Thanks for your note. I like the point you made. We must never dilute the
core of our art teaching--art itself. I might add a thought or two, though.
During my 10 years as a teacher in the public schools, mostly at the 8th
grade level, I taught art in the strict sense--the kind of art education
you refer to in your note.
Then I went back to grad school, earned a doctorate, and became an art ed
professor. In the process I found myself studying public school-related
issues that lie outside the parameters of art narrowly defined--some
parents are passing their jobs over to the schools; drugs are gnawing at
the edges of society; the gap between rich and poor is growing wider; the
religious right is imposing its vision on the schools; the downside of
capitalism is ignored; racism, sexism, and homophobia are doing more damage
than drug abuse; etc.
My conclusion, reached years ago and unchanged to this day, is that
teachers no longer have the luxury of defining their teaching in the narrow
sense of their subjects only. When parents give way, society's second line
of defense is its teachers. Teachers of all subjects must incorporate
ethics into their teaching--universal ethics accepted by all major
religions and philosophies. Be kind to each other. Tell the truth. Leave
what is not yours. Value life. Raise your children well. Honor your
parents. And so on. Demonstrating these principles by example is not
enough. We must assertively teach them.
This approach does not include the values restricted to specific religions.
It is wrong to teach in the public schools that the Jews are God's Chosen
People, or that Jesus is the Messiah, or that the Creator is Allah and his
prophet is Mohammed.
Can art teachers teach art and ethics without diluting one or the other?
Yes. I'm going to speak about this at the Texas Art Education Association
Conference next month, and my speech will be published in "Trends in Art
Education," a TAEA journal. I hope you can get a copy. If not, I'll be
pleased to e-mail you one.
Dennis E. Fehr, Ed.D.
Associate Professor of Art Education
Texas Tech University
PO Box 54081
Lubbock TX 79409.4081