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Lesson Plans

Re: Democracy, art, schools and gangs

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Robert Alexander Fromme (rfromme)
Tue, 03 Jun 1997 00:55:14 -0600

At 07:14 PM 6/2/97 -0400, EVasso wrote:
You yourself described a different kind of classroom: ".. but please don't
>suggest," you said, "that the quality of art instruction and
>the educational expectations that I have for each of my students should be
>eroded or compromised..."

Perhaps you will remember that my statement was made in response to what
seemed to be your suggestion that we educators should give up the position
of responsibility as the adults, the guides, and the authorities who are
ultimately responsible for the learning environment. Have you forgotten
that you were suggesting that we give that responsibility to the students
who would proceed to try to use democracy to ensure that learning could happen.

>I compromise over educational expectations all the time. I make compromises
>with administration, with students who come from abusive homes, students who
>struggle with concepts or skills, with parents who make unfair demands or who
>aren't demanding enough, who are too protective of their kids or not
>protective enough. I make compromises over where I was planning to take the
>class,conceptually, because a child came up with something else, maybe a
>place more interesting to them, or to me. I negotiate, give a little, demand
>a little, work, push, retreat and sometimes advance.

Yes, we all do this all the time, it is also a given, a natural part of
human interaction, teaching and learning. But much of the compromise that
we face in the classroom is not positive and healthy. It is a negative drag
on students accomplishment and the development of their ability to think in
new ways. My position is that the use of democracy in the classroom would
complicate, confuse and multiply the compromise exponentially. Learning
would come to a crawl or stop.

Less then a majority of my students ever demonstrate that they are mature
enough to reveal their personal expectations for learning. The majority of
the kids would not be in school if they were not forced by law and their
parents to be there. When the majority of students lack expectations for
their own educational accomplishment, the teacher has to take a stand .....
the adult must set up a process and expected objectives or little of
positive educational nature will find it's way into the artroom.

Once they are in class, there is a good chance that they will discover that
learning can be rewarding and full of discovery. Each individual has one of
several learning styles and look to the teacher, and often to other
students, for a variety of responses and interaction. Many of the students
find the freedom to experiment and explore only after they are assured that
limits on student behavior, on the restriction of negative or constructive
criticism, on the proper use of the tools, on safety, etc. have been set up
and reinforced for them.

The educational environments that sets the stage for those experiences can
only result from planning, experience, effort, tools, materials, and
expectations for learning. The teacher is the source for for the majority of
these conditions. The time with the kids, the delivery of the lesson, the
demonstration and the "on the floor " interaction with the students is
important but only part of the formula. The teacher must plan, prepare, and
with expectation for learning, bring a sense of commitment and spirit to
the process. When students know that they are expected to learn, most of
them buy into the experience, in spite of the host of other powerful desires
and urges which work at them through much of their teen years.

> And, dictionary
>definitions not withstanding, that is a part of democracy. Teacher as
>gatekeeper is not.

Perhaps you can share your definition of democracy with us since the one
that has been provided is "not withstanding.".

My position is that someone must be available to " keep the gate " in the
learning environment. How many times have you expected the students to be
responsible in such matters as bringing a pencil to class or provide a few
old newspapers from home? . What percentage of your students are
responsible enough to remember and participate? How many times have
students borrowed pencils and other tools from you and have failed to clean
or return them. What percentage of your students would rather hide a
dirty brush instead of taking it to the sink and washing it out for the next
student who needs it? What happens when a fight breaks out in the middle of
your class between three members of one gang and two members of another
rival gang? Would you expect any help from the democracy of the students
who are watching the event? Could or would they step forward to try to
solve the problem? What would a democracy of students have to say or do
about the fellow who shows up for art class with a 38 and three rounds in
the clip? Which of the kids of your democracy would step forward? May I
suggest that a majority of the students are not responsible and do not want
the responsibility the the teacher must shoulder. They will have to deal
with the responsibilities of the adult world soon enough.

An effective democracy can not, and will not, happen without an informed
citizenry willingly accepting the responsibility and compromise which comes
with choice (the vote) and with the rule of the majority. In the art
learning environment, the students are only partially informed and many
look elsewhere, for example, to the teacher, for leadership and direction.
In the art room, many of the students are not responsible and others refuse
to compromise in situations involving their fellow students and the teacher.
In the classroom, often revolutionary thinking and creativity is born of the
minority or of the individual and that kind of learning is disrupted and
ridiculed by the will of the majority.

I am sorry, but I must admit that I find this topic as humorous now as it
was several messages back when the word "democracy" was associated with
governing the art learning environment. My dictionary definition of
democracy was "not withstanding"..... so perhaps it will be best if I just
drop out of the discussion for awhile. Let us see if others on the list
have an interest in continuing the thread. I am getting a bit tired of it.

We seem to be talking past each other without considering what the other is
trying to say. The problem is with the concept each of us hold when the
word "democracy" is used. We seem to agree with the value of an occasional
role of the teacher as listener and we seem to value some degree of idea
exchange among young artists in the classroom. We agree that compromise is
a natural part of teaching and learning. Perhaps we agree on all but the
meaning of "democracy".

Bob Fromme