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Lesson Plans

Teaching pancultural art

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Dennis E. Fehr (fehr)
Mon, 10 Mar 1997 09:48:06 -0600 (CST)

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Thank you, Glen Williams, for your earnest and timely inquiry about
teaching the art of cultures other than one's own. I appreciate the
thoughtful responses your e-message has generated.

I will add my thoughts:

If choosing not to teach a culture's art because one feels inadequately
knowledgable amounts to artistic erasure of that culture; and

If choosing to teach the art of a culture without appropriate research
trivializes the culture; and

If it is probably impossible to exhaustively understand the art of any
culture (including one's own);

Then are we not faced with the impossibility of teaching art ethically?

No. First we art teachers must realize not only that we incompletely
understand our own cultures of origin, but that members of other cultures
likewise only incompletely understand their cultures. This is not to say
pancultural art education is a level playing field; people are still likely
to understand their own cultures better than those of others. This is only
to dismantle the twin notions that one is absolutely qualified to teach the
art of one's own culture, and absolutely unqualified to teach any other.

I propose a solution that is simple to understand and difficult to implement:

Do a lot of research. The more we do, the better our teaching. At some
point, one reaches a level of integrity, perhaps when the researcher is at
least conversantly familiar with the roles of imagery in the culture's
gender, social, ethnic, religious, economic, and political arenas. Such
high quality art teaching is work-intensive, and this system is easy to
abuse. It is a roadmap that gives art teachers control--they can follow it
whatever distance they wish to follow it.

I apologize for the brevity of this answer: I don't want to take up too
much space on the listserv. I have posted several items on this and related
topics on my website; my URL is listed in my signature.

Dennis E. Fehr, Ed. D.
Associate Professor of Curriculum & Instruction
Graduate Art Education Program Coordinator
University of Houston
4800 Calhoun Drive, Houston TX 77204-5872
voice: 713.743.4956
fax: 713.743.4990

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