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Lesson Plans

textbooks and conformity

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Elizabeth Paul (epaul)
Thu, 23 Jan 1997 00:13:41 -0600

The generalist/specialist discussions continues. Below I respond to two
emails that were responses to some of mine.

First, a response to Gina Booth's comment that art is a class that cannot be
textbook only, implying that math, social studies, science, etc (mentioned
in my cited email) are textbook-only classes. Any good teaching is never
ever ever textbook only, regardless of the subject. Good teaching is always
about creating opportunities and environments for learning, and it's nearly
impossible to do that going through a text page by page as the sole learning

And as for sharing equipment, in every class in which I've been for years
now, kids share textbooks and more because of budget problems -- which make
it tricky if they need the textbook to do homework. And some don't even have
their own workbooks so teachers have to xerox everything. So art is
certainly not alone in the realm of sharing materials. Do art teachers
usually get a lot less than other teachers for supplies -- it sounds so from
what I've heard on this list serve; is that fair -- no, of course not.

As to Sandra Hildreth's email about art being the only subject that's about
teaching kids to think creatively and differently, and the other subjects
are about teaching conformity, again I'll say that the latter is never what
GOOD teaching is about and any subject taught well should tap into the former.

And is art truly that different in that argument? You want kids to know red
looks this way, yellow is this color, violet is this, to get green you mix
yellow and blue, line is about this, texture is about that, Cubism is that
type of art, sculpture is this form of art, to work with clay you need to be
aware of these basics, Monet did this sort of thing, Maillol did that,
Impressionism began around this time, etc etc. There are definites in art
just as there are in any subject. What you do with that knowledge is what
matters, as it does in any area.

Conversely, taught WELL, any subject will help kids learn different ways of
thinking, not rote memorization or straight paths from point a to point b.
Using math as an example since it's probably thought of as the most rote,
there's some really cool stuff going on in math education right now, some of
it at UCLA by one of my professors, as a way to try to understand how elem
kids arrive at answers in math -- and it is decidedly not by one rote path
when left to their own (creative) devices. And sheds light on why that
memorization stuff only works for some kids. The point of the research is to
learn more about how kids learn to understand math concepts so that math can
be taught in the best and most creative ways, not a bunch of memorizing.
Some teachers I've observed lately do not have kids memorize times tables,
do not use textbooks, etc -- that's quite a hot topic in elem math these
days from what I've seen and heard, by the way. Likewise, social studies and
history are incredibly rich subjects requiring kids to think about the
forces, personalities, economics, politics, geographies, etc which have
resulted in events and movements from the past. And taught well it involves
a heck of a lot of "creative thinking" about the why's and what if's and
what do you think's. It's not about memorizing names and dates -- if it's
taught even remotely well. Science is about solving puzzles many times --
how things work, why this reacts with that to create this, and on and on.
Hardly rote stuff. And then there's language arts of which a hugely
important part is writing -- an immensely creative endeavor. Thanks to all
those general ed teachers we've all had, we can talk on this listserve and
communicate intelligibly to each other.

Frankly, it's more than a little insulting to have it implied that the
general classroom -- or any non-art -- teacher is someone who pushes
conformity and is likely to be uncomfortable with creative processes or
differences. I would be willing to wager that conformity-pushers or those
unwilling to try new things are fairly well-represented on both sides of
that fence. Good teaching (and I emphasize good) looks surprisingly the
same in certain basic respects in any subject -- in the arts or sciences or
humanities. General classroom teachers have to do it in seven or eight
subjects, and are expected to do them all well. Not an easy task by any
means, no matter how good your training, support, and resources.

Again, let me emphasize, in the arts as in politics or anything else, there
is power in numbers and the way to get numbers is to create allies, whether
those allies are the thing you are or just believe in the importance of it.
Making divisions or "us-them" situations is not going to strengthen one's
position. Like it or not, art teachers/specialists need the support of
non-art people -- general ed teachers, admin, parents, etc -- in order to
get art back in schools in a substantive way. Otherwise, no kid is going to
have it at the rate things are going.

Some say "as goes California, so goes the nation." If that's any
indication, art teachers and anyone else who believes in the value of the
arts need to be creating any bridge and fostering every ally they can.

--Elizabeth P.

From: Gina Booth <>
Date: Wed, 22 Jan 1997 19:40:45 -0600 (CST)
Subject: Re: artsednet-digest V2 #35
On Sun, 19 Jan 1997, Kit Eakle wrote:
>> I find myself having to respond to San D's response to Elizabeth Paul.
>> I have great difficulty in the rationale expressed that a specialist is
>> required as "art teacher" at the elementary level. It seems to me that
>> elementary teachers are generally NOT specialists in Mathematics, English,
>> Social Studies OR Art OR Music OR Drama, or anything else. They are in
>> fact"generalists." This , of course chanfges at the secondary level, where
>> specialists are essential.
It seems obvious, but for art, music, p.e. etc. we all use equipment that
is better utilized by many classes rather than being duplicated in
purchases by all teachers and classrooms at the school. We are classes
that cannot be textbook only.
>From: shildret (Sandra Hildreth)
Date: Wed, 22 Jan 1997 21:42:25 -0500
Subject: Re: Even more on elementary generalists and art specialists
Elizabeth Paul wrote (clip)...
>most subjects required to be
>taught by the general classroom teacher require different knowledge bases
>and different methodologies, to some extent anyway, from one another. So why
>not art?
Those other subject areas all want children to learn the same stuff (the
same way to spell words, the same way to add, the same dates in history,
etc.). While art educators also, at times, want their students to learn the
same concepts of color mixing, dates in art history, etc., the big
difference is that in most situations we put most of our energy into
encouraging each and every child to develop their own unique approach,
individual interpretation, and creative solutions to problems. There have
been times when I thought to myself that maybe my students would learn
color mixing better if I made them all conform to the same color wheel
pattern and format. So I pre-printed a diagram and tried to supervise paint
mixing very strictly, telling them they had to match my example perfectly.
But as soon as one said "can't I make my color shapes into hearts?", I said
sure, then when another asked if his yellow/green wasn't close enough to my
example to use, even though it was definitely greener, I said OK. I seem to
have an automatic character trait that says no, everything does not ever
always have to be the same. That's why I'm an artist and an art teacher.
And just as hard as it is for me to push conformity, I imagine it is
equally difficult for people very comfortable with conformity to push
individuality. That's why we need K-12 Art teachers! We represent and
encourage a different way of thinking and doing and children need exposure
to these just as much as they need all their school subjects.

Sandra Hildreth <shildret>
C.L.A.S.S. (Cultural Literacy through Art & Social Studies)
Art 7-12, Madrid-Waddington Central School, Madrid, NY 13660
Art Methods, St. Lawrence University, Canton, NY 13617

  • Maybe reply: Griswold, Charlotte: "Re: textbooks and conformity"