As a teacher, I find this statement troubling. While individual talents are not a part of curriculum, many schools offer plenty of arenas where the individual talents of its students can be explored and cultivated. Artistic students will always find a way to be artistic. They, themselves, will not allow their talents to be curbed.
Schools do try to push kids into boxes. However, good teachers know how to both foster talents in kids and help them branch out to other areas. Kids should not focus on one area while they are young, but should experience as much as they can in case they discover knew talents.
School also helps certain students to discover many individual talents. The degree to which school honors or emphasizes conformity and convention is balanced out by the degree to which school opens up new avenues of expression.
Arguments can be made in each direction. It is true that most schools do not foster individual talent as much as they could, but that does not equate to a complete squashing of talent. Besides, if you are an artist you will make your art. Your talent is your responsibility. There is an argument to be made there too.
I think that it's not only the decision of the school as to whether or not they foster the talent, but the teacher in charge of the student. There are plenty of students in schools with indescribable talents in the arts; however, if there are teachers who aren't capable with directing and guiding this young minds, obviously there will be no growth.
Everyone will be influenced by something and if there is no care for their talent, then there will be no progress. Also, some schools are designated for some other things. A neighboring high school of mine was open to the arts; however, their main program was for the medical field.
I was very fortunate to be accepted into the International Baccalaureate Program at my old high school because the art class there fosters the idea of incorporating different cultures, beliefs, and ideas. So I was able to grow as an artist.
On the other hand, most art students go to school "knowing everything they need to know"; therefore, they tend to “fight” against the instruction without seeing the big picture. (My high-school son, a great artist, is this way!). I tell him all the time that it’s important to keep in mind the objective of the assignment because each assignment is teaching some kind of lesson that will enhance talent in the long run. For example, an assignment teaching a particular method such as Chiaroscuro (dramatic light and shadow) should be approached with that objective in mind. A line/contour drawing will not satisfy the lesson objectives and, therefore, will not receive the best feedback/grade.
Most students mistake a scenario such as that as one that is attempting to curb their talents and make them into something they are not. For the most part, art students, young and "seasoned", tend to fight in that way; however, the "seasoned" have matured to a point of seeing the bigger picture and working with the objective in mind.
I’m an art student pursuing an MFA in painting, and I’m working on several portrait drawing projects using a method that I could easily have fought at the beginning of the semester. I’m happy that I didn’t because today, I’m a much stronger artist and am able to render portraits, more accurately and nearly three times as fast as I could previously.
Knowing the reason for the statement is key to responding. What happened to the artist to prompt this feeling?
As an art student, I've learned that there are people, including some (very few) teachers who unintentionally curb a student's talent. I've also found that the only way this is done is through "destructive" critiques. A destructive critique is vague leaving the student with questions on what he/she should improve. For example, "I think the whole thing is bad and the colors are all wrong." Since there are no specifics (whats and whys), the student walks away from the critique feeling "beat down" and confused.
The teacher (or other students) should give critiques that are specific and leave the student feeling energized and ready to attack the issues addressed. For example, "The composition is powerful and communicates the message exactly. One thing that would make it more powerful is if you chose a cooler/bluer color scheme which will give the viewer a much more relax feeling." The artist goes away with the whats and the whys.
(continued in next post...)