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Lesson Plans

Why teach art?

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Fri, 5 Apr 1996 21:40:11 -0600 (CST)

One would think that Diane's question "Why teach art" or "What is an art=
educated person?" would be easy to answer. After all, we are all art=
teachers, and (hopefully) "art educated" ourselves. The fact that we all=
have somewhat different answers and definitions raises other questions, but=
that's another issue. I always enjoy reading the responses on this list,=
most recently Sandra Hildreth's great comments and Sidnie Miller's=
wonderful insights. I agree with virtually all those who have written and=
just want to offer a little more on the subject.
I think teachers of different levels will have different answers to this=
question. If I were teaching a college studio course for art majors, my=
goals would be somewhat (although not entirely) different from someone=
teaching second graders. So I assume the question is relatively general: =
What knowledge or behaviors do we want every single product of an art class=
to share and why do we think those outcomes are important?=20
Art-educated people can make valid artistic judgements, and at the same time=
are aware that they don't "know it all". Art-educated people do not giggle=
at nudes or automatically reject a non-objective work of art as "stupid". =
When confronted with an unfamiliar genre, art-educated people are more=
likely to ask for further info before judging rather than rejecting it out=
of hand. Conversely, art-educated people are capable of making "negative"=
judgements. They do not accept every artwork as equally successful simply=
to "appear" educated ( or "pan" everything for the same reason.) They are=
discriminating. They have enough background to feel the power in an=
African mask and the serenity in a Chinese wall hanging. In other words,=
they have true access to world art and the ability to at least begin=
decoding cultural symbols. Perhaps most importantly, they know how much=
they don't know and never stop trying to learn more.
Why do we do it? Assuming we have some feeling for children and want to make=
a contribution to their lives (like others who have written, I agree that=
perhaps we need to mention this more often) why not teach reading or math=
which we KNOW will make a kid's life better? We must feel that what we=
offer: critical thinking skills, access to a different kind of "language" ,=
the ability to find greater beauty and meaning in life, etc. are=
important. And that's true. But how great it would be if our students=
applied these "lessons" to other areas of their lives. If they really=
accepted that other cultures have valid outlooks that might be different=
from their own. If they really stopped making judgements based on=
ignorance and prejudice. If they had enough self-confidence to defend=
personal decisions regardless of peer pressure. If they could see that:=
there are powerful yet acceptable ways to express anger or sadness or=
rebellion; there are times when verbal skills are not the most important; =
times when there are many possible answers to a problem. If they could=
discover that nothing feels quite as good as producing something to be=
proud of - especially if you worked REALLY hard on it AND never thought you=
could do it in the first place; that there is a class where gender and=
sexual orientation and being "different" don't matter, where, in fact,=
"different" can be good. Maybe that's a lot to ask from an art class, but I=
bet each of us has had a day - a class - a moment when at least some of it=
seemed possible. =20
Of course, as Dennis Miller would say, that's just my opinion. I could be=

Eileen Prince
Sycamore School, Indianapolis =20