First Attempt in Fall of 2004:
Art Education is paramount to both the learner and the educator. Art is tool to be used to create a climate of understanding and sharing knowledge within any educational arena. A student of any age has the responsibility to be a learner and participant in education. The educator of any age must take on a role similar to that of a cultural worker. An educator must engage in critical thinking about the community they educate in. This is not tied only to the classroom but refers to any educational venue where there is an educator and learner relationship present. The role art education is to provide a catalyst for expression and critical thinking and transformation. In this form education cannot be standardized. It must be adapted to each learning environment and its learners. Art education including its histories and practices must be part of the core curriculum in schools and part of life for learners outside traditional educational venues. In this way learners may see the connections between art and their world and be given the opportunity to engage with a subject critically. Through art education and dialogue between learners and educators the necessary tools are present for understanding the contemporary world as well as the past. Learners and educators will then be able to think critically, respond, and change their life, community, world. – Sarah Ruthven (Educational Statement Fall 2004)
New more focused Version Fall 2005:
New methods for the teaching of art history must be pursued in an attempt to shed its patriarchal contexts and bring forward a relevant and empowering way of learning about art history. What is art history? “[Art] History is an amazing presence. It’s the place where vanished time gathers.” (O’Donahue) It is not a static list of great masters existing on an exclusive timeline or only categorized by a geo-political map. This is how art history is relevant, it is the visualization of many voices and lived experiences, it makes what is invisible and brings it forward to this time through images to make it visible to another time. Art History must also be empowering. The roles of learners and educators must combine to create an atmosphere safe for unsafe discussion. Art History is empowering when all surveyors of it mine their pasts and bring to it their own lived experiences. Art History must not be static but in flux, always adding new voices and new images.
This continually changing art history will recognize that history does not happen in a straight line, one event after another, but it is cyclical. (Efland, iv.) This new methodology for the study of art history must be studied to reflect the nature of history.
Monday, October 31, 2005
First Attempt in Fall of 2004:
Posted by Sarah at 8:17 PM
Monday, October 24, 2005
As I gear up to meet with my fellow art education fieldwork students I am taking time to reflect on my process thus far and look at what I have done as well as what needs to be done.
Throughout Thesis 1 I looked at people describing their methods and in fact in reading Changing Multiculturalism by Kinchloe and Steinberg I find myself very critical of their methods and also important what methods they leave out. It is much harder to do that to my own work but I do see the value in such reflection.
As a participant observer I find my role to be a precarious one where I must negotiate my personal pedagogy with the pedagogy of another teacher and the needs of the students. I am often conflicted by listening to the often over simplifications given out by the lecturer and the feedback from the students that suggest how effective the lecturer is. In my own lectures in that class I often must balance my subject matter with what the students actually need to know according to pre set art history standards. I even must negotiate my physical space that makes lecture the only effective teaching strategy and makes asking and questions and discussion almost impossible. I realize that as a TA the place where I can practice my pedagogy is in office hours but so few students attend those. Recently I read and returned 48 essays written for the survey class. I realized my use of authority in reading commenting and then grading each paper. I was in an extreme place of power and so while reading I had to balance correcting the students format or incorrect information with encouraging a engagement with the art works and valuing ideas that were contrary to my own. I realized how ingrained student's patterns are. When I asked them write an essay many of them gave me formal analysis of the works, some didn't talk about art at all, and others really strayed from my questions to write an essay on a topic they could engage in. These observations required me to look at how the methods of their past teachers and the students belief that they must write the right answer or what I want to hear took precedent over what they may have wanted to write. As a participant observer I am constantly balancing my power in the classroom. Balancing roles like grader and written discussion leader, lecturer and helpful resource, and most significantly my role as a researcher of a method to art history that is opposite in some ways of what the students are getting.
Recently I have engaged in an unplanned method. I conducted and interview with a local community college art history teacher. It was a good experience and I was able to go back to Thesis 1 materials to look at some strategies for asking questions. However, this turned out to be a very personal experience. I asked the professor an umber of questions regarding the culture of her class and her planning methods and goals. What I discovered was a professor who is rather traditional in her art history practice and less idealistic than myself. While I gained much valuable information, I also saw a professor who negotiated her space as an art historian and the limits of uninterested students and difficult administration. I found that I was very discouraged at the idea that students couldn't handle much more than they were given already and that they come in wanting easy answers not critical thought. That is probably very true. I very much see students today who are not taught to quest for knowledge but instead a good grade or just to get through a class. So will my alternative method of revisionist art history necessarily engage them or will it frustrate and push them away? Will it be too abstract and too different from other ways of learning that students will become lost? I must reflect on these things and then confront them in my own work. Another discouraging moment came when in the interview the idea that freshman cannot really contribute yet to discussion, they have nothing to add. I believe something so contrary to that. It become hard in my interview to continue to avoid bias terms in my questions and I had to rephrase my questions at times to not direct my interviewees response too much. I cannot fight the interviewees view that freshmen do not have much to offer to discussion. I have to realize that in my own pedagogy and within my own personal beliefs that everyone who has experience of any kind has something to contribute to discussion in an art history class. The catch is to find ways to encourage sharing ideas and to create an atmosphere that is open to experience as a way of knowing.
I find myself struggling with a very important issue. One of my own philosophy of education. All of these experiences and even reflections are molding and leading my philosophy. I want this to be a work in progress always, constantly revising and including new viewpoints and experiences into my own philosophy. But to code these experiences better I must begin to develop that philosophy now and allow things to transform it. And so I begin with my educators statement from fist semester:
-Art Education is paramount to both the learner and the educator. Art is tool to be used to create a climate of understanding and sharing knowledge within any educational arena. A student of any age has the responsibility to be a learner and participant in education. The educator of any age must take on a role similar to that of a cultural worker. An educator must engage in critical thinking about the community they educate in. This is not tied only to the classroom but refers to any educational venue where there is an educator and learner relationship present. The role art education is to provide a catalyst for expression and critical thinking and transformation. In this form education cannot be standardized. It must be adapted to each learning environment and its learners. Art education including its histories and practices must be part of the core curriculum in schools and part of life for learners outside traditional educational venues. In this way learners may see the connections between art and their world and be given the opportunity to engage with a subject critically. Through art education and dialogue between learners and educators the necessary tools are present for understanding the contemporary world as well as the past. Learners and educators will then be able to think critically, respond, and change their life, community, world. Â Sarah Ruthven (Educational Statement)
While some things have changed this is a good place to begin to revise and edit and bring in new ideas and experiences and to make this statement more specific to my now more defined thesis topic.
Posted by Sarah at 8:33 AM
Thursday, October 20, 2005
I am a little late in getting this up but I have observed something in my TAship that is I think an illustration of bad pedagogy or unfortunate politics within the classroom.
As this class has progressed through the ancient cultures the students have seen some less than typical images. One of those especially is exotic imagery from Greek, Chinese, and Indian cultures. I was not surprised by talk of the Kama Sutra in Hindu culture. Often times in Western centered courses and text books a non western culture will be fetishized. Or as Gardenier, a fellow student in Doing Democracy stated, feminize a culture that is non western. The lecturer of this class did not do this. He showed multiple cultures and their images of exotic imagery not to make it exotic but just as another aspect of the society. He made no apologies for this and did not tell the students that this was not normal practice in the academic art history world.
I suppose this is one place where we might disagree on pedagogies. I think this was a wonderful way of discussing this type of imagery but I think the students needed to be made aware that this was not "normal" subject matter and that there are places, classes, and academic arenas where cultures are not studied in a fair or equal way. However this is not the issue I want to focus on just yet.
The class is now studying religious art including Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. They are also beginning the so called "Dark Ages" and the crusades. It has been exciting to see the teacher include Japan and China in this religion discussions and so at times we also look at the religions taking place there and compare and contrast them but never make value judgments. Unfortunately this is where the power of the lecturer goes overlooked. In talking only about Christianity the lecturer keeps repeating the phrase, "Remember kids, I am just an alien watching from above and talking to you about what I see, this is not about beliefs." He says this I am sure to avoid arguments or students who do not believe in Christianity taking offense to the subject matter. However, It seems as though this teacher makes very political choices within the classroom, ie the inclusion of exotic materials. However, when it comes to religion, an obviously political and heated topic, specifically Christianity, he is a passive observer on high talking neutrally about a subject so as not to offend anyone.
To quote once again an over quoted title by Howard Zinn, "You Can't be Neutral on a Moving Train" In another book Zinn also says, "citizens thinking outside the boundaries and transcending the given wisdom." (Zinn 29) He says this to artists responding to war times but I think it holds true to educators as well. This teacher I think often looks outside the boundaries of conventional art historical wisdom or teaching. And at times I think the teacher looks to transcend the given wisdom of what to teach and how. However when the teacher disregards his political choices in showing images he does what much of academic art history does. He denies power structures, he hides them instead of bringing them to the students and letting them not only see that these issues exist but also as in Paul Friere's method of teaching suggest solutions to the traditional western art history canon.
Now to code this experience in terms of my own pedagogy in the classroom I look at Kinchloe and Steinberg who suggest that teachers, "Must understand where they are located in the web of reality - in relation to the various axes of race, class and gender power. Thus the critical multiculturalist teacher is a scholar who spends a lifetime studying the pedagogical and its concern with the intersection of power, identity and knowledge. Indeed, such a teacher gains the ability to delineate the ways in which knowledge is produced and transmitted." (Kinchloe Steinberg 29) I have, I think, been mostly upfront about religion as my bias. I am a Christian and much of what I do and how I study and think about revisionist art history is tied to that one fact. Any inclusion or exclusion of religious materials or images is for me a political act in the classroom. I know I would not show my students religious image to evangalize them. I think that is what my TA teacher is afraid of. But because I am mining my past and am aware of how this knowledge is produced within the small scope of me and the larger scope of the field of art history I am building a pedagogy where I will not need to be transcendent whenever I want to be to avoid conflict. Instead I will need to work to transmit the knowledge in a way that highlights its political message and allows students to observe the political nature of the subject matter. This is not safe work and as Annette Henry says, "The classroom is not a safe place." (Henry, 2)
Henry, Annette. (1994) There are no safe places: pedagogy as powerful and dangerous terrain. Action in Art Education Vol. XV No. 4 Winter.
Kinchloe, J & Steinberg, S. (1997). Changing multiculturalism. Buckingham, U.K: Open University Press
Zinn, H. (2003). Artists in times of war. New York: Seven Stories Press
Posted by Sarah at 7:20 AM
Thursday, October 06, 2005
On Wednesday I had the opportunity to talk to another one of my students in the survey course I TA in. She asked me some very interesting questions that I realize I need to consider for future classes. On of those questions was why we were moving so slow through the materials? She felt that she had heard much of this before and that we were just dragging things out. She also mentioned that she was already struggling with the need for art history but this survey course includes so much history.
I begin my response with a recognition that this student is not a freshman and that she had been in one survey art history course before, the modern to contemporary class. However in a community college there are many types of learners. Art history classes are at times popular classes for continuing education students as well as adults. These are students who may know much of the historical events covered in an art history course. I may be confronted with many students such as this one. First though I address the issue of so much history in an art history class...
As I continue to struggle with the term revisionist I am again reminded why I chose the term in response to this students questions. If students are learning a celebratory history or a one-sided (only from one person or cultures point of view)then much of what is covered with be repetitious and possibly boring. But if history is a record of past experience from many cultures/points of view and art history is the visualization of that experience then will it get boring and repetitious? I believe that the changing and at times confrontational manner of revisionist history would create an interesting dialogue within the art history classroom. And further, can I or anyone separate history from art history? It seems that historical inquiry is changing. In the field of anthropology many changes have come about in response to changing notions of "other" cultures and how we go about studying them. Possibly this student felt the disconnect between history and art history because the field of art history has not kept up with changing times in relation to how it is taught and studied and interpreted. Obviously this is an area where I need more research. This change in methods is an important one that must be articulated by those in the field of anthropology, art history, and humanities. Thank you to this student who was willing to ask critical questions as it has opened up for me an opportunity to see a gap in my own studies. Now how to engage her in her own question through the course?
Another statement this same student made was that out study of Rome and Greek for two classes was not only too long but not applicable to her. I wonder how many of the other students feel the same way. In fairness, the instructor of this course attempts to draw those connections between the cultures and our contemporary society. He makes reference to many of the things we borrow from Greek and especially Roman culture. We looked at government and civic life, as well as entertainment for the masses, etc. In my American white mind I could not help but draw multiple similarities and usefulness of information. Even seeing the oppression of women in these cultures was something I was able to relate or see the importance of. It is here that the tenents of critical pedagogy seem to jump off the page. One is that as an educator/learner I must think critically of my own experiences and bias when it comes to issues such as these. I cannot assume that all students will see the relevance of a picturesque Western Culture. Two is that students must be able to dialogue and draw their own conclusions. It is not enough for the teacher to impress upon the students what the connections are. The students must explore for themselves if these works matter to them. This does not mean that I don't teach it because they don't like it. Instead I encourage them to make connections and even more to not think of any one culture as being isolated from the others and their own. Again this conflicts with the lecture style of many courses. It also suggests that the typical images of Greece and Rome, and all other cultures may need to be supported by images of daily life, religious practice, and civic duty instead of just roman victory arches or busts of emperors. The instructor for this class does a wonderful job of including such images but without the chance to discuss many of them are lost on the students and seen only as something they must learn that is a symbol of instead of an aspect of a culture. Possibly this is where the local art connection would be strongest, to see how much of art history is still relevant today.
Posted by Sarah at 12:44 PM