Foreword by: William Ayers
Publication Date: August 5, 2016
Inviting readers to examine schools and teaching with a critical lens, this visually and conceptually captivating graphic novel advocates for arts education in schools. At the center of this work is the author’s memoir as a young high school art teacher in the public school system. Through engaging (and frequently funny) anecdotes centered on classroom life, mixed with discussions of education policy and reform, readers explore teacher/student relationships, testing and accountability, 21st-century learning, and the history and purpose of art education. Branham’s personal narrative of challenges and triumphs demonstrate why art education should be preserved as a core subject if students are to understand the connection between creativity, critical thinking, and other higher-order skills. "What's So Great About Art, Anyway?" is a refreshing book for everyone—particularly for in-service teachers—and is a smart foundational text in arts education and introduction to teaching courses.
Rachel Branham is an art educator in the Marblehead Public Schools, Massachusetts.
"This delightful graphic novel will challenge all teachers and prospective educators to think more deeply about their practice—the craft, the science, and, yes, the art of teaching."
—From the Foreword by William Ayers, author of Teaching with Conscience in an Imperfect World, To Teach, Third Edition, and To Teach: The Journey, in Comics (with Ryan Alexander-Tanner)
"In the era of No Child Left Behind, the arts were left behind, treated as a luxury, or worse, an obstacle to 'success.' With a contagious passion, a dynamic pen, and a generous wit, Rachel Branham returns art to its rightful place in our schools—the beating heart of the education our children deserve. 'What's So Great About Art, Anyway?' isn’t just for art educators; it’s for all of us."
—Adam Bessie, co-author of graphic report The Disaster Capitalism Curriculum: The High Price of Education Reform (with Dan Archer); professor of English, Diablo Valley College
"Through this visually inventive personal narrative, Rachel Branham smartly captures the current state of education and makes a strong case for the importance of the arts. She’s created a practical, thought-provoking, and fun read sure to inspire new teachers and seasoned educators to explore fresh ways of learning alongside their students."
—Nick Sousanis, comics artist and author of Unflattening; assistant professor of Humanities & Liberal Studies, San Francisco State University
“The author's art style is intriguing. I found myself wanting to read every word and look at every picture. Branham is humorous and inviting, self-deprecating but maintains a strong voice.”
—Michael Bitz, founder, The Comic Book Project
“Don’t be fooled. This is not just a book for art educators—it’s a graphic and entertaining gift to every teacher of children. Based on Rachel Branham’s practice and knowledge of the field, as only an art teacher could do it, this book is perfect for every new (and veteran) teacher.”
—Fred Klonsky, retired public school art teacher, activist, and blogger (at FredKlonsky.com)
“Through the 21st-century lens of a graphic novel, Branham provides humorous, thought-provoking, and timely insight into the ongoing evolution of the U.S. educational system and art education. As a teacher, I would share it with any High School student considering a career in art education”
—Julia Lang-Shapiro, director of Media, Visual & Performing Arts, Long Beach Public Schools
2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards, Finalist in Education
Table of Contents
Foreword by William Ayers
Chapter 1. "I Have Arrived!" (or, How I Became an Art Teacher)
Chapter 2. "What's So Great About Art, Anyway?" (or, How Art and the Brain Work Together)
Chapter 3. "When I Draw, I See Myself" (or, How We Learn Through Drawing)
Chapter 4. "Who's in Charge Here?" (or, The Transition from Student to Teacher)
Chapter 5. "How is Art Even a Class?" (or, A Short History of Art Education in America)
Chapter 6. "Ugh..." (or, Why We Care About Standards and Assessment)
Chapter 7. "I Can't Do It" (or, Internalized Challenges for American Students)
Chapter 8. "You Can't Do It" (or, Social Obstacles for American Students)
Chapter 9. "I Can't Wait for Happy Hour" (or, The Dichotomy of the American Teacher)
Chapter 10. "Is Education in America...Bad?" (or, Comparative Education as It Relates to the Arts)
Chapter 11. "Okay—What Happens Now?" (or, Looking Ahead)
Notes and Suggested Reading
About the Author