Magazine article Art Education

Using Contemporary Art to CHALLENGE Cultural Values, Beliefs, and Assumptions

Magazine article Art Education

Using Contemporary Art to CHALLENGE Cultural Values, Beliefs, and Assumptions

Article excerpt

What happens when "sambos," "mammies," and "pickaninnies" enter an art classroom? Moreover, what happens when they become subjects of interrogation and challenge preservice art teachers to question their cultural values, beliefs, and assumptions? Art educators, like many other educators born or socialized within the main-stream culture of a society, seldom have an opportunity to identify, question, and challenge their cultural values, beliefs, assumptions, and perspectives because school culture typically reinforces those they learn at home and in their communities (Bush & Simmons, 1990).

Globalization, changing demographics, and other socio-economic factors have led to increased diversity in our various teaching contexts. Differences in race, ethnicity, gender, age, physical abilities, language, sexual identifications, social class, religion, and political beliefs are making teaching not only more exciting but more challenging as well. Though some educators perceive increasing diversity as a problem (Davis, 1993), the growing number of diverse groups of people in our society and educational institutions has created a demographic imperative to which art educators will have to respond.

Challenging Our Values, Beliefs, and Assumptions

Creating and maintaining classrooms that affirm diversity requires an awareness of our worldview. "Worldview" refers to the way in which we look out on the universe (Spradley & McCurdy, 1990). It consists of our values, beliefs, and assumptions, or the way in which we perceive "the Other." "The Other" denotes any cultural group different from ourselves.

As art educators, we need to ask ourselves a number of critical questions that focus on self, students, curriculum and teaching, and the learning environment (Etlin, 1988; Hernandez, 1989; Chalmers, 1996). In Figure 1, I provide sets of questions for such critical reflection. By challenging our values, beliefs, and assumptions, we begin to resist the limitations they impose on our worldview. Because teachers are in a position to model and inspire learners to adopt a critical point of view, an important first step for teachers is to examine and analyze their own values and perspectives (Ford & Dillard, 1996). However, reflexivity is not episodic. It is a process that entails a lifelong commitment to continuous improvement, constant review, and consistent refinement.

Further, teachers need the time and a proper environment that provide for dialogue, reflection, and clarification to bring new meaning, both as teacher and learner (Saavedra, 1996).To that end, during Fall 2001, I taught a graduate seminar focused on self-reflection and values clarification. This special topics seminar, Using Contemporary Art to Challenge, Cultural Values, Beliefs, and Assumptions, arose from a philosophy that incorporated the notion that (a) teaching practices reflect a worldview (Chalmers, 1996); (b) as art educators we need to be clear about the values, beliefs, and assumptions we bring to our work; (c) we need to critically examine these personal and professional values, beliefs, and assumptions; and (d) we need to reflect upon what those values, beliefs, and assumptions mean for our teaching and student learning.

Teacher education programs have the responsibility of preparing preservice teachers for a diverse society.

Multicultural perspectives should not be limited to isolated courses but should permeate every aspect of the curriculum, the goal of which is to increase respect for diversity, reduce racism, and positively affect student learning. Drawing on the works of James and Cheryl Banks (1993, 2000), I use the framework illustrated in Figure 2 to explain some of the various ways in which multicultural perspectives might be integrated into the art education curriculum.

Seminar Goals and Objectives

I designed the seminar based on my experiences as an art teacher, administrator (principal), and university professor. …

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