This is a long and very significant conversation between a number of artists and teachers in the States. There's a ton of quotes to pick out but I'll highlight my favorite here, a bombshell about the very school I attended!
- HELEN MOLESWORTH: You’re speaking about a very real part of this current crisis. We are living in a culture where some students get to college and still don’t know how to write, don’t know how to read, much less read critically. And then we have faculty who assign them twenty-five pages of Mille Plateaux and throw up their hands when it doesn’t go well. This is a kind of perverse version of the post-’60s fetish for de-skilling. Values that once seemed germane—like skills in draftsmanship or Cibachrome printing or color theory, as well as conceptual practices that confronted and critiqued traditional artistic skills and craft—have become profoundly perverted as they’ve been put through this corporatized, for-profit model that has no dialectical balance anymore. There is no counterweight.
FRANCES STARK: I was talking about undergrads, by the way. One of the main questions is whether there is a distinction between how you teach MFA and how you teach undergraduate. And what happens is that everyone starts to teach undergraduates like they’re graduate students. But that kid can’t even parse an episode of The Simpsons.
HELEN MOLESWORTH: Here’s what’s good. It’s trickling up. [Laughter.]
MIKE ESSL: I have taught at a place where—I mean, I probably shouldn’t say the name of the school, but I can tell you the initials are SVA. [Laughter.] I had a student who just never showed up. There was no medical reason, no explanation. When she did show up, there were just excuses as to why she didn’t do her work. I failed this student. And then I was called into the department chair’s office and I was told, “If you fail this person, she might not come back and we will lose $30,000.”
CHARLIE WHITE: Wow.
MIKE ESSL: And I said, “Well, that sounds like your problem. I’m not changing the grade.” And they gave the student’s mom my cell-phone number. She called me and said, “How dare you fail my daughter,” and I said, “How dare you raise somebody so lazy.” [Laughter.] And I hung up. And I have never been asked back to teach there again.