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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: tenth anniversary issue

Kaufman, Irving
[Unfulfilled opportunities in art education],   pp. [39]-54 PDF (18.9 MB)

Page 52

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.

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