Letters to the Editor

Article excerpt

Dear Editor,

Thank you for the "Drawing is Basic" article by Jean Morman Unsworth in the November 2001 issue. I share Unsworth's concerns about some of the recommendations in Paul Duncum's article, "What Elementary Generalist Teachers Need to Know to Teach Art Well," Art Education, November 1999.

I teach an art education course at Goshen College for the elementary education majors. I ask them to read Duncum's article and then we discuss the "problems" with accepting his ideas at face value. We use Duncum's categories to help us understand why art learning often happens badly and why there are so many troubled adults and misconceptions about learning art. As you know, in a typical class of education majors there are many students who have had very troubling art instruction as children, but too often they have no notion of how it could have been better. They get teaching jobs, and out of ignorance, they perpetuate the sins of their teachers.

When these students examine the history of their own attitudes, they frequently cite teachers who had them copying, who showed teacher examples, and who taught drawing tricks instead of direct observation. Invariably, they had teachers who used judgmental approaches leaving them totally without motivation to learn art. Sadly, they had no teacher who knew how to teach them art. Their self-image and their role models make them feel incapable of learning art and they cannot imagine themselves teaching art. This article by Unsworth reminds us about what to avoid and what to practice. The good news is that, with a bit of effort, generalists can learn good methods.

Marvin Bartel

Professor of Art, Goshen College

Goshen Indiana

Dear Pat,

I enjoyed the November 2001 issue of Art Education including "Encountering Student Learning" by Mary Hafeli, but I was initially somewhat startled and then amused by the cover reproduction that strongly resembles the enclosed illustration from the third edition of an American drawing manual for children first published in 1814.

The book, Elements of Drawing Exemplified in a Variety of sketches of Parts of the Human Form was drawn and compiled by H. Williams. This edition, consisting of 28 pages, was published in Boston by R. P. C. Williams in 1818. It is one of the earliest known American drawing books expressly intended for children. This copy is owned by The Pennsylvania State University's Special Collections Library, which is a repository for several hundred important American art instruction books and ephemeral materials dating from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. …