RETHINKING: Preservice Teacher Education

By Rolling, James Haywood, Jr. | Art Education, May 1, 2017 | Go to article overview

RETHINKING: Preservice Teacher Education


Rolling, James Haywood, Jr., Art Education


In January 2017, within the first week following the recent presidential inauguration, the transition team for the new President of the United States began circulating a budget blueprint recommending the complete elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) as an austerity measure to decrease the size of the federal government (Zerega, 2017). Yet, given that expenditures on the arts through the NEAs $148 million budget represent only about 0.025% or three one-hundredths of one percent of federal non-defense related discretionary spending (NEA Arts Investment Fact Sheet, 2017), it's reasonable to ask why, in this day and age, the arts and design practices are still being left behind in top-level educational policy considerations and in their apparent relevancy to the everyday concerns of common U.S. citizens?

Very simply, those who readily dismiss public funding support for the arts as a national priority or social necessity also have little reason to value a meaningful art education for our nation's schoolaged population. This is because our mental models become the stories we live by. The current status of the arts and art + design education is the product of a paradigm of valuation reinforced every time a famous painting is auctioned off at Christie's or Sotheby's for a new record multimillion dollar amount, every time we tape one of our children's drawings to the refrigerator and tell them how pretty it is without asking what it means, every time we are reminded by a museum guard to maintain a safe distance lest we brush against an original work by a famous artist, every time we go as a tourist to buy a piece of the local flavor as a souvenir. I am referring to the general perception that art is a commodity shaped by lone creative geniuses detached from common concerns-precious objects to be collected or commissioned, displayed either as decoration or tokens of power, artifacts handcrafted and polished only to be bartered over in the marketplace. Works of visual art are thus modeled to the masses as private merchandise, cultural capital, or staid family heirlooms-strangely inert objects in an Information Age that prioritizes streaming data, high download speeds, hyperlinks, and multiple windows-based graphical user interfaces operating simultaneously to provide for the most visceral and interactive entertainments possible.

A second prevailing perception is that visual art is little more than another form of self-expression or cultural performance, clearly at odds with a knowledge economy that prioritizes tangible and consistently measurable outcomes over those that are abstract, open to interpretation, or productive of widely varying emotional responses.

Accordingly, such strong public perceptions have long-term consequences. Moreover, the entrenched dismissiveness and underestimation evidenced in the current public perception toward both the arts and art + design education will likely continue to convert to crucial policy decisions affecting both what the readers of Art Education do for a living and to simply feel alive. Ralph Smith (1978) described policy as an enterprise "always addressed to actions" (p. 37). In other words, policy-makers and legislators call it as they see it, designing policies that "determine, organize, regulate, or systematize activities in order to bring about that state of affairs which marks a policy's purpose" (Smith, 1978, p. 37, emphasis in original). What then is the role of the classroom art instructor and their preservice teacher educators in creating learning outcomes that provoke policy-makers and legislators to rethink the way they see the art + design practices, so that a supportive state of affairs is constructed for the ensuing generation?

In this issue of Art Education, Christina Bain and Joana Hyatt rethink how best to help their preservice students better understand the complexities of pedagogical practice through scenarios grappled with in their Worst Case Scenario Art Game, drawn from authentic teaching experiences of experienced art teachers. …

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