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Lesson Plans


ART and AMERICAN SOCIETY

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Bob Beeching (robprod)
Mon, 19 Jul 1999 00:32:47 -0700


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the arts and american society.

Growing up between three distinctly different cultures tends to affect =
one's perspective on life in general. Sophia Alexandrana Popova, was =
born in Irkutsk, the capital of Siberia where the Czars of old Russia =
vanquished their opponents much the same as the English who shipped =
their convicts off to Australia.

Siberians are a hardy mix of Mongol and Tartar mingled with a smattering =
of Slav who practiced the Russian Orthodox faith.. My mother was from as =
family of five daughters and three sons. Alexander Popov was mayor of =
Irkutsk up to the time of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution when family life =
disintegrated. My three uncles, officers in the Czars army, were =
executed for their participation as soldiers in the White Army, and =
things began to go down hill from then on.

Sophia, a graduate of the Moscva Conservatory of Music was principal =
contralto at the Bolshoi, and played a feature role as prince in =
Glinkas's opera One Life for the Czar one year before the collapse of =
the monarchy. My aunt, Katrina, oldest of the five daughters, received =
her graduate degree in foreign languages from the University of Zurich, =
and returned to Switzerland at the beginning of the war to teach. My =
mother joined the Knights of Columbus traveling company that was =
entertaining American troops who had landed in Siberia along with the =
British too late to save the Czarist regime.

My father, Cyril Beeching, was born in Bournmouth, England, and a sea =
resort town where his father owned a baker. He was the middle son of =
three, and was considered an incorrigible, not only by his father, but =
by the school's headmaster as well. Cyril joined the expeditionary =
forces and did a stint in India where he took on the habit of drinking =
gin.

The two met when both entertainment companies joined forces. Once on the =
train, they became quite intimate. My sister, Olga, was the result of =
this tryst. Cyril spoke no Russian, and Sophia spoke no English. During =
a train stop - in 30 below weather - a local priest from an obscure =
village married them. The couple found their way to San Francisco, =
California by way of the ship, The Great Northern. Cyril had no trade, =
and Sophia, through connections, supported my father through art school =
by singing with the San Francisco Opera Company, and teaching private =
lesson.

I was brought up in a household of servants, and experienced an =
intellectual up bringing with Russian as my first language. My mother =
was an aristocrat who insisted upon correct speech, good manners, and =
etiquette. My father was a tap dancer, artist, and industrial designer, =
who was considered a "playboy." I was born - almost in the elevator - at =
Providence Hospital on May 20, 1925.

I entered kindergarten speaking only Russian. I recall being laughed at =
because mother insisted that I wear a Russian shirt of silk with a =
hand-sewn cross stitch pattern running around the neck and down the =
front, accompanied by a woven silk sash. I became an anomaly at a very =
young age.

My mother would hear of no slang, nor would she allow the eating of =
candy other than pure Belgian chocolate. I was required to learn to =
speak correct English, and was disciplined to become a responsible =
student. I was taken regularly to the Opera and to concerts where my =
mother would perform. My father loved motion pictures, and it was not =
unusual for me to be bundled up - in what I thought to be the middle of =
the night - and whisked off to the Grand Lake Theater. I would witness =
the huge Wurlitzer organ rise from its pit to accompany a silent movie.

Although I enjoyed popularity at school, in my off hours, I was most =
content to play alone. My interest in drawing appeared at a young age, =
and combined with my interest in theater arts, I occupied my time =
drawing people, house plans, and writing stories on the backs of =
cardboard laundry shirt separators. My father instructed me in drawing, =
painting and model plane construction, and my mother instructed me in =
etiquette. decorum, academics, acting, and hygiene.

My greatest moments of pleasure came from the construction of miniature =
theaters built from grocery store boxes. The larger the better. My =
father was a painter/craftsman who taught me how to make paper mache =
puppet heads. My mother taught me how to cut out and sew dress patterns.

As I progressed through the grades, I found my interests to be quite =
different from those of most of my classmates. My father tried to =
encourage me to box. One Saturday morning I found myself in a neighbor's =
garage, and thrown into the Ring with a most athletic opponent who =
proceeded to bash my brains in returning home with a puffed nose and =
blood stains down my shirt Upon seeing her blood soaked son, my mother, =
at the sight of me, shrieked at my father, and that was the end of my =
boxing career. I was not inclined toward the sports of baseball or =
football; neither was I enamoured by rough play or behavior. I took =
piano lessons instead, and learned to swim, play tennis, and to ski. To =
my chagrin, my father labeled me a sissy.

Many American boys are raised to become rough-and-tumble warriors whose =
mission in life it is to dominate over women, come home with trophies, =
and wear jackets with sports letters. This profile never did fit my =
image of manhood. Instead, I became an artist.

The fear of many American fathers is that if a son of theirs was prone =
to the arts, this would be an indication of femininity - something to be =
avoided at all cost.

It took the Flower Children Revolution of the 1960's and 70's to change =
all that. Even though the sight of boys wearing long hair, and wearing =
sandals and hand-dyed batik shirts confused many parents, it soon become =
apparent to most of the American populace that making love not war - =
wasn't such a bad idea.

The deep seated Puritanical concern of Boston's City Fathers that =
instruction in the arts tends lead one toward a Bohemian lifestyle, =
discouraged any form of art training to be employed in the =
church-sponsored grammar school of the 1800. This single act lingers on =
in the subconscious where the arts are still separated from general =
curriculum offerings in the American public school system. It still =
remains a matter of acknowledging the arts but not the artist. Only a =
minimum of instruction is provided and administered at the elementary =
levels of education, thus, through the grades, children are continually =
denied access to a scope and sequence approach to art training by =
teachers who themselves are not proficient in the Arts.

This attitude becomes most pronounced at high school where student =
counselors are prone to assign the arts, not to responsible students, =
but to those who do not seem to take to normal academic studies. The =
problem is further compounded by the fact that most faculty members in =
other disciplines - who were denied art training in their formative =
years - tend to support this policy.

The basic biological urges to scribble, dance, sing, act, and to make =
music, is systematically eliminated through a process of benign neglect. =
Unlike Sports, instruction in Arts is suspended until high school or =
young adulthood, where the process of vitrification has already set in. =
This becomes apparent to anyone who has taught at both university and =
adult school levels of instruction. Perhaps that is why no college =
prerequisite exists for art majors as for Physics majors?

We continue to see a pseudo type of craft training being imposed on =
elementary school age children with the justification that it is an art =
experience. In the place of learning to draw, paint, and to construct, =
children are presented with a cafeteria-style of isolated offerings that =
are euphemistically referred to as project art. To compound the issue =
further now, at the level of kindergarten, we are finding that immature =
children are expected to appreciate the arts through a process of =
osmosis not through a process of instruction. Since few elementary =
school teachers have had little or no art training, it is understandable =
why they rely most heavily upon craft catalogues to supply them with =
both materials and ideas. Consequently, an inordinate amount of time and =
expense is devoted toward the production of useless objects that have =
little, if anything, to do with an authentic art experience.

A controversy rages on between the artist and non-artist teacher. One =
claims it is not necessary to produce art to appreciate art. This is =
parallel to the idea that one does not have to eat food in order to =
appreciate it. The other claims, that in order appreciate anything in =
life, one must experience it. This controversy seems particular - not so =
much to music, dance, or sport - but to the visual art alone. No =
non-artist teacher, from my recollection, has ever proposed children =
should learn music simply by listening, or that dance, or a sport be =
taught by observation alone Many grade school teachers regularly teach =
children new songs, dance steps, and games of sport. But when it comes =
to visual arts training, justifications for not teaching art production =
seem to fly out of the wood work and pounce on any suggestion of the =
learning of basic principles and elements. One would think that a hidden =
agenda or some sort of conspiracy is underfoot?

There is also the matter of fad. What's new today is old tomorrow. Take =
the current preoccupation with the movement on self-esteem. Some =
neophytes have apparently discovered that we all need it and have =
written books, made video tapes, CD's, and lesson plans on how to create =
it. Little is mentioned of the fact that self-esteem is earned, not =
imposed; that those who feel good about themselves are those who, =
regularly, contribute something tangible to their home, school, and =
community environment. A productive child is a happy child.=20

The, almost, religious pre-occupation with a student's mental state and =
karma that has permeated the elementary environment, tends to obscure =
the fact that, in most instances, the student is reacting to a state of =
discontinuity and boredom. There is nothing sadder than to watch a =
teacher or counselor being "conned" by an astute child.

This Jerry Springer type of exposition of whining, contributes nothing =
to one's sell-esteem, in fact, it retards it. If teachers spent more =
time designing and testing lessons than acting as spiritual counselors =
did, more time would be come available for developing more effective and =
intriguing lessons. I am always intrigued by lesson plans teachers write =
for their substitutes. They vary in content and in form from illiterate =
to literate.

Few teachers, today, write effective lesson plans, possibly because they =
have become too reliant upon the boiler plate guides that come with =
every text or teacher's manual. It is almost like McDonalds's replacing =
keypads with pictograph icons, or having untutored teachers making up =
their own art units and publishing them, thereby, spreading the disease =
of incompetence even further.=20

Elementary school teachers - a cozy group - more than others, appear =
more resistance to change, and more inclined toward any new "quick =
trick" idea that happens to comes down the pike. Unfortunately, as with =
all fads, they don't last. Take new math, multi-tasking, mind mapping, =
or better still, how about inter-disciplinary curriculums. We find =
teachers with no knowledge of art history madly trying to combine =
historical events with artists of the day. This is a grand idea, but it =
takes more time than most teachers are willing to commit. The net result =
is the dilution of both.

Americans know what they like, but many lack a broad enough knowledge =
base from which to operate, and the arts are usually the casualties. =
Nothing raises the hairs on the back of the neck more, than to accuse an =
American of having the taste of peasant. By keeping young children from =
basic training in the arts, we can expect more Jessie Helm's in =
Congress.

The art impulse resides within us all. It may dim, but never dies. Some =
retrieve it in young adulthood or in retirement. In every society, =
Artists are the prognosticators producing the sublime to the ridiculous, =
shocking and disturbing our senses, and continually reminding us that =
life is neither static nor permanent.

__________________________________________________rb

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the arts and american society…

Growing up between three distinctly different cultures tends to = affect one's=20 perspective on life in general. Sophia Alexandrana Popova, was born in = Irkutsk,=20 the capital of Siberia where the Czars of old Russia vanquished their = opponents=20 much the same as  the English who shipped their convicts off to=20 Australia.

Siberians are a hardy mix of Mongol and Tartar mingled with a = smattering of=20 Slav who practiced the Russian Orthodox faith.. My mother was from as = family of=20 five daughters and three sons. Alexander Popov was mayor of Irkutsk up = to the=20 time of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution when family life disintegrated. My = three=20 uncles, officers in the Czars army, were executed for their = participation as=20 soldiers in the White Army, and things began to go down hill from then = on.

Sophia, a graduate of the Moscva Conservatory of Music was = principal=20 contralto at the Bolshoi, and played a feature role as prince in=20 Glinkas's opera One Life for the Czar one year before the = collapse of the=20 monarchy. My aunt, Katrina, oldest of the five daughters, received her = graduate=20 degree in foreign languages from the University of Zurich, and returned = to=20 Switzerland at the beginning of the war to teach. My mother joined the=20 Knights of Columbus traveling company that was entertaining = American=20 troops who had landed in Siberia along with the British too late to save = the=20 Czarist regime.

My father, Cyril Beeching, was born in Bournmouth, England, and a sea = resort=20 town where his father owned a baker. He was the middle son of three, and = was=20 considered an incorrigible, not only by his father, but by the school's=20 headmaster as well. Cyril joined the expeditionary forces and did a = stint in=20 India where he took on the habit of drinking gin.

The two met when both entertainment companies joined forces. Once on = the=20 train, they became quite intimate. My sister, Olga, was the result = of this=20 tryst. Cyril spoke no Russian, and Sophia spoke no English. During a = train stop=20 - in 30 below weather - a local priest from an obscure village married = them. The=20 couple found their way to San Francisco, California by way of the ship, = The=20 Great Northern. Cyril had no trade, and Sophia, through connections, = supported my father through art school by singing with the San Francisco = Opera=20 Company, and teaching private lesson.

I was brought up in a household of servants, and experienced an = intellectual=20 up bringing with Russian as my first language. My mother was an = aristocrat who=20 insisted upon correct speech, good manners, and etiquette. My father was = a tap=20 dancer, artist, and industrial designer, who was considered a "playboy." = I was=20 born - almost in the elevator - at Providence Hospital on May 20, = 1925.

I entered kindergarten speaking only Russian. I recall being laughed = at=20 because mother insisted that I wear a Russian shirt of silk with a = hand-sewn=20 cross stitch pattern running around the neck and down the front, = accompanied by=20 a woven silk sash. I became an anomaly at a very young age.

My mother would hear of no slang, nor would she allow the eating of = candy=20 other than pure Belgian chocolate. I was required to learn to = speak=20 correct English, and was disciplined to become a responsible student. I = was=20 taken regularly to the Opera and to concerts where my mother would = perform. My=20 father loved motion pictures, and it was not unusual for me to be = bundled up -=20 in what I thought to be the middle of the night - and whisked off to the = Grand Lake Theater. I would witness the huge Wurlitzer = organ=20 rise from its pit to accompany a silent movie.

Although I enjoyed popularity at school, in my off hours, I was most = content=20 to play alone. My interest in drawing appeared at a young age, and = combined with=20 my interest in theater arts, I occupied my time drawing people, house = plans, and=20 writing stories on the backs of cardboard laundry shirt separators. My = father=20 instructed me in drawing, painting and model plane construction, and my = mother=20 instructed me in etiquette. decorum, academics, acting, and = hygiene.

My greatest moments of pleasure came from the construction of = miniature=20 theaters built from grocery store boxes. The larger the better. My = father was a=20 painter/craftsman who taught me how to make paper mache puppet heads. My = mother=20 taught me how to cut out and sew dress patterns.

As I progressed through the grades, I found my interests to be quite=20 different from those of most of my classmates. My father tried to = encourage me=20 to box. One Saturday morning I found myself in a neighbor's garage, and = thrown=20 into the Ring with a most athletic opponent who proceeded to bash my = brains in=20 returning home with a puffed nose and blood stains down my shirt Upon = seeing her=20 blood soaked son, my mother, at the sight of me, shrieked at my father, = and that=20 was the end of my boxing career. I was not inclined toward the sports of = baseball or football; neither was I enamoured by rough play or behavior. = I took=20 piano lessons instead, and learned to swim, play tennis, and to ski. To = my=20 chagrin, my father labeled me a sissy.

Many American boys are raised to become rough-and-tumble warriors = whose=20 mission in life it is to dominate over women, come home with trophies, = and wear=20 jackets with sports letters. This profile never did fit my image of = manhood.=20 Instead, I became an artist.

The fear of many American fathers is that if a son of theirs was = prone to the=20 arts, this would be an indication of femininity - something to be = avoided at all=20 cost.

It took the Flower Children Revolution of the 1960's and = 70's=20 to change all that. Even though the sight of boys wearing long hair, = and=20 wearing sandals and hand-dyed batik shirts confused many parents, it = soon become=20 apparent to most of the American populace that making love not war = -=20 wasn't such a bad idea.

The deep seated Puritanical concern of Boston's City Fathers = that=20 instruction in the arts tends lead one toward a Bohemian = lifestyle,=20 discouraged any form of art training to be employed in the = church-sponsored=20 grammar school of the 1800. This single act lingers on in the=20 subconscious where the arts are still separated from general curriculum=20 offerings in the American public school system. It still remains a = matter of=20 acknowledging the arts but not the artist. Only a minimum = of=20 instruction is provided and administered at the elementary levels of = education,=20 thus, through the grades, children are continually denied access to a = scope and=20 sequence approach to art training by teachers who themselves are not = proficient=20 in the Arts.

This attitude becomes most pronounced at high school where student = counselors=20 are prone to assign the arts, not to responsible students, but to those = who do=20 not seem to take to normal academic studies. The problem is further = compounded=20 by the fact that most faculty members in other disciplines - who were = denied art=20 training in their formative years - tend to support this policy.

The basic biological urges to scribble, dance, sing, act, and to make = music,=20 is systematically eliminated through a process of benign neglect. Unlike = Sports,=20 instruction in Arts is suspended until high school or young adulthood, = where the=20 process of vitrification has already set in. This becomes apparent to = anyone who=20 has taught at both university and adult school levels of instruction. = Perhaps=20 that is why no college prerequisite exists for art majors as for Physics = majors?

We continue to see a pseudo type of craft training being imposed on=20 elementary school age children with the justification that it is an = art=20 experience. In the place of learning to draw, paint, and to = construct,=20 children are presented with a cafeteria-style of isolated offerings that = are=20 euphemistically referred to as project art. To compound the issue = further=20 now, at the level of kindergarten, we are finding that immature children = are=20 expected to appreciate the arts through a process of osmosis not = through=20 a process of instruction. Since few elementary school teachers have had = little=20 or no art training, it is understandable why they rely most heavily upon = craft=20 catalogues to supply them with both materials and ideas. Consequently, = an=20 inordinate amount of time and expense is devoted toward the production = of=20 useless objects that have little, if anything, to do with an authentic = art=20 experience.

A controversy rages on between the artist and non-artist teacher. One = claims=20 it is not necessary to produce art to appreciate art. This is parallel = to the=20 idea that one does not have to eat food in order to appreciate it. The = other=20 claims, that in order appreciate anything in life, one must experience = it. This=20 controversy seems particular - not so much to music, dance, or sport - = but to=20 the visual art alone. No non-artist teacher, from my recollection, has = ever=20 proposed children should learn music simply by listening, or that dance, = or a=20 sport be taught by observation alone Many grade school teachers = regularly teach=20 children new songs, dance steps, and games of sport. But when it comes = to visual=20 arts training, justifications for not teaching art production = seem to fly=20 out of the wood work and pounce on any suggestion of the learning of = basic=20 principles and elements. One would think that a hidden agenda or = some=20 sort of conspiracy is underfoot?

There is also the matter of fad. What's new today is old tomorrow. = Take the=20 current preoccupation with the movement on self-esteem. Some = neophytes=20 have apparently discovered that we all need it and have written books, = made=20 video tapes, CD's, and lesson plans on how to create it. Little is = mentioned of=20 the fact that self-esteem is earned, not imposed; that those who feel = good about=20 themselves are those who, regularly, contribute something tangible to = their=20 home, school, and community environment. A productive child is a happy = child.=20

The, almost, religious pre-occupation with a student's mental state = and karma=20 that has permeated the elementary environment, tends to obscure the fact = that,=20 in most instances, the student is reacting to a state of discontinuity = and=20 boredom. There is nothing sadder than to watch a teacher or counselor = being=20 "conned" by an astute child.

This Jerry Springer type of exposition of whining, contributes = nothing=20 to one's sell-esteem, in fact, it retards it. If teachers spent more = time=20 designing and testing lessons than acting as spiritual counselors did, = more time=20 would be come available for developing more effective and intriguing = lessons. I=20 am always intrigued by lesson plans teachers write for their = substitutes. They=20 vary in content and in form from illiterate to literate.

Few teachers, today, write effective lesson plans, possibly because = they have=20 become too reliant upon the boiler plate guides that come with = every text=20 or teacher's manual. It is almost like McDonalds's replacing keypads = with=20 pictograph icons, or having untutored teachers making up their own art = units and=20 publishing them, thereby, spreading the disease of incompetence even = further.=20

Elementary school teachers - a cozy group - more than others, appear = more=20 resistance to change, and more inclined toward any new "quick trick"=20 idea that happens to comes down the pike. Unfortunately, as = with all=20 fads, they don't last. Take new math, multi-tasking, = mind=20 mapping, or better still, how about inter-disciplinary = curriculums.=20 We find teachers with no knowledge of art history madly trying to = combine=20 historical events with artists of the day. This is a grand idea, but it = takes=20 more time than most teachers are willing to commit. The net result is = the=20 dilution of both.

Americans know what they like, but many lack a broad enough knowledge = base=20 from which to operate, and the arts are usually the casualties. Nothing = raises=20 the hairs on the back of the neck more, than to accuse an American of = having the=20 taste of peasant. By keeping young children from basic training in the = arts, we=20 can expect more Jessie Helm's in Congress.

The art impulse resides within us all. It may dim, but never dies. = Some=20 retrieve it in young adulthood or in retirement. In every society, = Artists are=20 the prognosticators producing the sublime to the ridiculous, shocking = and=20 disturbing our senses, and continually reminding us that life is neither = static=20 nor permanent.

__________________________________________________rb

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