Notebook, 1993-

Return to - Notes for a Perspective on Art Education

Perspective - Art Education in the Twentieth Century: A History of Ideas - Schooling in Colonial America - The Invention of Common School Art - The Stream of Romantic Idealism in Art Education - 1890 to the First World War/Social Darwinism and the Quest for Beauty - Between the Wars/The Expressionist and Reconstructionist Streams in Art Education - Art Education from World War II to the Present

Notes from: Efland, Arthur. "Art Education in the Twentieth Century: A History of Ideas." In Framing the Past: Essays on Art Education, eds. Soucy, Donald, and Mary Ann Stankiewicz, Reston, Virginia: National Art Education Association, 1990.

Art Education in the Twentieth
Century: A History of Ideas

How the Arts Became Disciplines
During the Kennedy presidency, support of the arts became a matter of public concern . . . . [p. 124]

In 1964 the Panel on Educational Research and Development of the President's Science Advisory Committee expressed concern "with the lack of balance in federal assistance to the arts as compared to science" and suggested that "curriculum reform, as it had developed in science education, could be applied to education in the arts." [p. 125]

Music was the first of the arts to adopt this approach, in an event known as the Yale Seminar on Music Education [Murphy and Jones 1978]. [p. 125]

This conference assailed the preponderant emphasis upon group instruction and performance; it attacked the musical repertoire used in most school systems as being of "appalling quality, representing little of the heritage of significant music." Its participants were beguiled by curriculum methods developed for the sciences. [p. 125]

In 1965 a seminar in art education for research and curriculum development was held at The Pennsylvania State University which was to have far reaching influence upon art education [Mattil 1966]. This seminar reiterated the notion that art is a discipline in its own right, with goals that should be stated in terms of their power to help students engage independently in disciplined inquiry in art. In his paper on curriculum problems Manuel Barkan asked whether the visual arts and the humanities have structures like those in the physical sciences: "Physics--that is, science--has a formal structure of interrelated theorems, rules and principles so that conceived hypotheses can be put to test rather than judgment through evaluation of relevant data. Hence there are science disciplines and scientific inquiry is disciplined. But does the absence of a formal structure of interrelated theorems, couched in the universal symbol system as in science, mean that the branch of the humanities called the arts are not disciplines, and that artistic inquiries are not disciplined? I think the answer is that the disciplines of art are of a different order. Though they are analogical and metaphorical, and they do not grow out of or contribute to a formal structure of knowledge, artistic inquiry is not loose." [Mattil 1966, 244 ]. [p. 125]

. . . . Barkan was beguiled by the scientific model of knowledge . . . . adopted David Ecker's notion of artistic process as "qualitative problem solving" to help establish the parallel. [p. 125-25]

. . . . Barkan conflated "artistic activity" with "scientific inquiry." He argued that studio activity was a mode of inquiry, but that art history and art criticism were modes as well. All three were treated as equivalent candidates for curriculum attention giving rise to a tri-partite conception of curriculum content thereby reducing the overall importance of studio activity in the art curriculum, for now the artist had to share the stage with two other actors, the art critic, and art historian. [p. 126]

Scientists and science educators were attempting to cope with the vast proliferation of knowledge that had occurred throughout the twentieth century. They realized that the curriculum could not expand at the same exponential rate that information was expanding. By focusing upon the representative ideas in the structure of knowledge, they hoped to be in a position to know what to emphasize or exclude, thus simplifying the task of content selection and organization. Ironically, in art it had exactly the reverse effect, greatly enlarging the content available for instruction. [pl. 126]

Counterculture Criticism
In the same year that Bruner published The Process of Education, Paul Goodman published Growing Up Absurd[1960]. Goodman argued that delinquent youths had much in common with the "beatniks" of the late 1950s, and the "organization man" as spoken of by William H . White [`1956]. These social types were responses to an affluent society in which individual effort and work was perceived as lacking purpose and meaning. The 1960s was a time of general protest against a prevailing statusu-quo . . . . Goodman, Edgar Griedenberg, George Leonard, Jonathan Kozol, and Charles Silberman [called] . . . . for [ ?] humanness in schooling . . . . that education was no longer perceived as having a relevance to their [ American youth] lives. They perceived the emphasis on the disciplines as excluding the student . . . . a new vocabulary began to appear with such terms as "counterculture" [Roszak 1969] and the "me generation." The activism of the civil rights movement, which spoke of political and economic freedoms, became translated into a rhetoric of personal liberation, with indviduals demanding freedom from traditional norms, especially in the realm of sexual behavior and through the use of hallucinogenic drugs. Freedom was asserted by living alternative [ p. 126] lifestyles that have become the legacy of the decade. This rhetoric was reminiscent of progressive writing after World War I, except that in the 1960s much more was made of the culture of youth as a driving force in its own right. [p. 127] [p. 126]

The Arts-In-Education Movement
A movement with tendencies at variance with the discipline orientation began to take shape in the arts. It had its origins in the Arts and Humanities Program of the U.S. Office of Education and began to have an especially strong impact upon programs in the arts supported by federal funds. [p. 127]

With the passage of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act in 1965, Federal funding policy began to shift toward programs having a strong social agenda as typified by President Johnson's war on poverty. [p. 127]

By the late 1960s and early 1970s these general social purposes were used to justify arts in education programs . . . . [such as] the Arts in Education Program of the JDR 3rd Fund . . . . This foundation was active in public schooling between 1967 and 1979, granting 5 1/2 million dollars to school districts, state departments of education, arts councils, and educational laboratories. [p. 127]

Characteristics of the Arts-in-Education Movement. The first characteristic was its emphasis upon arts in the plural . . . . there was a clear signal from Harlan Hoffa, then on the staff of the Arts and Humanities Program, that funding policy favored the concept of "arts education" or "aesthetic education" [Mattil 1966, 399] [p. 127]

As a result, the curriculum development proposal submitted by Barkan was phrased in terms of "aesthetic education," where several arts would be treated rather than separate programs in each of the arts. [pg. 127-28]

In one sense, the arts-in-education movement paralleled the discipline movement's use of scientists as curriculum consultants: it used professional artists as resource persons in the schools . . . . They strove to enliven the school environment by introducing the excitement of the arts into its midst. [p. 128]

A third [characteristic] was its tendency to involve community agencies such as arts councils and museum persons as resource persons for arts-in-education programs affecting the schools. Networking among arts agencies and interested schools was used to provide publicity, and to raise funds for procuring resource persons in arts endeavors affecting the schools [Bloom and Remer 1980] [p. 12 8]

Though the effort was well intentioned [use prominent personalities to focus national attention] , it shunned the use of educators as resource persons in problems affecting the teaching of the arts and, as a result, tended to alienate many of the groups it purported to help [Chapman 1 978, Smith `978] [p. 128]

A fourth [characteristic] may be described as a performance bias. Though it is possible to learn about the arts in a variety of ways, through the study of their history, for example, the prevailing tendency was to have students involved in art production or performance. Action as opposed to contemplation was the prevalent mode of instruction. [p. 128

A fifth [characteristic] was the tendency to justify activities by such rationales as: improving the child's self-concept, improving school morale and boosting school attendance figures, furthering inter-disciplinary teaching by relating the arts to each other and to other subjects, involving the community in schools through artist-in-the-schools programs, accommodating to the special needs of the gifted or handicapped, and even using the arts as a general strategy for changing the schools. [p. 128]

Criticism of the Arts-in-Education Movement. Unlike the discipline movement which started with university people dissatisfied with the ways their subject was taught, the arts-in-education movement took place in the world of federal agencies and private foundations. It blended old and new ingredients. In its premises one can find ideas that go back to the progressivism of the 1930s, especially in its attempt to integrate the arts into the fabric of school life. The older movement also saw the arts as instruments for personality development or social improvement. [p. 129]

Yet, it was a child of its own time, which is seen in its strong anti-establishment bias, a rhetoric of social activism characteristic of the 1960s. and in its tendency to eschew schools and educators in favour of artists and performers . . . . As the accountability movement began to be felt in the early 1970s arts-in-education programs enjoyed a good press, reminding people that the arts also belonged in the school. [p. 129]

Accountability and Qualitative Inquiry as Rival Movements
By 1973 the Vietnam war had ended, political conservatism was on the rise, and the need for scientific knowledge, the cause celebre of the last decade, had subsided. The Arab oil embargo precipitated an energy crises which resulted in the fear that economic opportunities were declining, and that students would have to compete for fewer positions at the top of the social ladder . . . . In addition, anxious parents were increasingly convened about test scores as measures of schooling effectiveness, especially as such scores underwent a serious decline from 1964 through the mid 1970s. [p. 129]

Uncertainty over future economic prospects made educational accountability a perceived social need. [p. 12 9]

As accountability became the new watch word, curricular affairs shifted from considerations of content to the identification of effective devices for evaluation and measurement. Popkewitz, Pitman, and Barry [1986] described this in terms of a shift from the "productive" aspects of knowledge, with its focus upon inquiry and discovery, to the "reproductive" aspects of knowledge, with emphasis on the monitoring of student performance to measure mastery of existing facts. [p. 129]

As the 1960s drew to a close, a gradual, almost imperceptible shift from curriculum initiative inspired by "the structure of the discipline" to ones based upon precise formation of instructional objectives and cost-accounting measures of efficiency began to occur. The change was so gradual that proposals for curriculum reform based on the disciplines often incorporated procedures calling for the preparation of highly specified objectives . . . . Thus the language and procedures that characterized the accountability movement were beginning to enter the picture by the middle 1960s, and indeed, for many individuals, the precise formulation and measurement of objectives was taken to be a characteristic of discipline oriented curricula. [p. 1 30]

Only through hindsight had the incompatibility of the " productive" and "reproductive" aspects of the curriculum become clear. By the late 1960s the rhetoric concerning instructional objectives was ubiquitous, and by the middle 1970s much literature in art education was devoted to instructional objectives, competency-based teacher education, and evaluation. [p. 130]

One would have predicted resistance to this new emphasis upon precise instructional objectives, and indeed, one can find evidence in works such as Ralph Smith's anthology entitled Regaining Educational Leadership[Smith 1975] and in Elliot Eisner's formulation of "expressive objectives," which allowed for those educational situations where outcomes cannot be predicted, where they are discovered after the fact [Eisner 1 967]. Nevertheless, there was a remarkable acceptance of this regimen in the arts. Perhaps the explanation is that a new generation of art educators was ready to move their field from the woolly tradition of creative self-expression. This is seen in their general embrace of empirical research in such areas as psychological creativity, visual perception, and in their zeal for objectives in behavior terms [Davis 1976]. Another factor contributing to the widespread adoption of instructional objectives is that it was mandated by law in many states. [p. 130]

The accountability movement rested on the assumption that behavioral objectives and cost-accounting methods are essentially value-free technologies, and that these are merely means for providing the best education for the least cost. Writing behavioral objectives was merely an application of behavioral control technology, and since these were based in scientific procedures, they also were presumed to be value-free. This assumption has since faced many critics such as Dennis Nolan [1974], who noted that: "A particular technology at a given stage of development will not be equally efficient at accomplishing all goals. In the absence of an independent basis for specifying goals, the technology is likely to dictate those goals which it can most efficiently accomplish. Such goals are not necessarily ethically neutral." [160]. [p. 130]

Phenomenology, Tacit Knowledge, and Qualitative Research Methods
While behavioral objectives were widely adopted, an independent group of educators began moving in quite another direction. William Pinar [1975] identified these by the label "reconceptualists." They resisted behavioral objectives as a curriculum planning device. One of these, James Macdonald, had observed that "no matter what we thought we were attempting to do, we can only know what we wanted to accomplish after the fact, [that objectives are] heuristic devices which provide initiating sequences which become altered in the flow of instruction" [Mattil 1 966, 261 ]. Other members of this group included Ross Mooney, Paul Klohr, Herbet Kliebard, Philip Phenix, and Maxine Greene. They tended to share the following characteristics: They held holistic or organic views of people and their interdependence with nature; they conceived of individuals as agents in the construction of knowledge; they valued and relied heavily upon personal knowledge; they recognized pre-conscious knowledge, they drew upon a broad array of literature from the humanities; they valued personal liberty and higher levels of consciousness; and finally, they valued diversity and pluralism [Schubert 1986, 323-24] [p. 131]

The concept of tacit knowing as discussed by Michael Polyani [1966] was also important for the reconceptualists. Tacit knowledge recognizes that knowing involves more than can be told in words, indeed, more than individuals are conscious of, and that without tacit knowledge one would have difficulty making sense of explicit information. From their point of view no matter how precisely instructional objectives were stated, they would not enable teachers to grasp the essence of the learning situation. For phenomenological writers behavioral objectives would not reveal the "lived experience" or the deeper meanings that lie behind it. [p. 131]

By the later of half of the 1970s there was a shift away from empirical research methodologies in favor of those identified by labels such as qualitative or participant-observer research. For example, Elliot Eisner's The Educational Imagination [1979] developed the idea of educational connoisseurship and criticism based on methods of art criticism, while a number of Eisner's former students such as Gail McCutcheon and Thomas Barone used vivid artistic portrayals of instructional situations to help teachers become better connoisseurs of their own educational situations [Schubert 1986, 31 0] [p. 131]

Other art educators have applied phenomenological description as a method of aesthetic analysis and art criticism, basing their work on the philosophy of aesthetics of Eugene Kaelin. [p. 131 ]

Excellence and Critical Theory as Rival Movement
As the 1980s got under way there was a new concern for excellence in education. A number of reports were issued such as the widely publicized A Nation at Riskprepared by the National Commission on Excellence in Education [1983]. A second was The Paideia Proposal: An Educational Manifestoby Mortimer Adler [1977]; a third was Ernest Boyer's High School: A Report on Secondary Education in America[1983]. The themes in these reports had a familiar ring, echoing concerns of the late 1950s and early 1960s. Then the problem was the concern over our ability to maintain technological superiority in the face of Soviet competition. The current interest is triggered by rising economic competition, as dramatized by the popularity of Japanese-made automobiles. [p. 132]

The conclusion drawn in A Nation at Riskwas that for too long we were willing to get by with a minimum of effort. "We find that for too many people education means doing the minimum work necessary for the moment, then coasting through life on what may have been learned in its first quarter." [472] [p. 132]

In his analysis of the excellence movement, Smith [`1986] noted that the idea of excellence enjoyed brief currency in the 1960s and he observed that these earlier discussions "centered on improving the teaching of scientific, mathematical, and technological subjects," while the current discussion of excellence are at least more balanced, with a number of reports stressing the ideal of "a common general education that features not only the sciences and mathematics but also the arts, humanities, and foreign languages. [p. 132]

In 1982 . . . . the J. Paul Getty Trust and seventeen art educators held discussions with a view toward establishing a center for education in the arts . . . . founded [the following year], headed by LeLani Latin-Duke. Soon after, it began its work by holding the first of a series of summer institutes in the Los Angeles area. The institute staff is headed by W. Dwaine Greer. Greer [1984; Clark, Day, and Greer 1987] noted that the current view of discipline-based art education was derived from ideas that first surfaced in the 1960s, though current theory added the teaching of aesthetics to the art production, criticism, and history proposed by Barkan and Eisner in the 1960s. [p. 132]

Critical theory reflects on the tendency of educators to take for granted the socioeconomic class structure and claims that curriculum reproduces and maintains these structures. Thus, critical theorists attempt to penetrate and expose social relationships based upon the dominance of one social group over another. Until now critical theory has had less of a direct impact upon art education than phenomenology and tacit learning. Vincent Lanier's writings, decrying the tendency of art educators to impose elitist conceptions of art upon students, while ignoring popular, folk art forms, come close to exemplifying his critique. [p. 132-33]

Summary and Speculation on the Future of Art Education
In this paper I have tried to show that throughout the century art education was strongly influenced by developments affecting general education. Fads, fashions, movements, and causes came and went, arising in two main streams of influence, one that harbored a scientific rational tendency while the other, labelled as a romantic-expressionist tendency, preferred freer modes of thinking and action. These streams of influence have coursed through the history of education contributing ideas that were responsive to prevailing social circumstances.

It is also clear that earlier movements never really die out. The social efficiency movement antedating World War I reappeared as the accountability movement in the 1970s. The current concern for excellence recalls the discipline reforms of the 1960s. Creative self-expression and art-in-daily-living themes of the progressive era returned in movements inspired by the counterculture, such as the arts-in-education movement.

Moreover, there are influences that flow across the streams as well. Dewey's problem-solving approaches are resurrected in the discovery learning advocated by Bruner as disciplined inquiry. The literature on excellence often uses terms that suggest a commerce with an existential concern with lived experience and tacit knowing.

One wonders if we, like Sysiphus, are destined to repeat these cycles. Would it not be possible at some future point to strike a balance between these two tendencies--between the forms of knowing embodied in sciences with those found in the arts. Science makes a virtue of objective detachment and precision, while the arts, by contrast, make a virtue of affective engagement and participatory learning. The history of past movements is strewn with the wreckage of foiled attempts at reform, and the error has been the tendency to limit forms of thought to those found in one stream to the exclusion of the other. The task of general education, and art education within it, will not be served by separating living thought from feeling and action, as has been the case throughout the century, but by giving play to all the forms of engagement through which reality may be experienced and understood. [p. 133]


[Notes from: Efland, Arthur. "Art Education in the Twentieth Century: A History of Ideas." In Framing the Past: Essays on Art Education, eds. Soucy, Donald, and Mary Ann Stankiewicz, Reston, Virginia: National Art Education Association, 1990.]



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