School 4 Scandal

April 1st, 2012

A school for Scandal! tell me, I beseech you, Needs there a school this modish art to teach you? No need of lessons now, the knowing think...

Still reeling from a complicated ‘break’ from someone I was crazy about, but just too crazy to be mine I guess. Trying to make sense of his hardship from life as principle carer for his beautiful boy – officially diagnosed within the ASD spectrum. I’m stubbornly old fashioned and fight perceiving his status as misguided mapping of a boy with artistic talents and temperament – special abilities rather than special needs. He rocks, he quotes great swathes of memorised media idiom as main means of communication, he has many textbook traits of one within the spectrum. The main quality that strikes me, though, about his condition and melts me from the core is his fierce artistic focus. He spends hours – I mean hours, it’s often difficult to make him go to bed – drawing freeze frames from whatever animation he’s surfed on YouTube – King Crisis seems to figure amongst his faves – or from DVDs of The Simpsons & PowerPuff Girls. Swathes of story boards that he’s drawn, meticulously captured, via remote control – it’d make brilliant wallpaper or bedding textile motif.

It’s something he’s cultivated which I would swear is helping him capture other bits of imagery in the form of letters, words, numbers. Though his skillset is somewhat imbalanced – whose isn’t?! – I noticed that he was getting near perfect scores in numeracy and spelling exercises on his latest pieces of homework. Whilst his scores mark content beneath the level expected for his age, it seems obvious that he is mastering his challenges.

He learned about storyboarding when Creative Partnerships, under the previous administration, targeted his Special Needs school as one within a deprivation catchment area and taught the students about film making, as part of an initiative to enhance such site specific educational facility with Arts activity. He and several of his classmates made their own animated film – combined with real footage they’d filmed of themselves and projected on to a greenscreen – as part of a collaboration between parents, teachers, students and the ‘incubator’ from Creative Partnerships. The children and their SEN community made a film about a transformative object which was portal to the children’s fantasy lives. At completion they all had a piece of work that would inspire them to understand the results and benefits of applied creative practice. The programme was dissolved a few months ago, the film was completed a couple of years ago. My amazing ex’s awesome boy bravely holds the torch – tirelessly motivated to find fresh inspiration for the skill that he learned via this Arts in Community Health project.

I wondered about the continued momentum of such a project. If it weren’t broke… why’d they finish it? Apparently the school had been issued – via CP and thus the public purse – 2 cameras and a state of the art Mac to enable their artistic collaboration. What happened to them? I asked Dad about it and he pursued it with the school’s fundraiser. A meeting was to be set up – until malaise set in, until Depression took over, until it was decided we should take a break.

I’ve since asked other teachers what to do about this kind of situ? I expected some helpful hints, some friendly advice, some new shortcuts through educational admin. Instead I encountered a collective proverbial shrug – resignation to this phenomenon whereby expensive equipment is shelved or magically disappears as initiatives fizzle out, as administrations restructure. There seemed to be a sort of bravado in accepting this kind of sabotage – taking it on the chin like a good gangster. Further investigation about this particular school revealed some dodgy business involving awarding construction work contract to family of upper management – sans competitive tender – also unceremoniously swept under the carpet…

I want to pick up where CP left off. Set up some artists in residence at these leftover, abandoned schools… perhaps rekindle the fire that little boy preserves everyday. Use the valuable and neglected Arts resources as social startup currency.. Explore the connections and possibilities for multiple intelligences and creative practice. Address the true mandate of Austerity measure – establish multi-activity in civic society…

Tragic in a made for TV movie kinda way? Consider this: in the riots which nearly torched us to BBQ in last year’s Summer of Discontent, two-thirds of those arrested were teens or young adults with special needs. Are you ready for the 2nd coming?

“…Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.

The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”

William Butler Yeats