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Re: We help; no...we are a detriment; no...we ARE collateral

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From: Larry Seiler (lseiler_at_TeacherArtExchange)
Date: Thu May 23 2002 - 21:05:50 PDT


I can't help but wonder....is there a record of a period of time where any
generation has looked favorably back at any art educational philosophical
methodology, or is art education (like art itself) simply meant to always be
in transition and tension?

If so the latter, that may be all well and fine, but Ssheesh makes one heck
of an unstable career, no? I was relevant for a season. Then, I was
not...lost all my retirement, struggled to sell a house...was on AFDC and
food stamps for two years. Ten years after that period, I was suddenly not
only relevant again and back in the classroom, but my head is spinning
trying to keep the high praise I get from my administrators in proper
perspective.

I have tenure now...but, like post Vietnam shock syndrome flinching at the
sound of a loud "pop" I have a hard time taking that step to buy a house
again. Forty-seven years of age and renting. Can't help thinking my
relevancy is only one study, one theory....just one 'ism away.

I guess one could say I'm an old dog not willing to learn new tricks, that
is...if 47 years of age is already old. So, I'll ask those whom I might
offend to try and understand if anything why I might be a bit cynical. I am
tired of having to defend and justify an art program. Even more tired that
art education's significance and saviour should be found in its benefits to
core academics.

When our small school experienced a couple years ago the tragedy of three
suicides, and a drowning...I couldn't help feel some cynicism when all the
county social service workers showed up, local clergy, counselors from area
schools... to have an open meeting in the gym with the community in
attendance. Knowledge is in and of itself benign at such moments, since
measurable facts that core academics put in testing say nothing about
purpose or meaning. As public school teachers, we have nothing to say
concerning purpose and meaning for those are spiritual matters and left to
parents, church and community. Yet... something inside everyone said that
something "ought" to be done; such a time where tears are flowing...as
realizing youth are searching for meaning. Searching enough, that finding
none of it they'll opt to take their own lives.

The value of art? For what it contributes to math? To World or American
History? To English or Literature? How about simply because we are human,
and that alone should be valued? How about as an opportunity for kids to
synthesize information from the academic subjects to reflect and express.
In that sense...art benefits from the core subjects, and not vice versa.
Kids will begin to question and explore purpose and meaning, world issues
and how one might respond, personal identity, etc., as they develop skills
to artistically express.

Not to suggest the really good valedictorian types do not take art....for
they do, but any wonder why it is that those students often seen as
disruptive and difficult for core academic instructors seem to flourish and
be productive in art class? Art allows to internalize, then externalize.
Without a sense that life has purpose and meaning...chances are state
testing will appear even more redundant and ridiculous to the kids. Art has
more value than how it will improve core academic test scores. They ought
to thank us, yes...to be sure. But, art needs no justification. Period.

Larry

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