I was the person who first started this thread and I think I should clarify my particular policy regarding art education in the elementary area.
I believe that children should be encouraged to discuss paintings and artists from an early age. In my previous school, children were not backward in coming forward with their opinions (and their justifications) regarding artworks that I presented and the artists involved, specially at the grade six level. Here in Melbourne, grade six (at least in the government system) is the end of elementary. Next year they will begin at high school and I have seen too many children overwhelmed by the expectations of their new schools - in all subjects. I do not expect children to come up with the definitive thesis. I do expect them to be able to stand up in front of people they know and feel (generally) comfortable with and to give a brief (usually 2 or so minutes) rundown of what they have found. I am pretty sure that I am not the only teacher who has had children come up with projects that are either great big globs of info from books and or the internet or have been obviously 'helped' by parents. I encourage children
to put the information in their own words and one of my requirements is that any art terminology be accompanied by a glossary. Talking is as valid an assessment tool in the art room as anywhere else. I may be a dinosaur but I do not run an artroom which is an 'easy out'. Most children realise I appreciate when they try (even if occasionally they may not achieve as well as they may have hoped) and get off on the quite bizarre notion that here is a subject that they may excell in (why, just like in maths, english and all the other learning areas). But I must be doing something right because even a few weeks into my first term at a new school I am having children come to the staff room asking if I can open up the room so they can work there during their lunch times (and mine, but I enjoy it). Sorry for the long post but there are times that I feel that I have to justify my expectations not only to my peers at school, but also to a few art teachers who may prefer to cocoon their students.