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Lesson Plans


conflicted Glen Williams and curriculum issues

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Rosa Juliusdottir (rojul)
Sun, 9 Mar 1997 22:46:52 GMT

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I think that the discussion taking place since Glen Williams wrote about
his <visit to an American Indian Art Museum and a companion juried American
Indian Arts and Crafts Show in Phoenix>, is very interesting. I can
understand Glenīs feelings and also the feelings of the others who have
been writing, I think. I do however find it hard to understand why children
would find it difficult to colour Martin Luther Kings face brown! I have
often thought about if it is right to have students make things that are of
a sacred meaning to other cultures. I do find it very different to teach
about Monet and impressionism or about expressionism, cubism etc. and the
artists whose works have been connected with these isms on the one hand and
on the other hand to teach about art that is so much more a part of a
peoples culture and religion, like ritual masks or story telling dolls.
I do understand the good and necessary reasons for multiculturalism, but I
have doubts as to where we should draw the lines. Maybe we should learn
from that young Native American student Carol told us about. He told the
class:" that we could not make dreamcatchers because we did not have the
medicine to do so". But, he added, we could make them using metal hoops
and wrapping them with yarn, because then they would just be beautiful
decorations, without the power to take away bad dreams. He, however, could
make real dreamcatchers because he had the medicine. "It was a wonderful
learning moment, for me and for the class", Carol said.
It made me think about how angry I do get when "our ancestors" the Vikings
are only pictured as very violent and barbaric whereas they were also
wonderful artists and craftspeople and great explorers, traders, settlers
and farmers.

Now to the questions Glen asks.
> 1. How legitimate is it to use cultural concepts and iconography in
>teaching art projects when those very records of living or dead cultures
>are largely "unearned " by teachers and students alike?

I do feel doubtful if we should and can use cultural materials not our own
when as I said before they are a part of say; sacred ritual use.

> 2. If the basic experiences of culture are cumulative and world wide, are
>there really concepts broad enough to be inclusive and still meaningful?
>What can and do we actually share?

Yes like Peggy Wolsey said:"we do share the planet". But it seems to me
some care for it a little better than others. We certainly can and should
teach our students to love and respect planet earth and in that teaching we
can teach them about the philosophy of Native Americans and other people
who believe in living in harmony with Nature and Mother Earth.

> 3. Despite the heresy of the statement is the exclusivity of culture (our
>own) a more legitimate format to employ in any student art activity? Is
>it best to leave the study of non-western cultures to the purview of a
>straight art history class?

This is a difficult one. If we leave the study of non-western cultures to
be only taught in art history class perhaps art history needs to be taught
more like art because I do think we can get students to feel more about art
and culture of a people by studying it through art in art class. It is just
a question of how we do that teaching. And I feel we must tread lightly yet
not simplify. And perhaps be careful of having the students all make
something that "we" find typical for a culture.

As you can see I really do not have any real answers, but it is very
important to think about this. I also want to say that OUR PLACE IN THE
WORLD is a good place to start with. The immagination story lesson is
wonderful.
This has become tooooo long. But it gets like that in a foreign language!
Regards from the far north. Rosa


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