Concerns in Secondary Art Education

Article excerpt

Last spring, following the 1996 NAEA convention in San Francisco, I received a letter from Denise E. Jennings, Secondary Division Director. During the convention, secondary art educators had identified five major issues. As I read the list, I found myself nodding in approval at their choices:

*Implementation of The National Visual Arts Standards at the local level; Why? How?

*The role of assessment in the local art program; Methodology? How to use assessment to strengthen and build support for art programs?

*Interdisciplinary approaches to the visual art curriculum; Using art as a central focus in the high school curriculum.

*Incorporating art history, art criticism, and aesthetics] into the art curriculum. Teaching methodology, most effective practices, instructional materials?

*Technology in the art curriculum; Why? How? After I read Denise's letter, I thought about these concerns in relation to manuscripts submitted for our journal. During the past few months only one submission addressed the National Standards for Arts Education (1994) and none focused on assessment of student learning. The third and fourth concerns have fared better among prospective authors; many of the manuscripts I receive describe interdisciplinary approaches to teaching or ways to extend the curriculum beyond studio instruction through inclusion of art history, art criticism, and aesthetics. In terms of technology, the journal was on solid ground, having addressed this theme in the November 1996 issue.

Nonetheless, I was troubled. If these are the five major issues that concern secondary art specialists across the country, why haven't we seen more discussions of those issues in manuscripts submitted for the NAEA's own journal? Are these issues only of interest to secondary art teachers, but not to art educators in other divisions? Via e-mail, Craig Roland reports that responses to a survey showed that downsizing, overcrowded classroons, and low budgets are key issues for Florida art teachers. Implementing national standards, new assessment models, and technology were further down their list. Perhaps issues differ from region to region, with teachers who attend national conventions becoming more aware of national concerns than those who focus their energies locally.

It is easy to get caught up in the day-to-day concerns of teaching in one high school (or middle or elementary school). The decisions of the local school board have more immediate impact on our lives than policies set at a national level. Good teachers are busy responding to the pressing needs of their students. Articles published in professional journals may appear unconnected to the realities of art teachers' lives. Karen Hamblen (1989) characterized earlier art education research as random, diverse, limited in scale, instigated by individuals who rarely collaborated with other researchers. For a variety of reasons, art educators tend to value individuality over community. Sometimes, researchers and writers seem to be presenting monologues to a limited audience, rather than engaging in an extended conversation with the larger professional community.

This month the National Art Education Association begins a year-long celebration of its 50th anniversary. In July 1947 representatives of the Western Arts Association, the Eastern Arts Association, the Southeastern Arts Association, and the Pacific Arts Association met with representatives of the National Education Association Art Department to establish the National Art Education Association. …