I was somewhat bothered by a short five paragraphs in the Parade section of last Sunday’s newspaper. I waited several days to comment in order to see if my thoughts changed. They did not. The title of the article was “Teach Problem-solving to Prevent Bullying.” It was based on research conducted through Louisiana State University and the University of California the results of which indicated that those youngsters who have trouble with solving problems are more at risk of being bullied.
Bullying has also been on the television news lately as a result of the school bus incident during which a child was bullied and her father later threatened her attackers. This child, who is handicapped, would probably fit the profile suggested in the abovementioned research.
It wasn’t, however, my concern about the relationship of bullying and lack of problem solving skill that concerned me about the article. I believe that is a good point. It was the fact that the article focused solely on how games could help develop problem solving skills. I was pleased that the author mentioned checkers and chess since these do require rational strategic thinking. We might add to that dominos, chicken feet (played with dominos) and a number of other similar games that require thinking. None of these rely solely on chance like so many of the simple spinner type games.
I wanted the article to also talk about the place of art in the development of problem solving skills. I believe that almost any form of art requires this type of thinking. Even when the child is merely drawing a picture, he/she must figures out and plan where things go on the page, what colors work well and often what to do when a mistake occurs. Consider why a cardboard box is so often a child’s favorite toy. The child must solve the problem of how to create something out of very little. Also, if the art form selected requires tools or supplies, a young artist may need to solve the problem of what to do with limited supplies or lack of tools.
Many of of schools have no art classes other than what the classroom teacher might squeeze in. With extremely tight budgets most of the “frills” of education are gone. I have heard parents at school board meetings plead for retention of arts programs. Among other things, their rational is often based on the value of art (including music) in bringing joy and self confidence to the child. Should we instead be discussing the higher level thinking and problem solving skills that the arts teach our children?
My most recent example of difficult problem solving in art comes from the angels I first mentioned on September 11. I have continued to work with them for days trying to solve the problem of their crooked halos and messy backs covered with too much solder. Finally, after considerable work (problem solving) I completed some angels that are working. The halo now goes around the angel rather than just in front and the solder is hidden between the body and the wings.I’ve also solved the problem of how to display/market them in boxes with a small poem. Doesn’t everyone need a guardian angel? (www.dreamcatcherdesigns.etsy.com ) I wish I could send one to each child who is forced to endure bullying.
This problem solving adventure is only one of so many that we find in art. Does that mean I’m ready for those big bullies? Hmm . . . I’d still just as soon they stayed away from me and from everyone else. Maybe the bullies need the opportunity to learn problem solving skills in order to direct their misguided energy down a better path.