have been told to draw a picture of a house.

Francine draws this:

Sun Over House by Francine

“What’s this?” Missus Portmanteau, Francine’s art teacher, asks, pointing to the big red circle in the sky. “It looks like a big rock is about to fall on your house.”

Francine is nonplussed in the face of a teacher who doesn’t recognize the sun.

“The sun,” Francine explains.

“The sun isn’t that big,” Missus Portmanteau says, and enters a note in her red book.

The following week in art class, Francine draws this:

110820141928“What’s that?” Missus Portmanteau asks Francine, pointing at the orange and red circles over Francine’s house.

“Mister Sapidot [science teacher] said the sun spins,” Francine answers.

“Your sun is too big, your house too small.”

Francine feels like the rock has fallen on her house.

110820141929

“Now what?” Missus Portmanteau asks.

“Someone is taking a nap,” Francine says.

Missus Portmanteau doesn’t say anything, but she makes a firm mark in her red book with a red pen.

It’s the final art class before summer vacation. Francine’s father has promised a special surprise if her report card looks good. This week, she nails the art project.

110820141930

Francine has learned that to do good in school and please her father she must conform to her teacher’s view of reality.

19 Comments

    1. Yes, was thinking assumption as in presupposition, proposition, or the arrogance of the fact bearer. But who knows what can happen on the wings of angels? One purpose of art ought to be to question assumptions. Glad you liked “sunspin.” Favorite here is “someone is taking a NAP.”

  1. Sad story. I hope Francine recovers from it. Someone should tell that teacher that actually the sun IS big and everything’s spinning. My youngest child was very upset once at the kindergarten when the teacher put a great red ring round her hen’s face and the word Wrong! She’d drawn a frightening hen and given it teeth. She’s never been much good at natural history and she thought hens did have teeth anyway. Like penguins.

  2. Taking a nap, I like that too. Smart move by Francine.
    Some mornings I wake up and think of myself as ‘she’ – someone else. I guess it happens when the daily ‘I’ steps back from the multi realities of tedious projections, and ‘she’ regains some humour in her dreams.

    1. The third person wake up call. But isn’t it good to put yourself in someone else’s shoes once in awhile?

      Also, there’s this feeling that, No, I can’t be feeling this, only a prince, and there can only be one Prince Hamlet, so either I am not feeling this, or I am Prince Hamlet? So we reach these logical conclusions based on faulty premises. Or as Eliot put it in “Prufrock”:

      No! I am not Prince Hamlet, nor was meant to be;
      Am an attendant lord, one that will do
      To swell a progress, start a scene or two,
      Advise the prince; no doubt, an easy tool,
      Deferential, glad to be of use,
      Politic, cautious, and meticulous;
      Full of high sentence, but a bit obtuse;
      At times, indeed, almost ridiculous—
      Almost, at times, the Fool.

      I grow old … I grow old …
      I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.

  3. I had a girlfriend at UCLA who became exactly THAT teacher . I saw her grading kid’s drawings once : A , B+ , C …….. Why did that one get a D ? ( Because there was no tree ).

    1. Classic. And still nowadays there’s a tremendous effort to achieve objectivity by means of air tight rubrics. But reading is still a subjective process. Emerson said, “All the branches of learning are taught at Harvard.” “Yes,” Thoreau replied, “all the branches and none of the roots.” And here is some Buckminster Fuller on the topic:

      ‘Because our spontaneous initiative has been frustrated, too often inadvertently, in earliest
      childhood we do not tend, customarily, to dare to think competently regarding our potentials.
      We find it socially easier to go on with our narrow, shortsighted specialization’s and leave it to
      others—primarily to the politicians—to find some way of resolving our common dilemmas.
      Countering that spontaneous grownup trend to narrowness I will do my, hopefully “childish,”
      best to confront as many of our problems as possible by employing the longest-distance
      thinking of which I am capable—though that may not take us very far into the future.’

  4. Joe, it seems like many years ago now, I once created a large painting 4mt x 2mt for a cancer benefit.
    Bereft of ideas of having a statement that would both encourage and create pleasure; I sought out ideas from my (then ) 4 year old son.

    When I asked him what daddy should paint, he replied : ‘your painting should have lots of people, plenty of colour and a big,big sun’

    That day was the biggest learning I have ever had in painting. The perspective of a child, provided a painting that earned money for cancer support and helped create a painting that still hangs in the cancer hospital in our city, and even after all these years, people still remark on its freshness an inspiring theme.

    Francine may well have become the next Picasso but for her successful education.
    B.

    1. Very cool, B! Where does inspiration come from? We might put more trust in our kids and listen seriously, as you did. Maybe you could post a photo of the painting. The biggest mistake Missus Portmanteau makes is when she first points to something in Francine’s drawing and asks, “What’s this?” Better to say, if she really wants to know, “Tell me about this?” There might be something else going on too; adults often figure they should know the answer, and if something is out of [their] perspective, it must be wrong, and should be corrected. In any case, nothing better than to get the paints and pens and water colors out.

      1. I have this strange idea that as we age we begin to un-learn.
        A bit like turning a pyramid upside down with the peak of ones knowledge and accuracy at the beginning of life and a diluted, obese slug-fest at the end.
        My un-learning continues un-abated, but I do tend to concentrate on really funny things and that helps.
        Yours truly Peter Pan.

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