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Lesson Plans


CELEBRATING PLURALISM: Week 4 Discussion

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Graeme Chalmers (gfchalm)
Thu, 30 Jan 1997 17:19:18 -0800 (PST)


(Graeme) At this, our last meeting, we are attempting to do two things.
First, as a group, we are going to try to present some helpful guidelines
for developing substantive multicultural art learning. Second, we will
comment upon some of the issues raised by artsednet participants: Birgit
Jennings, Elizabeth Paul, Joan Podd, and Craig Roland. I decided to be a
fairly silent partner in the first task. I wanted to know what an
elementary generalist teacher (Gail) working with art, a secondary school
art teacher (Daun), and a museum educator (Amir), consider most important.
(You can find my parallel ideas in the web-site exerpts and in CELEBRATING
PLURALISM). So here's the list:

Part 1

- Examine your own biases. Have teaching and reseources been filtered
through the teacher's lens . . . rather than multicultural lenses? {B]y
giving thought to where "we are coming from," the gaps, and the biases,
meaningful reflection will point the way to where we should be going. (Gail,
also see Joan's comments later in this posting)

- Avoid conceiving of multiculturalism as extra units added on to a
mainstream curriculum. The possibility of valuing different cultural
perspectives on any given question or issue in art education must be
acknowledged and practiced. (Amir) The problem . . . with much
multicultural art learning is that it has too narrow a focus. (Gail)=20

- Reverse roles. Let your students be the teacher and share knowledge about
art from their own cultural groups. (Daun) Look to the experience and
knowledge within your class. Students may offer expertise and viewpoints
that are not otherwise accessible to you, as teacher. . . (Amir) Art
provides an opportunity for students to pass information back and forth
about themselves, particularly because much of the work is done in small
groups, or one-on-one, which are less intimidating for this kind of
communication than having to do it before the whole class. I circulate and
join in. These opportunities can provide the teacher with stepping off
points for developing a multicultural art program which reflects the
interests and backgrounds of the students and within which their own
experiences can be validated. (Gail)

- Don't feel you have to do it all . . . (Daun) Avoid feeling overwhelmed;
work from your classroom out into your community. Look to resources and
knowledge from . . . potential partners in the development of substantive
multicultural art learning. (Amir) Involve people in the community,
particularly the families of the students, artists, and other resource
people, as Sharole Brown did (See Week 2 discussion). (Gail) =20

- Focus on the similarities in the forms and especially the function(s) of
art across cultures but don't gloss over the differences. Rather, strive to
understand the differences through alternate perspectives and learn to
respect and value these different viewpoints. (Amir) If you use the DBAE
approach the question of why something was created [or is displayed] comes
up naturally, and once that question is asked the similarities between
cultures starts to become apparent . . . (Gail) Multiculturalism is not
just celebrating, but questioning -- addressing issues of racism. Examining
and questioning the past is important. (Look at artist/curators who have
done this (such as Fred Wilson) for help in your classroom. (Daun)

- . . . Don't limit your thinking about multiculturalism to differences of
ethnicity or language, but make room to include gender, sexuality, and
socioeconomic differences. (Amir) The "multi" in multiculturalism is broad.
Multiculturalism is not just about ethnicity but is also about sex, sexual
orientation, age, socio-economic group, etc. (Daun)

In looking at diverse cultures, delve deeply. Look at the "art" history
criticism and aesthetics of those cultures. Learn to appreciate different
non-western perspectives. (Daun)

Part 2

(Graeme) Artsedtalk participants will remember Elizabeth Paul's
<epaul> questions about social studies, art, and the California
Missions. One of my suggestions to Elizabeth was that "Students could look
at the "missionizing" function of images across cultures (including
especially those advertising images that are designed to "convert" us and to
extablish a product's presence and identity)." Elizabeth responded:

(Elizabeth) I'm really intrigued by that "missionizing" concept -- do you
have more ideas or elaborations with that?

(Amir) Students might want to atart out locally to identify examples of
architecture that strike them as signifying power, knowledge, or refuge.
What roles did missions play? What were their aesthetic and social roles
when they were built? How were they viewed by the people who used them and
lived around them? What contemporary buildings reflect these same roles . .
.? Were the missions dominant structures? In our society are [places of
worship] and places of learning and refuge as dominant? What does all this
say? This could be an exploration that involves photography and perspective
study. [It] would be an opportunity to discuss architecture and urban
design with students, as well as the symbolic function of buildings in our
environment.

Students may also want to study contemporary pop culture, videos, movies,
fashion magazines, CD covers, to examine the ways images are used to seduce
and define our needs and identities.=20

(Daun) [M]ainstream media and advertising imagery has a missionizing effect
on young people. Looking at Calvin Klein ads and discussing the impact of
these images on young people are good ways to introduce the concept of
"missionizing." Henry Giroux wrote a wonderful article in The New Art
Examiner (Feb. 1996) about the effect that a series of Calvin Klein
advertisements has on young people. Another wonderful resource that
questions the mainstream media is Adbusters <www.adbusters.org/adbusters/>
I find this a wonderful resource for the classroom.

(Graeme) Birgit Jennings <bjenning> teaches at an international
school near Geneva. She writes:

(Birgit) [How do students] in an international school, where many of our
students . . .[are] born and raised in countries different from that of
their parents, ever gain any cultural depth of understanding . . . ? . . .
One of the worries is that whatever students pick up is a "smorgasbord" of
bits and pieces -- fact and misconceptions that contribute to many false
attributes of any one particular culture and a watering down effect takes
place despite the best intentions of the teacher."

(Amir) I discussed [your] statements with my wife, who attended
international schools . . . She agreed with [your] observations. She didn't
see this as negative, but really as a preparation for contemporary life,
which is really a cultural smorgasbord. Traditions and cultural "depth" are
watered down in contemporary society . . .

. . . focusing on contemporary art made by artists who live in the same
cultural smorgasbord as the students would be relevant and useful. The
hybridity of much contemporary art and the issues of identity that much of
it currently deals with may be a place to start negotiating the cultural
pluralism of the school and its context . . . Value must not only be placed
on the "pure" parent cultures of students but also the subtle
transformations and changes that occur as cultures come into contact with
each other and affect one another.

(Graeme) We are increasingly leading multicultural lives. =20

Craig Roland <rol1851.edu> asked if their was a distinction
between "global" and "multicultural" education. He felt that a
multicultural approach might celebrate cultural diversity while "global
education" focuses on commonalities and similarities between cultures. The
panel felt that the difference was more than semantic but that there should
be some overlap between these two approaches.

(Amir) . . . I suspect that global education [might]retain a eurocentric
perspective in seeking seeking similarities and celebrating pluralism,
taking what is suited for its own purposes. Multicultural education ideally
values different cultural perspectives, acknowledging differences and
valuing them.
=20
(Graeme) I agree that the title of the book can be problematic. I want
students to question and to see both differences and similarities.

Last week you met Joan Podd <jpodd> Here is some more commentary
that I would like to share with those who want to CELEBRATE PLURALISM.
Joan's frank admission is a great starting point for her students, and an
example for us all. What better place to start?

(Joan) Teaching multicultural college courses has been as much of a learning=
=20
experience for me as it is for my students. One aspect which is important
when teching any grade level about multicultural issues is to establish an
atmosphere of mutual respect for class participants. =20

I do this in two ways. On the first day of class we discuss the meaning of
multiculturalism. After listening to each other, making notes on the=20
board, and doing some brain storming, I . . . begin a lecture/discussion
about prejudice and racism. It is . . . the most important barrier which
needs to be addressed. I open the door for discussion by telling the class
my personal story which includes why I have a passion for teaching
multiculturalism. I freely admit that as a young teacher I was very
prejudiced and judged people by the . . . steriotypes which I had learned as
a child. In my early 30=B9s I recognized this character defect in myself =
.
. . I realized I was spending a tremendous amount of negative energy
disliking entire cultures for reasons which were not based on knowledge or
fact. My prejudices were based on fear of the=20
unknown. I talk about my personal journey . . . and the freedom I felt when
I realized that we are not all that different!

Most class participants are amazed at my willingness to share such a
personal story, but what this does is give them what they may need to take a
look at where they are in terms of their own view of multicultural
education. . .=20

(Graeme) This concludes our fourth discussion. I want to thank the
panelists for their involvement, they have been a great dedicated group with
which to work. Amir and his wife are expecting their second child within
the next couple of days and so we leave wanting much for that child and
her/his peers. =20

Although the formal part of our program is over, I still look forward to
your comments, and I'll certainly respond as much as time permits.=20
Graeme Chalmers
Graduate Adviser
Department of Curriculum Studies
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, B.C.
Canada V6T 1Z4

Tel: 604 822-4842
Fax: 604 822-9366