November 2010


Art Ed Grad Students Debate Aristos Article

To the Editors:

My graduate students in an entry-level "methods of art ed" course have just finished reading and responding to Michelle Kamhi's article "Modernism, Postmodernism, or Neither?" (Aristos, August 2005).

It pushed so many of their buttons! It was wonderful to watch them debate each other and grapple with their belief systems and hegemonic notions about art and art education in relation to this text. Prior to our discussion, a few of them even did extensive research in Aristos in an effort to defend their own positions regarding the article.

This article, more than any other so far, has really sparked their thinking and responses. As a result, the students are very curious about Ms. Kamhi's current positions and views. If she would be interested in engaging with them, I could collect their responses and share them with her via email. My thanks to her for her contributions to our field.

Tracie Glazer, M.S.Ed.

Tracie Glazer is a Visiting Instructor and Director of the Saturday Art Program at Nazareth College in Rochester, New York.

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Michelle Kamhi replies:

Nothing would give me greater pleasure than to talk with Mrs. Glazer's students, and I very much look forward to the class discussion, scheduled for December 9th.

Former NAEA President Condemns Aristos

Louis Torres replies:

One of the harshest letters of criticism we have ever received was from Susan Gabbard--a past president of the National Art Education Association and currently director of fine arts for the Oklahoma City Public Schools--in response to Michelle Kamhi's Wall Street Journal article on "social justice art education." Though she did not submit her letter for publication, and did not respond to our invitation to NAEA members to let their views be known publicly in our Forum on Social Justice Art Education, I think it imperative to report on her comments and respond to them here.

Addressing Michelle Kamhi and me as "you people at Aristos," Ms. Gabbard accused us of having a "narrow view" of the NAEA and of being so "jazzed" about the "hot topic" of social justice--the theme of the organization's 2010 convention--that we "ran with it." Not the way I would put it, but it is true that we deplore the emphasis on "social justice" in K-12 classrooms by art teachers with no professional training in political science or sociology, who ought to stick to teaching art--that is, art history and the rudiments of drawing, painting, and sculpture.

Ms. Gabbard claimed that we "think and promote" that social justice is a "mantra" for all NAEA members. She also wondered if we recalled any of the other conference themes over the past sixteen years (yes, we do, as we have been members for nearly a decade). In addition, she attached a list of them for us "to ponder [our] next assault against the majority of [NAEA] members who are hard-working teachers in American schools all across the country." In making such a charge, she ignores that Michelle Kamhi clearly stated the following in her Wall Street Journal article:

I doubt that many, much less most, of the NAEA's 20,000 or more members share the radical viewpoint of [Dipti] Desai [who directs the art education program at New York University's Steinhardt School]. . . . But it is all too common among those training the next generation of teachers, as well as among those in leadership positions in the association.

Kamhi elaborates on this point in her article "The Great Divide in Art Education" in the present issue of Aristos.

"[Your views are] just your opinion," Ms. Gabbard observed, "and we do still live in a free country the last time I checked." We agree about the "free country." That's why we called for open debate on the social justice issue and made space available for it in Aristos (see the Forum in the current issue). Ms. Gabbard then remarked "your ivory tower must not have an exit." "When," she asked, "is the last time you spent a week teaching K-12 school?" Speaking for myself, that was in June 1982, when I ended a sixteen-year career in public and private education--first as a sixth-grade teacher for one year, then as a high school English teacher.

During the 1970s I developed and taught elective courses in art and music appreciation under the auspices of the English department (the courses featured essay writing) at Indian Hills High School in Oakland, N.J. If Ms. Gabbard had bothered to check, she could have read about my art-related teaching in "About the Editors" on the Aristos website. She could have also learned of it in the section on "Teaching the Arts to Children," in Chapter 15 of What Art Is--which includes a detailed description of the method I employed, first in exposing students to art (painting and sculpture), then teaching them how to deepen their enjoyment and appreciation of it.