Monday, October 09, 2006

Interview with an Art Teacher - Part 2

Yesterday I posted part 1 of an interview with an anonymous art teacher. It can be found below. Here is the conclusion:

MD: Hold on there... do you really anticipate nation or statewide standards for arts education? I kinda think that they won't be able to find the funds to even develop them. But if they did... what would be the process? Who would be writing those standards, and how would they be assessed? The very subjectivity in the nature of art would seem to prohibit it, don't you think?

CV: Not really, I think its too open ended as a subject, but I've heard that to authenticate the art education experience they would be justified to incorporate art related vocabulary and history as part of the test for "art". Now standarized tests are primarily coming out of Princeton where they supposedly have hand picked "top" educators from diverse backgrounds, but in reality these tests are classist in therir scope from the terminology and wording of the very questions that they build these tests upon. It is proven that students score exeptionally higher after taking test prep classes which in most situations clue the students in on the thinking put in the the questions at hand and the answers they are looking for. Many of the questions are worded in a way that multiple answers could be right, but one is extra right. Or terminology that students from the suburbs or countryside might understand, but city dwelling ones would get thrown for a loop just in the vocabulary used within the context of the question. Its all about trickery and learning "their" way of thinking, which is a bunch of classist bullshit. And yes, MD, the subjectivity of art is lost when you try to pin it down in a bunch of historical facts and personalized ideas. History is written by the ones who win the wars, whether it be in the arts realm or weaponry. What would a history book look like if Native Americans had a say in our "heroes of the past" or look at the times of Van Gogh, he wasn't "realized" until long after his death.

MD: That is horrifying. It completely contradicts the purposes of art. The idea works counter to the history of the development of art. And there is a tie-in too, with the accepted structure and paradigms that seem to be pushed in MFA programs... that's bad enough, but now it's gonna be integrated into arts education for children? Talk about stifling possibility.

CV: And Bingo was his name-o... From my perspective as an art educator dealing with young children it is my sole responsibilty to make that 40 minutes some of the most exciting moments they will experience in the school setting. I'm constantly preoccupied with working out how to inspire atounding creativity and personal decision making/critical thinking within my classes. I want them to follow directions, but also I encourage twists to my lesson plans and their own influx of ideas into whatever we are doing. Thats fine that you followed directions, but how is it YOURS. I want all the projects to look different and I constantly tell them that if adults could recapture the magic of childhood they would, but we rarely can and therefore there is a reason kid art looks like kid art and when adults try to capture that whether its Basquiat or our own Kellstadt their is something magical within it. Something we automatically gravitate towards and want to try to interpret.
I am lucky in the fact that for the most part administrators leave me alone because kids like my classes and we produce good looking art.

MD: Being involved in education, but not arts education... I have always had this idealized vision of the arts teaching position. Those guys always seem to be chillin' in their own private neverland. At least in the high school, art is an elective course. The kids in that room chose to be there. And so they seem much more in their own element. And the art teacher is there with, like, Joy Division quietly streaming through their computer speakers. And they get to come to school in casual wear. Ya know, administrators don't have a freakin' clue what "art is". Generally (I would assume), they'd be keeping their paws off of your instruction. Of course that is what makes the whole "standards debacle" so problematic. The idea that we've come so far in that dirtection is scary. Anyway... I have another question I'm curious about. How does having the position you have in a particular community affect the decisions you make in displaying your personal art? What kind of considerations predominate?

CV: Well... Alot of sexually oriented or graphically dark artwork I've been straying away from not because I don't want to make it, but because I don't want to be associated with it in this small community. For the most part I make whatever I want and am not too concerned with having shows and so forth, so some may say i'm not much of a "real" artist. I don't really feel like I need to make art for any other reason than that I want to frickin' make something, whatever that may be. As an adult (shudder) I feel as though I have to watch my back and not get fired for something avoidable, ie. I wear long sleeves to cover my tats and don't really clue anyone in at work when I may show artwork or have something else going on. I'd like to keep my professional and personal life seperate, but in Pittsburgh is hard. I'm running into kids I teach more and more, but I suppose the kids I may run into at such functions would have pretty cool parents, and maybe not...

MD: Well... not to end the interview on an ominous note, but I read recently about an art teacher who was fired because she posed top-less for a fine art photographer. Of course the administration said she was let go "for performance reasons". Yeah, yeah... you and I know that's not the case. Anyways, thanks for taking the time to do this with me, and maybe we'll continue this conversations some other time.

CV: A real pleasure my friend. Thanks.


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