I have regular discussions with my grade 12 IBDP visual arts students about a variety of issues, and the other day I said how important it is to be able to discriminate, that discrimination involves some higher level thinking skills and for artists was a key skill.
There was a moment of shock, then one of them said, “you can’t be serious. Discrimination is a terrible thing. It starts arguments, fights and wars!”
There was another moment while I enjoyed this little hiatus.
I was mildly surprised that these students – intelligent, eloquent, articulate and motivated – had only ever encountered one interpretation of the word, the idea that discrimination means prejudice and intolerance. For them it was difficult to comprehend that their teacher was suggesting that they should support this idea!
They had never appreciated that the word can also mean judgement, discernment, acumen and perception, and often means the ability to recognize and understand the difference between one thing and another.
The IBDP visual arts assessment criteria (for the current course that has final examinations next year 2015) refer to discrimination. We have discussed the assessment criteria quite a few times, including the Investigation bullet point criterion, “presents the work effectively and creatively and demonstrates effective critical observation, reflection and discrimination”.
…But not, apparently, in enough detail to make them question the fact that they were being expected to “demonstrate effective discrimination”.
So the discussion evolved into a consideration of language and culture and the impact of one on the other. If you are only ever told that discrimination is bad, why would you think it’s a good thing?
… I’m not completely sure that they believe me, even now.
“Are you sure that the IB really want is to discriminate?”
YES! I say, showing them the relevant line in the descriptors (that have been stuck into their workbooks for over a year).
I don’t think they are convinced.