Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: tenth anniversary issue
[Unfulfilled opportunities in art education], pp. -54 PDF (18.9 MB)
52 The second curriculum development factor welcoming insights gained from the social sciences, but subject to aesthetic ends, would include such considerations as the students' social, physical, emotional and intellectual growth and would act as a mediating aspect between the content elements of the art curriculum and the third factor - classroom operations - specifically what teacher and student do. The latter would be made up of two main elements, a) the cognitive which includes the critical activities of description, analysis, interpretation and evaluation; and b) the presentational, including handling of materials, symbolizing of experience or uses of imagination, and expressiveness. Another and defining element of classroom operations would be the subjective -the feeling or emotional involvement of the student. However, there is no appropriate way to isolate or objectively evaluate this rather important factor of the art experience, particularly if we recall Valery's impenetrable element. The term visual literacy is used deliberately. Everyone emphasizes acquiring skill and understanding in the use of verbal symbols; achieving literacy in perceiving and responding to visual symbols and environments should also be stressed. Visual "communication" in addition to artistic expressiveness is a major facet of twentieth century life with the increasing use of the mass media, of film and TV and of McLuhan's dictum, "the medium is the message." Ease and confidence born of familiarity and relevant involvement in responding to visual symbols adds a rich, enjoyable and necessary dimension to one's life from a pragmatic point of view. But it also fashions a critical base upon which to see and feel the medium or its message in a sophisticated and responsible way, leading to that expressiveness of self which is a hallmark of maturity. Formal education has to value the visual and intuitive mode of arriving at understanding just as highly as the verbal and logical way. The former is often a more direct and deeper way of knowing, arising as it does out of creative concerns and out of personal feeling and engagement. It offers an articulation of inner states of being, of conditions below the threshold of conscious control and of the inner need for expressiveness which becomes concrete, ordered and on an educative level subject to critical examination. At the very least one can talk about art and offer deliberate but alternative aesthetic patterns of examination. The order, however, grows out of aesthetic logic, rather than formal logic. It is this aesthetic structure and these objectified elements of expression which require continued study, particularly in a direct exposure to their presentational form. Such study provides the foundations of visual literacy and the opportunities for an expanded and enriched art education. In addition, a fresh organization of content would accept the notion that art involves multiple levels of understanding and a variety of differing approaches to experiencing and valuing creative expression. There may be no general aesthetic education, except as a base of theory, which must then be translated into specific educational experiences beholden only to the authenticity of immediate dynamics. Nevertheless, there are strong interdisciplinary elements, both within the visual arts and among the sociological, anthropological, psychological and historical considerations of society as these disciplines offer insights into the purposes and functions of art. Aesthetic education in the visual arts today also is compelled to include new cultural and technological forms such as the film, architecture, city planning and popular culture along with the fine arts if it is to provide a legitimate base for student discovery and act either as an ameliorative or as a generative impulse toward visual grace in the environment and inner grace for the student. Similarly, the personal learning experience in the classroom cannot stop at the jargon of aesthetics or the formal ordering of concepts in the intellectual sphere, but has to flesh out the experience with metaphoric intensity as well as with pointed reference to all of the other humanistic studies as the need arises. The rather tentative and brief listing above is merely one approach to "structuring" an art curriculum and there are any number of alternatives which also may be pregnant with possibilities of teaching effectiveness and personal growth. Any curriculum can only serve as a guide in any instance, and any structuring in art is open to an immediate give and take.