Life Lessons and the Randy Pausch Head Fake Theory


“Art impacts on every aspect of our lives whether we are aware of it or not.”

The Randy Pausch infamous “Last Lecture” circles the internet like it was brand new, hot out of the stove. He gave the lecture months ago before he didn’t have much time left. It’s ironic that the hypothetical Last Lecture hits so close to home for us all.

Hypothetically if you were dying, what would you say in your last lecture? For Randy Pausch, that isn’t a hypothetical. He was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer and the doctors only gave him a few more months to live.

So walking on the stage at Carnegie Mellon where he was a professor, he delivered his Last Lecture. A lecture that was video taped and downloaded over six million times. The lecture was transcribed into notes and the file has been copied, emailed, posted and read by millions of people. The lecture has been made into a book by Wall Street Journal writer Jeff Zaslow, a writer Randy affectionately considers the fastest writer on earth.

Randy’s Last Lecture landed him on CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, ABC World News with Charles Gibson and Good Morning America with Diane Sawyer. He even gave a shorter ten minute version of the lecture on Oprah. To say the least, there are very few people in this world who are up to date on news and society who don’t know the name Randy Pausch.

While his audience caught the main thrust of his message and walked away with, “Don’t pity me.” I walked away with something else. While one reporter indicates that he has watched the lecture twelve times getting something new out of it each time, I have to say that I do too. But, I got one very critical message that will stay with me forever.

When Randy Pausch talks about the head fake, he’s talking about football. When he was a child, he wanted to play in the NFL. He had other dreams too like being in zero gravity, being like Captain Kirk, winning stuffed animals at the amusement park and being an imaginer at Disney. But, being in football taught him so much more than just the three point stance or how to read a play. Football teaches players things like, “Teamwork, Sportsmanship, Perseverance…etc.” That’s the head fake. Kids go into something like football because they enjoy it. But, they get out of it life’s lessons that they will carry with them once their days of playing football are over.

I listened to Randy talk about that and I realized that I had been saying that about Art. What Randy was saying about football is true of Art as well. Children and Adults alike come into an Art Workshop to learn how to become Picasso and they walk away with so much more.

  • The arts teach kids to be more tolerant and open.
  • The arts allow kids to express themselves creatively.
  • The arts promote individuality, bolster self-confidence, and improve overall academic performance.
  • The arts can help troubled youth, providing an alternative to delinquent behavior and truancy while providing an improved attitude towards school.
  • Has a measurable impact on youth at risk in deterring delinquent behavior and truancy problems while also increasing overall academic performance among those youth engaged in after school and summer arts programs targeted toward delinquency prevention.

With all of that going on in mind of the art student, how could schools ever think of taking Art out of the curriculum? Yet, schools across the country are cutting Art because certain educators think it’s a waste of time when students could be learning Writing, Reading and Arithmetic. Not everyone can play football and not everyone is interested in football. Art is a necessary part of a child’s life that should be at least introduced to every student who enters school.

“In Sampson County, North Carolina, standardized test scores went up two years in a row. The only thing that had changed in the county during those years was the introduction of arts education.” Chip Zullinger, superintendent of the Sampson County (N.C.) Schools.

If that’s true, if students are actually performing better after Art Education was introduced to the curriculum, why would anyone want to exclude it from their kids’ lives? Just like football was for Randy Pausch, so I’ve seen art change peoples’ lives. It may not seem to affect us directly. But, it does the head fake. Just when you think you’re becoming Picasso, you realized more about yourself than you ever imagined.

If more people were on the PTA and voiced positive opinions about the inclusion of art in the education curriculum, it would never be taken out of schools. But if you face the reality that art might be taken out of your child’s school, look into offering art to your community yourself. If you don’t think you can learn art well enough to teach it, partner with a local artist who can. Open a workshop and make sure you are in position to offer your community art when the schools no longer do. It’s that important!

Comments are closed.