Sunday, November 20, 2005

Not Hiding my Political Agenda

In preparing to teach my own class for the first time next semester and attempting to truly engage in praxis (practice informed by theory, and theory informed by practice) I am really looking at my choices and attempting to define or uncover bias and politicals.

In a reading by Elizabeth Ellsworth, Why Doesn't this Feel Empowering? Working through the repressive myths of critical pedagogy, she suggests that we must always question those who are producing power. In my mind a critical educator does this. But what does it mean then to be a critical educator. The definition is not static, it continues to revise itself. This is helpful for me because I believe that history and art history do the same.

But as I begin to plan out the next semester and my art appreciation class I find terms like empowering, critical, and even my own term revisionist to be troublesome. This is not meant to be a look at only language and fight for the use of one word over another. It is an exploration of why I choose the methods I choose and what it reveals about me as a teacher. In this way I am mining my choices in the classroom. I like the way Fred Wilson describes mining in his Mining the Museum Exhibit. He says mining like uncovering something and mining like making it mine.

So I begin with "revisionist" art history: Here I am rejecting traditional celebratory history as well as eurocentric historical understanding as the only way of knowing. I then place emphasis on experience of myself, my students, and the art itself. Experience as an epistemology can still be abstract. In the school I attend it is believed that experience matters and is important and yet in the thesis I will produce to earn my masters degree my past experience will consist of 5 pages or so while the review of scholarly information in my field will take up 20 at the least. This practice seems to speak louder than theory. So how will I truly act in the classroom to show that experience is of importance and not compare it to other ways of knowing???? I don't have a pretty answer but I know that the students will need to be involved in this process because I cannot make experience important on my own.

The use of hermeneutics as one way of interpreting: This is one way in which I support my claim to the importance of experience. Hermeneutics depends on experience and context. Both are present and vital in art history. I do believe that looking back on history and understanding experience will lead to a new understanding of the present and future. Here I uncover a political agenda, I want art history and appreciation to not only appeal to students but also give them a way to understand their contemporary world. Not to just enjoy or fall into categories created by technology and consumerism but to see an alternative to mainstream life. Will all of my students see this? No. Will they think about contemporary issues differently? Maybe. Will they have a new tool in their toolbox to understand the world in another way? That is the goal.

feminist theory: I believe that history is written by the victors, men. History can be understood outside of its patriarchal constructs. It can be in the romanticized words of O'Donahue, "[Art] History is an amazing presence. It is the place where vanished time gathers." Art history can exist outside the timeline and off the geopolitical map. Art history is cyclical as Arthur Efland claims. Thereforeore, it can be studied in cyclicalcal manner.

Use of contemporary and local art: I am furthering the belief that art must include not just what is in the history books but also what is around. Perhaps this a nod to visual culture studies. Education happens in community as does much art making. The community of learners needs to understand and recognize the art forms around it. At McHenry County College this includes the protrait collection in the library of some big art names as well as the red barn across the street and the 24 hour news streaming through its lounge TVs. I will not be comparinging to make value judgments of past and present art. Instead students will learn that there are artforms and artists left out of their textbook and that these art forms are significant but not outside of art historical understanding.

rhizome: One day I would like to have a website. Somethinging maybe like a Wiki that has multiple starting points. This is because I believe that any art has multiple ways of thinking about it. Again this points to the importance of experience brought in by the students and myself.

I talk in my educational statement of an art history critical pedagogy. I am trying to create one. I will not however, let the word critical go undefined. I will not let critical hide my political agenda or bias.

Works Cited

Efland, Arthur. (1990) A history of Art Education. New York. Teachers College Press

Ellsworth, Elizabeth. (Aug 1989) Why doesn't this feel empowerinWorkinging through the repressive myths of critical pedagogy. Harvard Educational Review. v 59 n3.

O'Donahue. Anam Cara


Thomas said...

When I taught I was always anti-Bush. Though I told my students to disagree with me whenever.

But my arguments were so persuasive that people generally agreed with me.

Number Twelve said...

God love teachers, whatever your agenda. I've taught graphic design as adjunct on the college level on and off. In my current job, I have no direction, no real structure, and I have no formal training in education, or in design. I'm completely self-taught in what I do, but I am GOOD at it. But I have no clue about teaching, teaching theories. How do you engage your students, do you find it as emotionally draining and challenging as I? I teach in central IN (Saint Joseph's College) would love to find something in Chicago for a bit better pay. Love the idea of doing a blog for your art class.

Number Twelve said...

So, basically... help, advice, suggestions if you got 'em. Thanks! :)