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I just read your reply to Sally - you asked if anyone had taught questions
of attribution, and although I don't like to risk my ideas out in the open,
I thought I would respond to yours.
Last year I wrote a couple of lessons dealing with attribution for Middle
School. One concerned the Getty Kouros controversy. I use xeroxed copies a
lot so that every student or every two students can see the evidence, so to
speak, in hand. They compared the Getty Kouros to other ones and decided
about what the experts had already decided - that the Getty Kouros was not
stylistically coherent. Then I passed out edited articles from a book I had
found at the Getty Museum - the National Symposium the Getty called in
Athens to determine the authenticity of the Kouros in question. Each group
read one of the edited articles and presented the evidence from the article
to the entire class. At the end of the presentations, we polled the class
to see if they considered the Kouros authentic or not.
That lesson was aimed at the high-achiever classes. I wrote another one for
the regular Middle School classes. This one was more a lesson in close
looking but it still was a lesson in attribution. They started off with two
African masks that looked very similar. After dissecting each mask for its
characteristics, I gave them the characteristics for an authentic mask of
this type, based on the work of African art scholars. Based on the work
they had done, the answer was obvious. Along the way, of course, we
discussed the meaning and use of the mask in question. The next two
unknowns I gave them were again African masks. This time, however, I made
them work harder. They were given three xeroxed copies of authentic masks
of the same kind as the two unknowns. They were to determine the
characteristics these three masks had in common, and then apply these
criteria to the two unknowns in order to determine the authentic one. When
each group reported back to the class, the group had to support its
attribution by using two pieces of evidence which referred back to the
three authentic examples. Again the kids were very successful and actually
performed the process of authentication.
I was quite pleased with the results of my lessons - now for the downside:
I don't have a class of my own and work only part time, and therefore I had
the time to devote to writing these lessons and getting them together. I'm
not certain that the busy classroom teacher has a lot of extra time to
write such inquiry-based lessons - but in time I do believe there will be
more lessons like the ones I wrote which engage students in the processes
of the disciplines. We just have to be patient and once in a while take the
time to write one lesson which does try to apply the disciplines.
California Consortium for Visual Arts Education