Pupil Interests Vitalize the High School Art Curriculum

By Tyler, Katharine | School Arts, October 2001 | Go to article overview

Pupil Interests Vitalize the High School Art Curriculum


Tyler, Katharine, School Arts


A DYNAMIC concept of art education demands a hook-up of pupil interests in the ever-changing and growing curriculum. To make our art courses vital, we should feature the phases of art which interest the high school pupil, offering varied classroom activities which relate closely to life experiences. Our concern is to connect the experiences of pupils in school with the uses of art in everyday life, giving them the essentials of good art planning for life needs, such as in the home, garden, clothing, neighborhood, city. We know that appreciative understanding is an experience for the pupil. Time allotted to appreciational opportunities should be proportionate to their importance as a major objective in art education.

* Dr. Judd says, "It has been the contention of the art educators that pupils learn to appreciate by being trained in the production of art. The school has aimed to make pupils discriminating in enjoyment of art by giving exercises in art. The difficulty with emphasis on production as a means of cultivation of appreciation is that teachers lose sight of the real purpose of production and make it an end in itself." The report on art instruction of the National Survey of Secondary Education shows that too much pupil time is allotted for the development of skills. Mr. Hilpert explains in this report that curriculum content and standards should be based on the needs of all pupils, and not on the abilities of a few talented pupils. He says that there is need for increased opportunity to use tests and measurements to estimate imaginative and creative capacity, because these qualities rather than skill and technique are essential for art expression and appreciation.

* What high school pupils enjoy and like is a legitimate guide for art lesson content, and the curriculum maker should always plan subject matter based on pupil interests, needs, and abilities. Fifteen years ago John Dewey quoted Rousseau as having said, "The whole of our present method is cruel, for it consists in sacrificing the present to the remote and uncertain future." Dewey was a pioneer in realizing that the aims based on subject matter which was expected to function in the pupil's adult life are not vital. He saw the pupil, rather than the subject matter, as the center of education, and he saw educational aims in terms of the development of the capacities and needs of the pupil.

* Today, the aims of art education relate to present interests and needs. This education will give the power to feel, think, will, and act in vital relation to life. Bobbitt explains that the curriculum should give pupils the chance to live fully and the ability to produce in practical ways. It should unfold the potential nature of the individual. Education is not a matter-of-fact learning, but is a reconstruction of experience to meet a new need. Art in education means a creative activity. Mere exhibition of development of pupil skills in technique is dangerous. Mere drawing of the imitative sort is questionable. Of first importance is the pupil's interest and impulse to draw, to compose, to objectify his feelings through art. Principles of art should be discovered through experiences in working with the imagination, and the environment. Outlines and courses of study are now more flexible, allowing teachers freedom to focus attention on the pupil as an individual, so that whatever is done means something to him, and he will be able to see advantages in his mastery of every lesson. This is easiest when interest is centered on life needs.

* The International Exhibition of Children's Paintings held in New York, and later seen on tour of the larger cities of America, was studied by those interested in art education as creative expression. It represented the first international group of paintings by children which had ever been assembled, the pictures having been secured from forty different countries. …

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