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Notebook

Notebook, 1993-

Return to - Notes for a Perspective on Art Education

Notes from: Burton, Judith M. "Art Education and the Plight of the Culture: A Status Report. " In Art Education. Volume 45, No. 4. Reston, Virginia: National Art Education Association. July 1992. p. 15

Art Education and the
Plight of Culture
Status Report [excerpts]

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In Regard to the Imagination:

"Of all the concepts that we lean on in our discipline, "creativity" is, perhaps, the most overused and least understood . . . . In short , we are driven by our appreciation of outcomes and end products, rather than by a concern to promote inner habits of mind. Curiously, in all our talk of creativity we rarely, if ever, acknowledge the imagination or that activity of mind which, more than any other, may be seen to underpin real acts of personal creation. For it is the imagination, moreover, that allows us to play with ideas, draw new conclusions, test them in thought and action, and transform what is empirically given to us in our world into our own personal symbolic realities. The imagination is one of human kind's most precious capacities, one to which we need to give a privileged place in our schools. However, it is much easier to get children to "produce" outcomes in the name of creativity than it is to promote those quiet reflective capacities of mind which drive imaginative thought and action in the development of personal ideas. For if the imagination is to do its work, it must be calibrated to a nuanced set of understandings about the materials of art through which inner ideas can be shaped and externally expressed. To do this well means that we must not inhibit children by imposing on their products adult artistic conventions, or mercurial notions of "performance" creativity. [Notes from: Burton, Judith M. "Art Education and the Plight of the Culture: A Status Report. " In Art Education. Volume 45, No. 4. Reston, Virginia: National Art Education Association. July 1992. p. 14, 15]

"The artistic vernacular is first born in the act of transforming materials into images of personal meaning, and, once in possession of their own visual voices, children can then entertain the works of others more insightfully and richly and grow in their understanding of artistic possibility." [Notes from: Burton, Judith M. "Art Education and the Plight of the Culture: A Status Report. " In Art Education. Volume 45, No. 4. Reston, Virginia: National Art Education Association. July 1992. p. 15]


Kinds of Cognitive Development: "As part of the claim to existence, it has become fashionable to talk of the role of the arts in promoting higher order thinking....We sometimes overlook the fact that styles can be, and often are, taught quite independently of any concern to motivate particular actions of the mind - higher order or otherwise! Furthermore, even if we work within this restricted cognitivist view of higher order thinking, we omit much that is crucial to our discipline. For this view does not account for the interweaving of sensory, affective, and imaginative acts of mind which coupled with more formal capacities, actually give rise to a richer constellation of thought than cognitive science has offered us so far. ....a more thoughtful analysis of artistry might, in fact, afford us a radically different vision of complex thought, one that we as a profession could offer as a guide to educational practice in general." [Notes from: Burton, Judith M. "Art Education and the Plight of the Culture: A Status Report. " In Art Education. Volume 45, No. 4. Reston, Virginia: National Art Education Association. July 1992. p. 14]


Conventions and Formulas:
Children who learn conventions and formulas unrelated to needs and abilities are destined to " perform" them to please their teachers and, perhaps, their parents; but the deeper need to construct personal meaning in visual form is never achieved. As Robert Henri once pointed out so succinctly, technical formulas tend to "knock the life out of any idea to which they are applied." Indeed, after a while, youngsters in late childhood and early adolescence sense the imbalance between their inner ideas and their artistic repertoire, and, as this widens, so they experience increasing frustration and simply become disenchanted with the whole idea of art." [Notes from: Burton, Judith M. "Art Education and the Plight of the Culture: A Status Report. " In Art Education. Volume 45, No. 4. Reston, Virginia: National Art Education Association. July 1992. pp. 15, 16]


The Portfolio:
Some art educators have turned to the portfolio method of assessment, thinking this to be fairer and more appropriate to the learning they espouse. Yet, this too is becoming fraught with contradictions and uncertainty, about the role of the portfolio in driving the curriculum, about what should be included, against what criteria it should be assessed, how it should be reviewed, and in what forms assessment should be presented and to whom? In our attempt to solve these dilemmas, we are in some very real danger of over-formalizing the portfolio itself, requiring a self-conscious attitude toward collecting, preserving, and discussing work that could be detrimental to the natural flow of artistic learning.... as a natural consequence of good teaching, portfolios can assume all sorts of guises, purposes, and forms: they can be books, records of specific events, or chartings of ideas; they can be large or small, exist in one medium or many, and incorporate reproductions of the works of others, critical reviews, statements clipped from journals. ....The purpose is to exercise the mind and the imagination in brave acts of artistry that have sustained and personal meaning for their makers. The creation of portfolios in whatever form, can become the s pine for al sorts of curriculum endeavors. It is , thus, not beyond imagination to evaluate these endeavors; the criteria, however, must be drawn from artistry [with a small a] and not from attempts to emulate other more "academic" venues on the school timetable." [Notes from: Burton, Judith M. "Art Education and the Plight of the Culture: A Status Report. " In Art Education. Volume 45, No. 4. Reston, Virginia: National Art Education Association. July 1992. p. 17, 18.


[Notes from: Burton, Judith M. "Art Education and the Plight of the Culture: A Status Report. " In Art Education. Volume 45, No. 4. Reston, Virginia: National Art Education Association. July 1992. p. 15]




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