Personal: Why I shouldn’t be ashamed of studying History of Art

History of art has been sacked as an A level by Michael Gove. This blog post comes as a response to Johnathon Jones’ article that he wrote for the guardian essentially being quite narrow-minded on the issue, (maybe he should look into art history to become more open-minded). Also, I think it is quite ironic that an art critic is disregarding a subject related to his discipline but who am I to judge, as clearly I have no brain cells because I am pursuing a ‘soft’ subject.

You can read the frustrating article here:

I did not have the opportunity to study history of art as an a level, because it wasn’t an option at my school but I can guarantee you that even it is was I would have studied it. It doesn’t surprise me that it is mostly private schools that offer it as an a-level, also that it is consequently associated with elitism. To be honest, I am not surprised with the fact that it has been cut as an A level choice. The amount of times that I have had to explain myself for my choice of subject is stupid. Hearing the news, my first reaction was an eye roll, followed with a disappointed sigh. It shows our ability to demean something we don’t understand or wouldn’t bother to learn. Culling the subject reduces the chance to progress it and fight against its elitist perceptions. How HOW are young people going to know about it, and possibly make worthwhile contributions towards its progression if they don’t get the opportunity to initially. It amplifies the elitist perception that is already in place. The only reason why people perceive it as a niche subject is because they perceive it as a niche subject. History in itself is so vast by focusing on the past socially, politically, and economically. Art is in itself the most freeing discipline there is, allowing people to express themselves creatively. History of Art is both of these things. We explore the social, political and economic side of history but with more emphasis on the cultural impact.

The mere fact that I have to defend myself in doing something that I love is in itself annoying. I shouldn’t need to explain myself more than I already have to people I meet and have light hearted jokes over the fact that my £9000 is being sucked into the sciences, because my degree is ‘less’ than theirs. I joke because it hasn’t enraged me, until now.

WE live in a visual world. Over saturated by images everywhere we look. I have learnt so much more about humanity from studying History of Art. It is actually broader than what we would think it is, I have read things on theology, philosophy, history, literature, politics, sociology, psychology – to name but a few. Yes, I study paintings, but this term I will also be studying our societies obsession with pornography, plastic surgery and body modification. Some may view this as ‘soft’ – and of course it is no quantum physics, but it is in no way not demanding. I do study hard, I do struggle with the workload, yes I have less contact hours than science subjects but that’s fine because I don’t want to pursue a career in the science field anyway? I’m not going to be a doctor, a psychologist, or an engineer. But at the same time, I don’t have the passion or talent to be a footballer, a dancer, an actor, the bravery to be a fireman or policeman. But I have the desire to work in a gallery, be a writer, work in marketing, advertising, maybe be a teacher, an academic perhaps? The very fact that they have axed the A level may devalue my degree.  So don’t tell me that my contribution and interest in a subject that may not be considered worthwhile by the government is in any way invalid. I know in myself that I enjoy my subject and that I work hard at it, so what people think as individuals doesn’t bother me. What does bother me is that a large institution can immediately disregard a subject without thinking how much it has contributed to our society.

PHOTO CREDS: Claudia Hogg and Vicky Hillman, taken at Nottingham Contemporary Gallery.


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