Thursday, July 05, 2007

Creativity...within the lines...(or why Jackson Pollock could have never been French)

This weekend I had my periodical clash with the Parisian (and I choose voluntarily to avoid a generalization to the French) mentality. We took the kids to a lovely parc where each summer they hold a fun Summer Festival, geared toward young families: contemporary art installations are displayed throughout the park, a DJ provides ambience through the day, fresh fruits are distributed for free, and a series of activities engage parents and children in what it is supposed to be an initiation to art and creativity, one of these being a huge pre-print wall paper, which kids and parents are invited to color.

Milo and Zeno simply love to draw and ran toward the FlyingColorWall, as it is called. A few minutes later Milo comes back visibly upset, crying with huge tears, claiming a guy scolded him. As I did not witnessed the scene, I imagined perhaps some older kids just pushed him away, so I minimized the affair and invited him to join me again to the wall. He was scared to go back! So I took my time and eventually convinced him that there was no reason to be scared, and we both joined the wall again. Few seconds later a young man from the staff dealing with the festival organization, came up to me and told me that he had tried to explain to Milo that he was not supposed to draw wherever he wanted, but he had to color the existing drawings. I took a deep breath, and calmly addressed the young man:

" I understand this is a coloriage, but my son is only 3 and he was just drawing a little airplane in a corner there, don't you think you are exaggerating?"

" But drawing is not the objective here!" replies snobbily the young man.
"And making children cry is?" I defy him.
"But if everyone begins coloring all over the place..."
"..then you should not allow children to color this wall, I thought this was to initiate kids to color and art and expressing themself, not some sort of boot camp!"

The conversation continued purposelessly until I had to mention that I work for one of the main sponsors of the festival, and I did not find his attitude very constructive. He suddenly disappeared.

Perhaps we just stumbled across the wrong guy. Perhaps I keep being too pre-conceived about things here. Or perhaps I am simply an over-protecting Italian mum! But I found the episode alarming, filled with a conceptual contradiction which I will never get used to. I eventually explained Milo that we were supposed to color inside the drawing, which he eventually did. But I also made a point to tell him that his drawings were really lovely and I found them more interesting than the pre-print ones. And that we are not at all always obliged to color (especially to color!) within pre-set lines...


Samantha said...

Ah, yes, this is one of my major issues with the French education system. I spent a year working in 4 different primary schools, and the teachers would often make the children start over if they'd colored outside the lines. Or makes comments like "Why on Earth is your tree purple? Everyone knows trees are green and brown!"

Each time, I'd think - "for pete's sake, they're just kids!" But French schools are all about conformity, and man, do they start young!

giovanni said...

You should never feel obliged to colour within pre-set lines.
Un abbraccio

Lilian said...

Wow, the way that guy acted was VERY alarming indeed! I don't think you over reacted. I think the things you said to Milo to reassure him are beautiful!! Well done. I don't think I'd fit well in France... Brazilians are very "in between the line" people ;) I'm so glad I was born in Switzerland (and don't have their nationality, only Brazilian)and not in France now! One more reasons to add to the two world cup losses.