Editorial: Expanding Interdisciplinary Opportunities
Think back to freshman or sophomore year, when you sat in the Gruss Center for Arts Design, Clark Music Center, or the Kirby Arts Center learning about visual and performing arts.
Think back to freshman or sophomore year, when you sat in the Gruss Center for Arts and Design, Clark Music Center, or the Kirby Arts Center learning about visual and performing arts. Did you arrive at Lawrenceville anticipating your mandated two or three terms of art? Did you enjoy the class, and did it feel fulfilling? Many students would probably answer “yes” to some of these questions, but not everyone would, especially since some would say that these courses did not necessarily bring them fulfillment and growth.
Not everyone will enjoy every class we take at Lawrenceville from start to finish, but we should recognize that the high school experience involves expanding our horizons and reaching out of our comfort zones. Arts classes allow us to gain experience in new areas; however, there are weaknesses in our current arts education system. A foray into the basics of acting, drawing, and music theory provides an opportunity to explore new creative interests, but not everyone is inclined to continue performing skits or composing music after one term of experimentation. If the goal of these classes is to introduce underformers to fields of study that complement our core classes, then we can still achieve this goal by turning an existing resource into a new solution: designing interdisciplinary courses specifically for II and III Form students to fulfill their second and third terms of the arts requirement. Students should not have to wait until their V Form year to engage in interdisciplinary work, seeing as interdisciplinary study allows students to expand their learning in multiple subjects, strengthening the connection between academic areas.
As II and III Formers, students should certainly build a foundation purely in the arts, but after one or two terms, some individuals may not be interested in continuing to perform simple skits or learn beginner music theory. This stick-to-the-basics process in courses such as Foundations of Art I or Foundations of Music I might be engaging initially, but it’s likely that some students will enjoy critiquing and analyzing art more instead. The majority of us will later become casual critics, not artists.
As an alternative for students who prefer analyzing these art forms—given that they have completed a one term course in the performing or visual arts departments—the administration should consider introducing underform-appropriate interdisciplinary courses. For example, after gaining preliminary knowledge about music theory, students may choose to take a course that discusses the evolution of Indian music since II Formers learn about India during the second half of their year and can make cultural connections with their musical knowledge. These classes would be curated at a less complex level, allowing underformers to feel comfortable in classes that do not require extensive prior knowledge to succeed.
While students should pursue their interests in specific academic fields, the current graduation requirements allow for Lawrentians to receive a well-rounded education and valuable exposure to all areas of study. If the School were to abandon these requirements and institute an open curriculum, it would defeat the purpose of the Lawrenceville education. An intermediate solution expanding interdisciplinary options to underformers would not only preserve current course requirements, but also ensure that Lawrentians are not limited to only one way of exploring the arts. These options would provide students the opportunity to analyze art in topics that are also related to what they are learning in their other courses. If students were presented with the option of not taking an art class at all, it’s likely that some wouldn’t, especially if they would only like to focus on traditional or “core” subjects such as science or history. Interdisciplinary courses would straddle the intersection between the arts and other subjects, allowing students to approach the arts from different angles and make connections to other courses.
Ultimately, increasing the level of engagement in the arts through interdisciplinary courses provides Lawrentians with another avenue to explore the artistic world instead of simply making basic creations. With the right adjustments, studying art at Lawrenceville can be fulfilling and engaging for all students, not just for those who have an inherent interest in the arts. Above all, it is important for students to learn through multiple lenses and embrace cross-disciplinary work. An interdisciplinary curriculum that is designed for all forms will not only help students develop a diverse skill set, but also dispel the notion that subjects exist disparately; in reality, they frequently intersect. Ultimately, it’s these cross-disciplinary connections that prepare us to be multifaceted thinkers and lifelong leaders, both in and out of the Lawrenceville bubble.