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Lesson Plans

Re: Questions About Art Revisited

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Robert Alexander Fromme (rfromme)
Sat, 30 Nov 1996 10:49:37 -0600

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Concerning Christine Beth Johnson and Craig Roland's comments about
questions which can be productively put to an artist's work:

1. What is the artist trying to achieve?
2. Did he/she succeed?
3. Was it worth doing?

I feel the need to mention that our first assumptions involving their
meaning may not be sufficient when looking at the art projects done by young
students. For example, working with middle and high school aged kids usually
requires that we take a much broader perspective when we consider the value
or worth placed upon their attempts at art making.

For most teachers who first come to the public school there is a stark
realization that the range of competency, intellect and motivation found
within each art class forces one to realize that with each project there are
individual students who (in spite of efforts to develop the learning
environment and
get them headed productively into the art project) never quite figure out
what they were trying to achieve. Indeed, without knowing what they were
trying to accomplish, it is impossible for the other students and the
instructor to consider success or failure with regard to the work produced
by that percentage of slow, confused, lazy, less motivated or unengaged
learners. However, the value or "worth" of the doing takes on extra
associations of merit for many of these kids.

Opinion #1. In our present time, this culture, driven by television and
related technology, has deprived many kids of extensive manual experience
(basic hand making skills) which could have been a very natural part of
growing up within our society thirty years ago. In an earlier time, he
experience of creating toys and other objects by hand brought with it a
critical body of learning which involved planning, visualization and the
nature of materials and processes. Watching someone whittle on T.V. is not
the same as trying to manipulate the blade of a pocket knife along wood
grain in an effort to give physical form or function to an evolving idea.

Opinion # 2. Our media driven culture has also deprived many children of
associated creative "right brain" skill and confidence which, in an earlier
time, would have developed from creative play. Television and game
technology has also deprived them of several aspects of inventive symbol
associations which develop through traditional creative play and its
imaginative use of places and objects. (Please see:


for oral history showing what I mean by traditional creative play. You may
also want to look at the site:


or read the related example of traditional creative play recorded in the
book, 'Roxaboxen' published by Scholastic Inc. in 1992. It was first
published by William Morrow & Company, Inc in
1991. (ISBN 0-590-45589-3)

Anyway, the point that I am trying to make here is.... in addition to Visual
Art course objectives and the search for successful art work, our role as
art educators in the public schools takes on critical value in this time
when kids spend hours upon hours watching television or involved in the
attention devouring images and sounds of contemporary game technology. The
changes in our culture have deprived many young kids of manual skill
development and an appreciation for the intrinsic nature of various
materials in our natural environment. Many of these kids now lack
confidence in problem solving and they lack experience in those aspects of
imagination which were once the natural product of traditional creative
play. For many children, the art room in their school is the only place
where they will have a chance to experience the various kinds of learning
which should come with traditional creative play. Today the question, " Was
it worth doing?" takes on a larger meaning as we look at the efforts of our
students in the art room.

Bob Fromme

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