What is it that an art student is learning when she learns to use her own blindness or ignorance as a tool? That blindness can lead to insight is something I was never taught as a philosophy major, and I suspect I would not have learned it if I’d studied chemistry, history or French either. In none of these fields is it normally considered necessary for students to learn by systematically pulling the rug out from under their feet. That risk is peculiar to contemporary art.
Many art teachers understand, however obscurely, that their job is to do what teachers in no other discipline are allowed to do: propagate failure. Mira Schor, a painter and writer, puts it most bluntly: “I issue something between a permission and an order: you have my permission to do what you think would be a really bad artwork. You have my permission to fail.”
This is why curmudgeons like Dave Hickey and Peter Schjeldahl should stop complaining about art becoming academic. The problem isn’t with artists wanting to learn, but rather when they’re too convinced of what they know. As long as artists keep feeling the need to set themselves something like school assignments, they are in touch with their ignorance and not merely the servants of a program."