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Lesson Plans

MEANING: buildings and student work

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Cindy Cronn (
5 Feb 1999 08:05:47 U

As I read your material, I thought of the buildings with which I am acquainted and wonder if that meaning of power and wealth is a little more concrete (pardon the pun) because we associate it with privilege. One kind of privilege is the privilege of owning, even if we "own" on credit and what we own is mundane. The power of buying and having is important to our culture. We have a department store here which stands alone at the corner of a mall. It is a huge rather plain building, brick with arches, and looks only slightly like a department store. It looks like it is filled with tradition even though it is relatively new. Even if you are not wealthy, you can go in there and feel surrounded by "class" with a grand piano being played endlessly at the foot of the escalator.
Skyboxes are being added to the college football stadium. The appearance of the stadium is transformed by these additions and the privilege associated with being affluent and pwerful enough to inhabit a skybox is a pretty concrete measure of success. Although much of the campus is in need of renovation, the monument to football is becoming more and more grand. It is one thing people in this area support without question. The argument is made that this stadium is the result of successful athletic programs, but the meaning is still present in the scale and qualtiy of the various buildings on the campus.
This week, I was evaluating some student work from eighth graders. One of them had made a painting of rows of people silhouetted in a movie theater by a movie. The painting is pretty clever and depicts a certain kind of meaning just by its basic subject. As I was studying the work so I could comment on it, I became aware of two people in the row closest to the viewer, the only ones among probably 30 who were not staring at the screen. The girl had a bag of popcorn dotted with yellow, the only spot of color in the theater except for the picture on the screen. She was looking at the young man next to her. With that simple addition, the whole picture changed. Now when I started looking at the work, I didn't think about that at all, and knowing the student, I doubt that she even did that intentionally, but this collection of marks on paper meant something and that meaning turned instantly on the gaze of the young girl in the back row. Since that was possibly a happy accident, we could ask " is that meaning?" Is it merely an interpretation or does the content in the painting have some special value that we call meaning and takes on a life of its own? Is that what you refer to as "pathetic fallacy?"