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Lesson Plans

Re: Teaching pancultural art

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Nancy Walkup (walkup)
Mon, 10 Mar 1997 10:35:56 CST6CDT

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> Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 09:48:06 -0600 (CST)
> From: fehr (Dennis E. Fehr)
> Subject: Teaching pancultural art
> To: artsednet

> 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
> web:

I wanted to express my appreciation of Dennis' response and had
a few thoughts of my own to add, especially in light of the
discussion generated by Mary Erickson's significant materials on

Maybe I have missed this somewhere in the discussion, but my
inclination is that the issues we're all debating can be also
discussed with our students. Teachers don't have to have the
"right" answers - there may not even be one. To me, the questions
and discussion raised by such issues are often more valuable anyway.

It is my belief that teachers should do research and, hopefully, present
multiple perspectives on an art form, idea, or issue. My
personal preference is to choose a common theme and to
investigate works of art from different cultures that express that theme.
After an exploration of the chosen theme, students can
translate the theme into contemporary, personally meaningful

I've mentioned these before, but we have used Ernest
Boyer's human commonalities as themes in our institutes and feel
they offer a positive, meaningful approach.


Nancy Walkup, Project Coordinator
North Texas Institute for Educators on the Visual Arts
PO Box 5098, University of North Texas
Denton, TX 76203
817/565-3986 FAX 817/565-4867

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