Notebook, 1993-

Return to - Notes for a Perspective on Art Education

Some Basic Beliefs in Contemporary Art Education - Foundations of Contemporary Art Education - A History of Educational Thought - History of Change in Art Education - Development of Psychological thought - The Values of Society - Recent Art History

Notes from: Gaitskell, Charles D., Al Hurwitz, Maryland Institute College of Art, and Michael Day, Univ. of Minnesota, eds. Children and Their Art, Methods for The Elementary School, Fourth Edition, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1982.

The Values of Society

The society in which the learner matures and develops shapes that learner's system of values and beliefs as well as the educational systems available to the learner . . . .

A few of the Social Issues
That have had an Impact on Contemporary Art Education:

Freedom and Art Sheldon Cheney offers a number of examples to demonstrate the disastrous effects that unnecessary restriction has on artists' output . . . . cites the codification of the rules of architecture by the Roman architect Vitruvius. Originally written in the first century A.D., these rules or orderswere rediscovered and enthusiastically adopted by the architects of the Renaissance. The ascendancy of Vitruvius' orders has touched the environment of us all. Cheney maintains that until the second decade of this century, submission to the classical mode of architectural design seriously impeded the development of a creative art of building based on human need . . . . Freedom in the art program, however, does not mean unlimited license. Teachers, in attempting to move children beyond a plateau of development, must constantly make certain decisions regarding their instructions. In so doing, they are always guided by the need for options--choices to be made by the individual child during the course of the art activity. It is this recognition of the value of personal decision-making that separates the art class from most other classes.

Personal Development Individuals operate on two levels: the interpersonal relationships . . . . and social or political behavior. First we learn to respect and live with our neighbors; then we attempt to improve the quality of everyone's life by taking the appropriate political action to affect the broad social and environmental issues confronting the community. These broad social concerns are relevant to art education if we are genuinely concerned about ultimate life goals. We must extend our view beyond the individual to society at large. A trip to a new housing project may be as important and as enlightening as a trip to a museum; a visit from a landscape designer as significant and engaging as one from a potter.

Environmental Awareness Children must be made aware of the role that art can play in refining the quality of living. Such topics as pollution, conservation and urban planning are now seen as aspects of design. The ordering of visual elements extends from a painting to a poster, from a building to a housing development, even to a city. . . . . Today it has never been more apparent that aesthetic conditioning of one sort or another is constantly at work on the populace. The impact of the mass media, the changing faces of cities, the birth of new towns, and the despoliation of natural resources . . . . The future designers and planners in our society share the task of creating environments that will humanize and enhance our lives . . . . Roger Fry stated that in aesthetic matters people were "satisfied . . . . with a grossness, a seer barbarity and squalor which would have shocked the thirteenth century profoundly." [Roger Fry, Vision and Design(New York: Meridian, 1956), p. 23] As early as 1934, Dewey asked, "Why is the architecture of our cities so unworthy of a fine civilization? It is not from lack of materials nor lack of technical capacity . . . . yet it is not merely slums but the apartments of the well-to-do that are aesthetically repellent." [Dewey, Art as Experience,p. 344.] . . . . art educators have only recently begun to seriously consider methods of developing a critical sense in children.

Aesthetics and Attitudes The place of art in the curriculum of the public and private schools . . . . always been directly and drastically affected by the values, events, and trends of the society as a whole. The influences of democracy and freedom . . . . have been in operation since the founding of this country. Other values and attitudes toward art perpetuated from early times have not all been beneficial to art education . . . . American pioneers did not grow up in the midst of an artistic and architectural tradition. Aesthetic and artistic concerns often were low in priority, since the tasks of survival and practical living required much time and energy . . . . business leaders and politicians in place of an aristocracy . . . . only when the arts could be viewed as making a profitable contribution were they placed higher in priority. The attitude that art is a frill to be turned to only after the "real work" is done is still quite evident and is largely the reason that art has never achieved a place in the school curriculum comparable to the three Rs, science, and social studies . . . . has progressed . . . . 1980 Harris poll indicated . . . . 93% felt that children should be exposed to a variety of arts activities in the schools . . . . attendance records for art museums, theaters, concerts, and so on . . . . inequities for teachers and for the curriculum (exist due to educators and politicians that put a tremendous emphasis on one area or another--such as a re-emphasis on the sciences today . . . . ).

Society and Art Education The post-Sputnik era signaled the growth of public spending and public influence in general education. Local school leaders' vocabulary expanded to include grant proposals, government guidelines, and accountability . . . . Racial integration, equal opportunity, affirmative action . . . . busing was used to achieve racial balance within school districts . . . . equal educational opportunity for handicapped and special learners . . . . more services at increased expense . . . . high inflation rates and leapfrogging energy costs together with society's increased expectations for services have resulted in severe financial problems for many school districts. Art programs the first to be affected in cut-backs . . . . back to basics . . . . population decline of school-aged children, economic lags, taxpayer revolts. values of legislators, school leaders, and communities and financial stability means great variety in the quality of art programs from state to state and school district to school district . . . . Thus, the development of art programs based on well-thought-out rationales. Probably no other group of educators has had to work as diligently as at educators to provide sound educational justifications for their programs.


[Notes from: Gaitskell, Charles D., Al Hurwitz, Maryland Institute College of Art, and Michael Day, Univ. of Minnesota, eds. Children and Their Art, Methods for The Elementary School, Fourth Edition, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, Inc., 1982.]



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