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Re: [teacherartexchange] REALLY! Elephant paints self-portrait


From: Marvin Bartel (marvinpb_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Tue Apr 08 2008 - 20:55:12 PDT

Thanks for sharing this.

It is a video where we see the elephants drawing and painting to entertain tourists in Thailand.

How do we imagine their trainers taught them?

My guess is that they use step-by-step art lessons. They use the standard behavior management teaching practices written about by B. F. Skinner who also invented teaching machines. I am sad to observe that these method also describe what some teachers are using in our schools. This is teaching for the test and to cover content standards.

If I allow kids to do copying, work from drawing formulas, if I show them how things should look, if I show examples before the lesson, if I make suggestions, etc., am I using appropriate methods for training obedient animals to perform tricks to impress an onlooker? Kids love to please me if it gets the candy coated praise rewards. Even others who have not learned the tricks will praise them. This is behavior management to please the expert, the tourist, etc.

I would rather see kids learn to think on their own by creating their own art in response to their own ideas and concerns. Can I teach and reward idea generation, experimentation techniques, imagination rather than imitation, and honest observation skills? Can I reward independent thinking and avoid teaching for tests that only test the ability to parrot things back.

Next time students come to me for suggestions on how to improve their artwork, can I ask them a thinking question about the artwork instead of giving them my ideas about how it should look? Can I ask them to try an experiment that would help them learn to figure out or discover which way to solve the problem. Can humans become independent thinkers who are able to draw well because they have had an art teacher that has shared the secrets of learning to see, observe, and express---not because they were trained on some how-it-should-look drawing formulas?


Marvin Bartel, Ed.D., Professor of Art Emeritus
Adjunct Instructor in Art Education
Goshen College, 1700 South Main, Goshen IN 46526
studio phone: 574-533-0171

"Art is me when I am myself." ... a kindergarten girl when asked, "What is art?"
"You can't never know how to do it before you never did it before." ... a kindergarten boy working with clay for the first time.

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