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Lesson Plans

Re: Art & Science & Integration

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
Tue, 15 Oct 1996 19:17:17 -0400

In a message dated 96-10-11 22:30:30 EDT, you write:

<< One thing I learned during those years is that it was easy to find ways to
link various curriculum areas...BUT,that sometimes these links are
artificial and forced. When the links are "natural" and lend themselves to
genuine cross-disciplinary study I think that integration WORKS. When they
are not, I fear that student learning/understanding of the subject matter
involved will be shallow (at best) and that misconceptions about the
disciplines (and cultures) involved will be taught (and thus become facts
in the students' minds). >>


The struggle for integration of subject matter is difficult and complex. I'm
not sure how the call for "natural" links as opposed to "artificial" links
helps to clarify it, at least for me. School is, by its very nature,
artificial. Schools create atmospheres for learning isolated from the world
around us.

I was talking once to a wonderful teacher, John Nichols, a professor of
education at the University of Illinois at Chicago. John passed away about a
year and a half ago. But when I first met him, we got into a conversation
about something going on in a local Chicago public school. He referred to a
teacher there. I asked, "What does she teach?" meaning the subject matter, of
course. "Children," he responded, knowing very well what I meant. This
teasing went on for a number of years. He chastized me for thinking of myself
narrowly as an art teacher. I laughed, pointing out that here he was, a
professor of educational psychology in the College of Education in the
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois. How much
more discrete could one get!

But his point was right on target, I think. In thinking about integration,
all art teachers can point to the stupid examples, the narrowness of some
classroom teachers, the cookie cutters, the ditto masters (showing my age!),
the teachers who always wants you to do something connected to what they are
already doing, never asking about what we are doing, rarely thinking about
the whole picture. But if we want to place blame for this condition, we ought
to see how we are all victims of a tradition of education that isolates
knowledge, isolates teachers, and isolates children.

Of course there is a discipline of art that is has structures and language
and systems that are unique. But its not a turf, needing to be defended
against the scientific barbarians at our gates. When others look at knowledge
to narrowly, we should point to the larger picture. It will undoubtedly take
time and patience.