Art History A Level (4)

There’s more about the ending of Art History A Level in this morning’s Guardian with thoughtful articles by Cornelia Parker, Anish Kapoor and Yinka Shonibare stressing the obvious connections between art practice and knowledge of its history and also the economic as well as cultural importance of visual skills in today’s world.   It’s not clear if the end of art history is part of a deliberate cull of so-called ‘soft’ subjects (ie ones which open up broader perspectives on the world) on government orders or whether it is just the unwillingness of AQA, the relevant examination board, to administer exams which cover broad intellectual territory and so are harder to mark.   Either way it’s regressive.


5 thoughts on “Art History A Level (4)

  1. marinavaizey says:

    There seems to be some confusion as to whether we are discussing the phasing out of an A level taken by remarkably few students, or the undeniable (in my view) crucial importance of the history of art, which should be intertwined with the study of English, history and languages as a matter of course at secondary school level — with perhaps art history as such at tertiary level?

    • Yes, but the phasing out of the exam, taken by relatively few students, is surely emblematic of a loss of confidence in the importance of the subject as an independent discipline, with its own distinct methodologies, separate from English and history.

  2. Those are three brilliant essays in yesterday’s Guardian. Yinka Shonibare is right: axing art history A level is ‘a terrible, terrible, terrible, terrible idea’. But, in addition to the case they and you so eloquently make, shouldn’t the argument also be won on wider economic grounds, the very same which may lie behind this plan? Ask any leading employer what they most look for in recruiting tomorrow’s leaders and they are very likely put critical thinking and problem solving abilities at or close to the top. As a graduate (long ago) of sociology and politics, and the father of an A grade art history A level student who went on to a degree in architecture, I learned the hard way that these, the humanities and social sciences, are the uncomfortable subjects that make their students think, come out the other end seeing the world differently and engender an intellectual equipment that lasts a lifetime. Socrates was right: ‘I can’t teach anybody anything. I can only make them think.’

  3. I so agree with Davidabdsarahblog. I also am the mother if an A grade art history student. The government has always undervalued the contribution of the visual arts in particular, to not only the breadth of thinking and adaptability of those involved in this field, but also to the financial contribution that they make. Perhaps someone in the right position to do so, might point this out to a government that puts bringing in money, to put it bluntly, at a higher value than any thing else, with exception of Brexit of course!

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