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Authors and Artists discuss standardized testing and new dimensions

A woman in a red sweater standing at a podium, looking down, orating to an audience.
Adrien Gobin / THE GATEPOST

By Jack McLaughlin

Arts & Features Editor

Arts & Ideas welcomed Katherine Schielder and Marcus Greene to the Heineman Ecumenical Center March 27 for a discussion on their works. 

The event was part of the Linda Vaden-Goad Authors and Artists series and was sponsored by Arts & Ideas. 

Schielder spoke first, with her discussion focused on her new publication “Renegade Teacher: Inside School Walls with Standards and the Test.” This writing is focused on the national test found in public schools, and offers her insight into it. 

With her experience as an assistant superintendent, she also studies the test annually to observe changes to how it’s evolved since the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Her discussion began with an overview of her career experience, which started with teaching at a school in Providence and progressed to School System Curriculum director in Massachusetts.

Speaking on those roles, Schielder said “both jobs were challenging, and also very rewarding.”

Schielder’s talk included a presentation which began with a look at how American public education was in the past. 

Her presentation showed images of students learning in the early 1900s, and talked about how there would be classes of hundreds of students with teacher isolation - which is the potential stress and burnout that can happen for teachers. 

She then talked about her writing, and explained to the audience a talking point in her work is how students can benefit from schools adapting to the needs of students. 

“If school can focus more on changing how school works better for all, we can more easily rise to the new bar of No Child Left Behind,” Schielder said. 

The discussion was opened up for attendees to ask Schielder questions. One attendee asked for her thoughts on whether students are not taught to critically think anymore. 

This question stemmed from the attendee’s experience as a teacher, hearing from their students that they only read segments of books and not complete stories, and their work does not have critical thought when discussing the readings. 

Schielder answered this by telling the attendee there’s been a concern that “testing has hurt good teaching in schools.

“My problem is that I haven’t seen that. I’ve been observing hundreds of classrooms … and I haven’t seen that happening,” she added.

She also brought up her concerns with the implementation of technology in school districts, and mentioned that “if a kid is just seated in front of a computer and seems to be busy, that he’s thinking and learning. 

“But who knows what’s going on while they’re doing that,” she said. 

Schielder focused on the main concern of the attendee’s question, and reassured them that as long as teachers implement reading deeper than just segments, and have in-depth discussions about the work with their students, “they’re going to be able to do good on that test,” she said. 

“And that’s what happens at the top prep schools, private schools, and it still has to be happening in schools. If students are saying that, that’s definitely not what should be happening,” she added.

She also discussed how she’s discovered teachers do not like evaluations and talked about how important they are especially when catching problems like the one the attendee proposed. 

“If a principal’s coming in and helping a teacher do a better job of teaching, evaluation’s good and should be able to catch a problem like that,” Schielder said. 

Another attendee asked Schielder about their thoughts on the digitalization of the SATs, and her response commended the new program that can help students study for the exam “if they use it well.

“They can check their answers and find out ‘Why is that chosen now as the correct answer instead of what I chose?’” she said. 

She talked about an experience she had with a student in a program she ran, who was unable to get into her dream college because of her low SAT scores and talked about the unfairness of the questions on the exam at that time. 

“There was one whole series in the SAT test that was pure vocabulary. Years ago that was eliminated, but that was really unfair at the time. It was operating under the belief that smart kids know big words, and that’s not necessarily true,” she said.

“The SAT is getting better over time,” she added.

Marcus Greene

Artist Marcus Greene spoke next. His work explores the formal construction of imaginary spaces, something he takes an interest in. His artwork ranges from nature and physical science to the suggestion of passages to other dimensions. 

He described his presentation as a “greatest hits” of his art, which he has produced for the last 35 years. 

Greene’s journey with art started when he was studying pre-med in the 1970s, and found it gave him the ability to “indulge whims as well as deep philosophical questions,” he said. 

At the age of 23, he began taking classes at The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia, where he said he felt “lucky to have found myself.

“I was surrounded by some of the best realist and figurative painters in the country as students - some people who are pretty famous now.”

While he found himself getting good at those types of art, he was drawn to abstract ideas. He directed attention to the presentation, where the painting “The Creation of Adam” was being compared to the abstract sculpture “Broken Obelisk” by Barnett Newman on-screen. 

“An image like the one on the right, the sculpture by Barnett Newman, could portray the same idea as Michaelangelo’s ‘Creation of Adam,’” Greene said. 

Greene then spoke of his own work, and their inspirations. One piece, titled “The Sixth Day,” is a painting composed of a clear sphere that contains red liquid at the bottom of it against a black background. 

He drew inspiration from his childhood for “The Sixth Day,” citing his fascination with gyroscopes and the impact of watching the film “The Wizard of Oz” at a young age. 

In reference to “The Sixth Day,” Greene told a story of when he was teaching art in St. Louis when he originally painted it, and was asked by a friend if he was inspired by a medieval painting titled “The Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymous Bosch, which featured a spherical shape similar to his own. 

“I did not remember having seen this when I painted the painting. But who knows? Maybe I did,” he said. 

Another one of his paintings that he focused on was titled “Dark Star, Dark Matter,” which featured a series of colors creating a series of different shapes and patterns all enclosed in a circle. 

While Greene presented this piece, he mentioned that many of his painting’s titles are inspired by music, and said not all of his titles hold deep meaning. “Sometimes the titles are really important to me, and sometimes they’re not. I play a little fast and loose with the titles,” he said. 

Greene’s painting “Finisterre,” which he described as “the edge of the earth,” was painted on a door that he purchased from Home Depot. The painting consists of a dark background, with white grid lines connecting throughout that create a pit toward the right of the frame. 

“I like the wood’s hardwood surface. They’re hollow-core doors and they’re lightweight. They’re large but easy to move around,” he said. 

Another painting of his was inspired by a garden at Indiana University, where he and his wife Eileen lived while he taught there. The university allowed them to garden while they lived there, and a video he took of his wife gardening served as inspiration for the painting. 

Following this, he showed pictures he took of an Indiana University ngraduation video between 1985 and 1988, and explained the low quality of the pictures came from how home videos were shot back then. 

“Video was literally on tape. And when you point a camera at a monitor and take screenshots like this, this is how they come out,” Greene said. “It’s not like that in this digital era.”

After his presentation, Greene opened the discussion to questions from the audience. An attendee was fascinated by his work with doors, and asked if there was a metaphorical purpose to purchasing the doors from a store like Home Depot. 

Greene said on the surface level, there isn’t any, but likes the idea it can be interpreted as metaphorical. 

“It is purely practical that there is a nice hard surface then a canvas. Plus, I like the shape. I like the panorama, and the practicality of their lightweight and transportability,” he said. 

One attendee was curious if and how spirituality has any influence on him and his artwork. 

Greene said while he isn’t religious, he was raised as such and “it just becomes part of you.

“By the same token, I love painting so much. And it really is this kind of sublime thing, you know. I feel so indulged to have been able to spend my life in that.”

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