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Notebook

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

Schooling in Colonial America

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The first New World settlements by the English were founded early in the seventeenth century. Jamestown, Virginia, was settled in 1607; [p. 42] Plymouth, Massachusetts, in 1620; and Boston, ten years later. The first Latin grammar school was founded in Boston in April 1635. This was the Boston Latin School, which is still in operation today and has the distinction of being the oldest "free" public, nonendowed, nonsectarian secondary school in the United States [Holmes, 1935]

The early settlers in Boston were Puritans who had left England in search of religious freedom. Most of them had been well educated in the grammar schools of England, and Boston Latin was their attempt to replicate an educational pattern with which they were familiar. It was their opinion that classical learning, with its emphasis upon ancient languages, was the foundation of their church and state . . . . In 1642 the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Company passed a law to insure that in all towns provision would be made to enable all children to read, write and understand the principles of religion and the laws of the country. It also provided for the levying of fines for failure to comply with the act. The law was the first in the English-speaking world ordering that all children should be taught to read. These school laws represented the first attempt to establish a universal, tax-supported, and state-controlled school system in colonial America.

The Latin school tradition was not without its critics, including Milton and Locke, whose writings influenced Benjamin Franklin when he wrote his proposal for an academy in Philadelphia in 1749 . . . . [Milton described] the form of an academy that would serve both "practical" and scholarly purposes served by the traditional grammar schools . . . . In his proposal for an academy in Philadelphia, Franklin recommended the teaching of practical subjects such as English, modern languages, arithmetic, navigation, and drawing. Of interest to us is the surprising extent that the subject of drawing was discussed. [p. 42-43]



The Position of the Arts in The Eighteenth Century
The idea that art was a commodity that could be bought and sold in the marketplace came to be widely accepted. In France, private salons and concerts became the events that attracted attention in the journals, events that increasingly became identified with the middle class rather than with the court or the aristocracy. In marked contrast to France, England never had an elaborate policy of state patronage, nor was this patronage consciously pursued for the kind of political purposes it served in France. Most English patronage was private in nature and tended to treat the arts as luxury commodities that, as a rule, were imported from continental sources. Gentlemen rounded off their education with the taking of the "grand tour" to acquire culture, and collecting souvenirs in the form of antiques or works of art was part of the process.

Like the English, the Americans of the colonial period had no conscious policy with regard to the arts. Puritanism was strong in New England; Calvinism, in New Amsterdam; and Quakerism, in Philadelphia. Common to all these traditions was a disdain of artistic embellishment in places of worship.

By midcentury, however, Americans were more receptive to fashions in architecture, furnishings, dress, music, and dance originating in Europe. Objects of high fashion were acquired through import rather than through local manufacture, and it was not until the end of the century that the first academy of art made its appearance in the United States with the opening of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in 1791. For the most part American art students throughout the eighteenth century went abroad for their professional training, and some, such as Benjamin West, remained there because the patronage prospects were brighter. [p. 44]

"As to their studies, it would be well if they could be taught everything that is useful, and everything that is ornamental; but art is long, and their time is short . . . . [Frankl in, 1749/1931, p. 158] [p. 46]

"Drawing is a kind of universal language, understood by all nations. A man may often express his ideas, even to his own countrymen, more clearly with a lead pencil, or bit of chalk, than with his tongue. And many can understand a figure, that do not comprehend a description in words, though ever so properly chosen. All boys have an early inclination to this improvement, and begin to make figures of animals, ships, machines, etc. as soon as they can use a pen, but for want of a little instruction at that time generally are discouraged, and quite the pursuit. Drawing is no less useful to a mechanic than to a gentleman. Several handicrafts seem to require it; as the carpenter, ship-wright's, engraver's, painter's, carver's, cabinet-maker's, gardener's, and other business. By a little skill of this kind, the workman may perfect his own idea of the thing to be done, before he begins to work; and show a draft for the encouragement and satisfaction of his employer." [pp. 158-59] [p. 46]

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[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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