The Individual and Art Curriculums in Public Schools

Christine Alfery

Posted on September 13 2022

The Individual and Art Curriculums in Public Schools

Featured image: Linus II

I have always been a teacher, in many ways, not just art.  Since I began teaching a long time ago, one of the main concerns that I have about education is the control and governance of the educator, the curriculum, and ideologies.  I have never felt that ideologies belonged in education. Why?  Because they are subjective.  If you teach to the individual and ideology then it takes a “forever” timeframe for the individual to learn about themselves.  Perhaps, that is why I always gravitated to art.  In art, we have always taught to the individual not a room full of students or a group.  

Towards the end of my teaching in schools, I saw that many so-called “problem” students throughout all grade levels, did just fine in the art class.  Why?  I personally believe that it is because we worked with the individual, the individual’s history, and their interests.  I also personally believe that many curriculum educators realized this and would send many so-called troublemakers to the art class just so they could get enough credits to be able to graduate from high school.  Rarely, and I honestly mean rarely, were these students a problem in the art room.  Why? Because we taught, and have for as long as I have been teaching to the individual.    

As far as norms for basic group rules, in my classroom, I have always taught respect for the individual even if you disagree with them.  What I taught in my classrooms I describe in my series “The Middle Is Not Grey.”

The inspiration for writing this musing was that I subscribe to academic journals and frequently read the academic writings of students that I went to graduate school with.  I just read an academic paper written by one of them, who is now a tenured professor in a major big 10 school.  I found no mention of the individual in her paper and only a critique of why curriculums don’t work in group/classroom teaching, and suggestions for thinking differently.  Thinking differently for me would be to think about the individual in her critiques.  It would be a major shift for many curriculums, but not the art curriculums.

Today, many in the art arena are fighting for the individual, and many are asking for art to be taught differently.  This will be the loss of the individual throughout all curriculums if this happens.  A sad situation for our culture.

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