Response to 99 Art School Article in Teacher Magazine : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

David Hill wrote an informative article in the January 99 Teacher Magazine. A foundation created by the late oil tycoon J. Paul Getty wants to make a place for the Arts in every discipline. And it aims to do it one teacher at a time.

Omaha, Nebraska famous for Union Pacific Railroad, Mutual of Omaha Insurance Co., and Warren Buffett the celebrated financier is also home to the Joslyn Art Museum. The museum has a strong collection of paintings, prints and sculptures. There are many famous artists represented such as Titian, Edgar Degas, El Greco, Winslow Homer, Claude Moner, Jackson Pollock, Alexander Calder, Mary Cassatt and Grant Wood.

Every summer about 150 teachers from across the Cornhusker State, take over the Joslyn for a weeklong professional-development institute called Prairie Visions, part of a reform effort by the Getty Education Institute for the Arts to transform the way art is taught in America. Sponsored by the Nebraska Arts Council, the institute is led by a team of professors from the University of Nebraska at Omaha, who train teachers in the theory and practice of discipline-based art education, or DBAE.

The approach takes its name from four disciplines of visual art: art making, art history, art criticism, and aesthetics. Proponents believe all of these are crucial to a comprehensive arts education and should be integrated into the entire K-12 curriculum. This is radical thinking. It would have been nice to see some of the administrators that I've been aquainted with, have some artistic understanding.

The teachers have to give up a week of their summer vacation begaining each day at 8:30 am and last well into the evening. The organizers have shortened it from the original two weeks because they decided it was to much to ask.

A school starts this program by appling for a five year, $550,000 grant from the Annenberg Challenge, the $500 million school-reform initiative founded by former TV Guide publisher Walter Annenberg. When the grant comes through one can sign up all of your collegues. Principals have testified that the staff really comes together in unity which makes a big difference for the students.

Discipline-based art education can be traced to the ideas of educator Jerome Bruner, who in the 1960s argued that students should be given an understanding of the fundamental structure rather than just learn the facts about whatever subject we choose to teach. Manuel Barkan, a Professor at Ohio State University, applied Bruner's ideas to the field of art education.

In 1982, the institute commissioned the RAND Corp. to study the state of art education. In most public schools, the researchers found, art was marginalized to a rainy-day or Friday afternoon activity. It was used as a release from the hard subjects, says Leilani Lattin Duke, founding director of the institute. Superintendents and principals didn't think it had a cognitive payoff, so it wasn't part of the curriculum. Well, we believed that it did belong in the general educational curriculum, for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is that it teaches kids how to think critically and analytically.

The RAND study led to the institutes first report, Beyond Creating: The Case for Art in America's Schools. Meanwhile the Los Angeles Institute for Educators developed the principles of discipline-based art education and tested them. We were looking to see how practical it was to teach this more comprehensive approach to art, their spokesperson said.

After 21 public schools districts were tested, Getty embarked upon a major national reform effort in art education starting in 1987. The trust started seven regional institutes in California, Florida, Minnesota, Nabraska, Ohio, Tennesee and Texas. Getty no longer supports the Minnesota institute however.

In the classroom, DBAE can take many forms. One teacher at a high school in Tallahassee devised the lesson Mona Lissa; What's Behind Her Smile? in which she uses the famous painting as a launching pad to study the life and times of Leonardo da Vinci.

When you walk into a DBAE school you are bombarded visually with artworks all over the halls that reflect different medias, and styles with reproductions hanging in the classrooms. You see students writing about their work and older students writing research papers about works by famous artists. You'll see art used in interdisciplinary and integrated ways in all the other subjects.

35 states have adopted curriculum frameworks that include comprehensive arts instruction. Why hasn't Minnesota supported this effort? The Profile of Learning almost left out art, and added it only after protest.

In November, the U.S. Department of Education released the National Assessment of Educational Progress 1997 Arts Report Card, the country's first extensive test of arts education in 20 years. More than 6,000 8th graders at 268 public and private schools around the country were tested in music, theater, and visual arts. The results of the assessment, which was partially funded by the Getty, were not good.

Most students could not answer questions about works by well known artists and only 6 percent could not create effective or adequate works of their own.

Bill Ivey, chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts, said it was a troubling fact, and U.S. Secretary of Education Richard Riley added we are falling short as a nation. This neglect of arts education is simply inexcusable.

Art is a reflection of a culture. Take a thoughtful look at our's sometime. How can science teachers be so bias that they won't even look into the meanings of other culture in that they won't even consider there could be another theory of our begainings? All are impossible to prove. What other discipline gets away with that? How can a history teacher make a lesson come alive without exhibiting great art works from the era being studied? Don't numbers show the rythmic patterns and order of our world and universe? Aren't great art works inspired by music, philosophy and literature? Isn't it nice to know what George Washington looked like, the most famous national hero of all time?

This article has given me new gumtion to work through the summer on the research project, World Artistic Understanding, which will improve our art curriculum. I hope to interview at least one member of each world view and write an accurate apologetic for each in the form of a theatrical script. An avenue for higher level thinkers and problem solvers will be paved.

This next year, my student's art works displayed in the hallways will be on a much higher level that ever before. They will include answers to questions students are asking about themselves, where they came from, and where they are going in a multiview way. Information will be found for a grant that will fund an artistic education for the staff and superintendent of our school. Can I get a witness?

-- Anonymous, June 03, 1999

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