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> >I don't want to merely wrestle with a philosophical problem. I'm really
> >more concerned with finding an answer that I can live by as I teach. I am
> >an Anglo teacher with 26 Mexican, 2 Lao, 1 Hmong, 1 Native American
> >(non-Hopi) and 2 Anglo students (about 25% are mixed heritage). What do I
> >teach culturally? How do I approach it? What do they emulate? Can I
> >(Norwegian/Finnish-American) deal with Dia del Morte?, Native American,
> >French, Asian, ????? HOW???
> Perhaps this is too simple of an answer. Perhaps the answer lies in
> celebrating our similarities rather than our differences.
> Diane Gregory
I agree with Diane that we need to celebrate our commonalities
and focus on art. In our Institute we have had success using Ernest Boyer's
human commonalities as themes of focus. These commonalities are shared by
all humans; the approach we take is to work with art works which share
the same commonality but come from different cultures.
1. All of us experience the life cycles:
Birth, Growth, Death, also puberty, perhaps graduation,
marriage, birth of children, death of parents.
2. All of us develop symbols:
Visual and oral symbols constitute the "language" of spoken and
unspoken expressions of feelings and ideas - many of the same
symbols reappear throughout cultures and time (radial designs,
spiral, egg, cross, sun, etc), pictographs for signs; symbols
can express ideas without written or spoken language.
3. All of us respond to the Aesthetic:
The arts allow us to respond to the most profound of human
experiences: without written or spoken language - the arts need
no interpreter; functional items are often also aesthetically
pleasing (ex., Shaker furniture); art can express things we
cannot put into words; art is a universal language.
4. All of us have the capacity to recall the past and anticipate
the future: one trait that may distinguish us from all other creatures,
visible in art, appropriation from past styles and artists.
5.All of us develop some forms of social bonding:
Human beings are also members of groups and institutions,
families, tribes, clubs, communities, countries - all often
have visual symbols that show belonging to the group (state
seals, flags, etc); we need other people.
6. All of us are connected to the ecology of the planet:
We are living creatures, too. Social and political art may
express contemporary concerns, reflect the environment of the
artist and/or show how dependent we are upon each other to
live; style and construction of architecture is often influenced
by climate and available materials of environment.
7. All of us produce and consume:
Work; a purpose in producing - why do artists create? Why do we
call it art work?
8.All of us seek meaning and purpose:
This shared characteristic causes us to look for meaning in art
- the desire to understand what another means - art may give
some people purpose, or solace in knowing that others share
their feelings and ideas; understanding meaning may lead to
empathy ; study of world views and religions.
Adapted from "Educating in a Multicultural World," a speech by
Ernest Boyer, President of The Carnegie Foundation for The
Advancement of Teaching.
Nancy Walkup, Project Coordinator
North Texas Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts
PO Box 5098, University of North Texas
Denton, TX 76203
817/565-3986 FAX 817/565-4867