Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Always the New: Paradigms and the Inherent Futurity of Art Education Historiography

Academic journal article Studies in Art Education

Always the New: Paradigms and the Inherent Futurity of Art Education Historiography

Article excerpt

Even though art education scholar Harold Pearse (1992) suggested almost a quarter of a century ago that art education has entered a "postparadigmatic" era that "goes beyond the bounds of conventional paradigms" in its "perpetual pluralism" (pp. 249-250), the term paradigm has become an accepted part of art education parlance when discussing particular worldviews and historical alterations in the field. Within the past decade, there have been proposals for a "holistic" paradigm in art education (London, 2006), "Earth Education" paradigm in art education (Anderson & Suominen Guyas, 2012), "art practice as research" paradigm in art education (Marshall & D'Adamo, 2011 ), and a "reconceived paradigm for understanding and advocating the relevancy of arts practices in the wake of the Information Age" (Rolling, 2008, p. 1). Moreover, Paul Duncum (2009) suggested that by 2009 the so-called Visual Culture Art Education had "moved beyond a proposal to become a paradigm, albeit still an emerging one" (p. 65).

While the willingness to see art education as a field of multiple co-existing and sometimes conflicting paradigms can be seen as an integral part of the post-paradigmatic condition itself (see Caputo, 1987), the widespread and sometimes inconsistent use of the term has obscured its theoretical application. Indeed, what does it mean to talk about art education paradigms today? What is at stake? Paradigm theory made its appearance in art education research initially as a historiographical tool in the 1980s when, according to art education historian Donald Soucy (1990), there was a will "to go beyond a mere chronological listing of uncontextualized art education ideas" (p. 15) and find ways to understand the sociopolitical and historical situatedness of theories and practices of the field. Even though Soucy (1985) had listed "paradigm approach" as one of the traditional lenses in art education research (p. 13), it was the rising interest toward qualitative and postpositivist research methodologies in the 1980s that turned paradigm from an occasionally used term into a theoretical instrument (see Lather, 1992). Art education scholar Karen Lee Carroll (1997) described the initial interest toward paradigm theory as a desire to see the "bigger picture" (p. 180) of conscious and unconscious beliefs that shape both theory and practice within the field. While Pearse (1983) utilized Habermasian triparadigmatic structure in his analysis, others turned to Thomas Kuhn's The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962/1996) when trying to understand art education paradigmatically (Carroll, 1997; Efland 1992; Efland, Freedman, & Stuhr, 1996; Erickson, 1979; Hamblen, 1985; Kuhn, 1980). Art educators were certainly not alone. Kuhn's characterization of paradigms as "accepted examples of actual scientific practice" that "provide models from which spring particular coherent traditions of scientific research" (Kuhn, 1962/1996, p. 10) offered a firm theoretical basis for researchers in a wide range of disciplines to challenge the deep-ingrained positivism of their research traditions.

Since the 1990s art education historians and researchers have turned their attention from Kuhnian paradigm theory and focused on "invisible histories" (Bolin, Blandy, & Congdon, 2000) and "lesser known stories that have silently but powerfully shaped traditions within the field" (Daichendt, Funk, Holt, & Kantawala, 2013, p. 199). In this respect, to speak about Kuhnian historiography in art education today feels awkwardly dated: it is too embedded in attempts to create an overarching metahistory (cf. White, 1975) that misses the intersectional dynamics of power in historical narratives. While historical research in art education might have moved beyond paradigm theories, the examples above show that the term still remains in use: it continues to make a passing appearance especially when art educators wish to conceptualize a new approach to teaching art or alternatively grasp the difference between the past and the present. …

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