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Lesson Plans


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Diane C. Gregory, Ph.D. (dianegregory)
Sun, 16 Feb 1997 01:50:07 -0600

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Dear LH;

I would like to offer some friendly comments to your quoted statement
below. I do respectfully question your statement that children can think
abstractly. As a person who supports developmental stage theories, I
wonder if this is really true. What I believe is this. Children can
understand perceived advanced difficult concepts at whatever level they are
able to, if these concepts are presented concretely and in ways they can
understand. This of course, requires a brilliant person to be able to
extract the essence of an abstract concept and present it concretly so a
child can understand it in ways they are able to understand. Perhaps this
is what you meant. If so, I heartedly agree with you. Nevertheless, a
child will think as a child and no amount of instruction will be able to
help that child understand it in the way that an adult understands it.
That is why I feel that the original DBAE concepts of teaching Aesthetics
like the adult model is flawed.

In order to help elementary students understand this difficult concept of
Aesthetics or Beauty, I encourage students to have what I call an ugly
object contest. I ask students to each bring in an ugly object in a brown
paper bag, completely covered up so that the ugly can not be seen or
escape. Then we have the contest. Two students at a time show their ugly
objects and the class has a discussion about which object is ugliest. Then
the students vote. The ugliest object stays and a new ugly object brought
by another student is presented. Again a discussion and vote is held.
This continues until the ugliest object has been identified. (One more
memorable contest identified a cigarette butt as the ugliest object.) This
is when I ask the students: Where is the ugly? Is the ugly in the object
or what you think about the object? This seemingly simple contest
encourages them to think about aesthetic questions in a way that they are
able to think about aesthetic questions--at their own level of development.
Nevertheless, if I did this with adults, they would think about it at
their own adult level. Children think concretely and think concretely
about abstract concepts in different ways than adults.

I think taking an aesthetics class would definately be helpful and a
beginning. What else would be needed is an art education class that would
help this teacher understand how to bring these difficult concepts down to
a level that children can understand and to do it in ways that meets their
individual needs. David Feldman has written some brilliant and insightful
essays on development and aesthetics, that might prove insightful to anyone
wishing to understand the complexities of this problem.

I am interested in a friendly discussion about these matters.



>I would highly recommend taking an aesthetics class or any philosophy class.
>Surely your own sense of wonder and questioning goes much deeper than that.
>Children are able to think abstractly. Try it and you will see them respond
>ecstatically. I would recommend the following readings in philosophy for
>children if you are really concerned about bringing higher level inquiry into
>your classroom.
>Journals - Thinking (Philosophy for Children)
> Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism
> Matthew Lipman (several titles)
> Marcia Eaton (Basic Issues in Aesthetics)
> Gareth Matthews
>If you devote some time to the study of Aesthetics and Philosophy in the
>Classroom, you will not regret it.

Diane C. Gregory, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Art Education

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