The Decline of the Arts and Academia in Project Week

DSC_0012_2 Jacob Pharoah It is no secret to any of us that we go to a school that offers an academically and artistically broad, rigorous, and thorough curriculum. We pride ourselves on our excellence in these avenues, and Romans from grades nine to twelve jump at ISP’s, Global Online Academy classes, and extracurricular activities that specialize in anything from photography to political philosophy. With this knowledge in hand, the array of project weeks offered this year struck my interest. It seemed to me that the vast majority of project week trips were lacking a purely academic or artistic focus. Intrigued by this discovery, I channeled my inner Sherlock Holmes and began to investigate further. This year, I was on the enlightening Cambodia project week, which, despite a two-day bout of heat stroke, was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. But I noted that there was a journalism component that wasn’t present in previous years. Not to discredit this element of the trip, but it was confusing to me that photography could not be sole focus of the trip yet again. In a school with an extensive and high-achieving art department, I couldn’t help but wonder why the same value did not transfer when it came to Project Week. I went on to speak to Lana Ifergan, a senior and member of the Cambodia 2012 trip. She told me that she had also noticed that “photography” was dropped from the title this year. I then tapped into the illustrious resource that is RomanNet and scoured the ‘Past Project Weeks’ page. Although a few of the links refused to cooperate with me, I could see most of the activities offered in the last twelve years. There was a degree of fluctuation, but on the whole the previous projects seemed consistent with my theory. In 2009, for example, eight of the thirteen projects that were offered had a purely artistic or academic focus. Projects like the Mexican Photo Expedition, Art and Anatomy, Seeing in New Mexico and Marine Conservation in the Sea of Cortez, are but a few examples of what was being offered. Now, I don’t mean to make it seem like this year’s Project Week selection was a desert of academia and the arts, because that would be false. With options like Mr. Marshall and Mr. Greer’s Thoreau Down, Art of Noises and several other projects, there were definitely more than a few exceptions to my theory. But although this is true, there still seems to be a definite push on service and activity-oriented projects. If I’m correct in this assertion then why are the arts and academia less valued when it comes to Project Week? Perhaps it stems from a desire to move away from a cerebral style of learning, or perhaps it is felt that we need a break from heavier topics after the third quarter, it’s hard to know. But I feel that an area of focus with an academic or artistic theme can achieve the same effects to an equal degree.]]>