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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 54

54      greater understanding and critical modes of
inquiry. Yet, even here, the teacher has to
be possessed of an understanding of
alternative considerations and varying
modes of investigation and response. It
may be that individual students do not
find the teacher's attitudes and avenues of
examination hospitable. Consequently, new
avenues of insight have to be provided for
students; there is a continuity of openness
in the teaching of art.
The ordering of content and the development
of curriculum in art are thus subject to
the crucial nature of the act of teaching.
Any art curriculum is efficacious only as a
teacher acts as exemplar, as partner in
dialogue, as provoker and prompter, as
benevolent and critical guide, as a
source of understanding and as a
confidant wherein the role of teacher and
student may be reversed. This can lead
to inconsistency and to paradox. Perhaps
passionate commitment does not permit the
choice of alternative viewpoints, perhaps
personal expressiveness impinges upon the
students' screen of perception, perhaps the
contingencies of existence set up
antipathies and oppositions, anxieties and
tensions. Then what? Well, it appears to
me that these have to be recognized as part
of the teaching art, respected and resolved.
And it is indeed a liberally educated and
vitally functioning individual who has to
serve as the teacher of art. In no
other way can the unfulfilled opportunities
in art education be fulfilled. To paraphrase
that eminently perceptive art critic and
cultural observer, Harold Rosenberg,
"The essence of art teaching or aesthetic
education is an imagination, cultivated in
metaphor and the ability to express well
within such contexts." Indeed, the teacher
of art should have a bit of the poet
about him.
The Open-Ended Sense of Self
In projecting the expressive nature of the
teaching act, we also affirm and should
accept a diversity of teaching styles. The
freedom of the teacher is underscored, but
so is his or her responsibility to act as an
artist-teacher. This implies a commitment
to an open set of values, searching out
the most telling forms with which, not only
to communicate, but to engage in dialogue.
Such dialogue, especially in art, if it
is not beset by adherence to conventional
learning resolutions or constrained by
predetermined programs, achieves an
existential valuing of each student as an
individual person. A person, in the final
analysis, who should be recognized as the
most important resource in education -
the student himself. It is to clearly point up
such human existential qualities that the
earlier appeal to study the influences of
culture was made. The influences which
exert an unwitting or arbitrarily defined
determinism have to be assessed in as
much as they may divest students of the
freedom necessary to make personal
rather than group or institutional
determinations. Similarly, research
stemming from the social sciences,
particularly as it relates to art, has to
get off its hobby horse of asking what is a
student as if he were less than a
singularly existent being and ask who is
the student.
So we return to the idea that not only art
but the art in teaching leads to a revelation
of self. Art education in stressing the
intrinsic nature of the experience which art
provides, asserts as well that in the
process the creator or the observer is
creating his own world. The ultimate
responsibility for this act lies within each
of us, student and teacher alike.
Hopefully, the artistic and aesthetic
dimensions of art education especially
refine and intensify the feeling as well as
the cognitive aspects of the educable nature
of the student, establishing significant
bases of humane literacy for personal
decisions and attitudes. The art teacher
in valuing the unique possibilities in each
student accepts whatever conditions and
qualities with which a particular teaching
situation confronts him. These then become
the viable elements which have to be
expressively ordered, but ordered as
both artistic factors and personally
humanistic qualities suggest. Genuine and
naturally evolving opportunities for art in
education may then establish themselves on
an open but fertile basis as the teacher of
art rides the waves of contingency in an
adventurous voyage of the imagination.

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