Thoughts About a Core Curriculum in Art

John Lancaster
1979, Vol. 11, No. 2,

Abstract


It appears to me as I visit schools that a great deal of the art teaching that I see is done intuitively as though those responsible do not have a plan of campaign. Of course, I might be quite wrong, but one of my Associate Tutors at the University of Bristol, a head of an art/design department in a large comprehensive school who also does some work in the Postgraduate Certificate in Education Division, is carrying ou t some research as an advanced student. He has been to a number of schools and his observations tend to show that many art teachers haven't rationalised their thoughts about what to teach and why. They think-up an idea, or pluck one from somewhere as they walk to school, and, 'bingo', things are supposed to happen.

What is their curriculum rationale? Do they take the easy way ou t by permitting their pupils to do what they like or by allowing them to copy photographs so tha t creativity and learning processes are minimised? Do they, indeed, su bject their pupils to what can be a kind of art therapy, or what could be termed 'therapeutic knitting'? There appears to be quite a lot of evidence pointing this way and it is just not good enough. Secondary pupils ought to expect and be given something more. What do we say to a headteacher who asks, for instance: 'What is art teaching about? Why can't my pupils draw? Surely every artist can and should be able to depict things graphically'?

Twelve months ago I held a conference for secondary art specialists whose theme was Should there be a Core Curriculum in Art?"; A great deal of argument was generated both 'for' and 'against' this topic, and as a tutor I felt I had to keep a balanced viewpoin t, a position that is increasingly difficult to maintain. Perhaps as I get older I begin to see the traditionalists's point of view a little clearer and this certainly conflicts with the views I held some years ago. In my earlier days as a teacher I wanted nothing but excitement in the art room, with experimentation being the 'core' of creative activities, and although I still hold the view that experiment is useful and right as an element in the creative process and that it encourages originality of thinking and inventiveness on the part of young people, I feel it must be carefully controlled so that the art curriculum is not over balanced towards it. I ask myself increasingly: should more emphasis be placed on the teaching and acquiring of skills and techniques? Has the imaginative and widely acclaimed aspect which tended to follow the Marion Richardson era had its day?


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