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"For the record," it seems to me that these discussions have the potential to
consider and critique what we facilitate in our classrooms (or museums, I
might add) that is to be celebrated because it "works," and also what does not
"work, " and always strive to improve upon both. Therefore, it seems to me
that this discussion--in light of the responses--is a serious issue, one which
we should all be considering and reconsidering with each conversation, class,
day, week, month, school year.
I would like to address some of "gbogus's" thoughts...
"It seems that PSU has a strong PC contingent."
I wonder how many people you know who attend PSU? I wonder how much you know
and understand about its programs? If you are referring to statements made by
Kevin Tavin and myself than I believe you should redirect your statement
toward us, not PSU. I am not quite sure what is meant or how this entire
discussion benefits from such a comment, but to stereotype our comments as
"PSU" and "PC" ignores who Kevin and I are as individuals, and what it is
about our identities and backgrounds that might lead us to such inquiries.
This kind of stereotyping is, in my opinion, at the heart of rationales for
why "those students" are acting differently than how the school system
attempts to tame them.
"But I think you are falling into a very dangerous trap to assume
that "community standards" should be something that would vary widely due
to (I assume you are referring to) ethnicity."
I can see how I might have mislead you to believe I was referring to ethnic
issues with my "culture-of-the-month" comment. Short-sighted on my part;
point well taken. Indeed, I am referring to the different identities based on
prior knowledge and experiences each of us bring to new environments and
experiences, and with which we view the world.
"This type of logic, which blames student behavior on teachers, schools, or
society in general does nothing to encourage children to act responsibly and
take their place in a wider society."
Interesting point of view. But in fact I believe that children (and many
adults for that matter) do not "act responsibly and take their place in a
wider society" because they are not truly encouraged to do so. Based on my
educational experiences, which I think are pretty typical, I was either
directly or indirectly told what to do, think, say, feel... Rarely were my
educational environments a "safe place" to question or critique authority in a
manner which enabled me to understand the rationale behind their decisions;
you know, the "because I said so" mentality. I truly believe that if people
were brought up to feel comfortable to say, "Excuse me "gbogus," but I think
this assignment is not worth my time or efforts.... " and the two of you could
engage in a discussion, and then either the student could decide "oh, yes, I
see the point" or "no, I don't see the point, but I'll do it anyways" or "I
don't see the point and I would prefer to acquire that information in x
manner." Giving voice and agency to students is not about approving behavior
that may be harmful or disruptive to other students, it's about finding ways
to share power and authority with students so that may take control of their
learning and lives. I appreciate how "far fetched" and difficult this sounds.
No one said empowering students to become civic agents was easy. And no one
said it is best to start this process in high school or only in the art room.
But I know that my teaching has become more effective and empowering for
students I "teach" because they do feel they are important as individuals,
that they are experts (or can become experts) in knowing who they are and what
is best for them, and that I care if they disagree with me, and we can discuss
their viewpoints openly.
"But we should also be very clear in what is and is not OK to do in school."
I wonder if anyone ever asks the students what they think is okay and not
okay. I bet more than any of us they all know too well what is and is not
"okay." But perhaps if they were given authority to contribute to these
"rules" they would be more apt to follow them.
I enjoy these discussions and I hope ArtsEdNet continues to enable art
educators to openly discuss such important, relevant issues.
Elizabeth B. Reese
Dept. of Art Education
The Pennsylvania State University
School of Visual Arts