Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin was started when my children were entering high school as I became more acutely aware of the amount of time, energy and money focused on standardized testing.
This awareness began when my son took his first STAR tests in elementary school. Standardized testing at the high school increased to include STAR test, SAT, ACT, AP tests along with the high school exit exam.
This list is not simply a number of tests. The pressure on student performance affects teachers and school administrators which is reflected in the curriculum, not just by how much time is invested in the test, but how the teachers focus the content in the classroom to raise test scores.
To spare you from further rant, let's just acknowledge that this is just the tip of the iceberg (or should I say "point of the pencil") when it comes to the impact of standardized testing on education.
Recently Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill that stimulated more news coverage about standardized testing as "California Abandons Pencils and Outdated Standards in School Testing". The irony is that California is not abandoning test taking. They are just investing more money in new and different ways to take tests.
Colleges and universities continue to debate the merit and efficacy of the SAT, ACT, GMAT, LSAT, while private enterprises like Princeton Review, lobby politicians and promote their tests, and test preparation services. Today, press reports put the value of the testing market anywhere from $400 million to $700 million.
This is all while education experts acknowledge that memorizing information in the "AGE of the Internet" is not as important as creativity and problem solving, a key skill that the arts can teach.
This is why I invested five years in constructing Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin. The size of the bell curve of pencils (28' wide and 15' tall) was a reflection of the enormity of the issue. Actually, I wish I could have made it bigger, but as it is, it is hard to find an exhibition space with a ceiling high enough for the curtain to hang.
So a question to all of you.
Do you think that the arts have a role in education?
If so, how can you make your voice heard? My way was to teach art in my children's classroom for the teacher. What are other ways to be heard?
How can the arts address issues relevant to educators?
At initial exhibitions of Pick Up Your Pencils, Begin it has been amazing that the math teacher's were excited by the bell curve of pencils. The bell curve is a mathematical principal to organize information. The bell curve of pencil's illustrated student performance on standardized tests, but it also showed the students that math AND ART can be beautiful, breathtaking and a powerful tool to express ideas.
My final request today:
Do you know of an exhibition space for this sculpture? The ceiling needs to be close to 15 feet tall and capable of holding the weight of the pencils. The heaviest stanine with the most pencils is only about 35lbs.
If you know of a suitable exhibition space, please let me know. If you know a curator's name, that would help. But either way, that is all I need to contact the exhibition space.
Shipping for the installation is easy in five boxes.
Installation and de-installation only take four hours. There are three presentations that illustrate how easy this is to do.Harriete Estel Berman