Thursday, June 13, 2013

where do "big ideas" come from?

        Who, what, when, where and how do art teachers manage to come up with goals for my child's education? Although this may seem like a mystery for many parents, there is no real mystery to it at all. Goals or Big Ideas in the classroom are derivative of many sources. Parents can learn to think and analyze these goals by considering first the multiple origins of those ideas woven into the thinking processes of art educators who write lesson plans. 
  • Human instinct or natural survival are popular sources in the development of big ideas. Parents can recognize these by noting objectives that have to do with fine motor skills and the basic manipulation of materials. These objectives are seen as fundamentally necessary with all people no matter where they come from or what they believe in. Often times state schools encourage their teachers to pursue these goals above all others because it means that they will not need to worry about displeasing parents from culturally diverse backgrounds. However, a teacher who avoids teaching big ideas from any other resources besides these, avoids teaching his students to think about the why of art and this ultimately is a inferior art education. The best art education is based upon a healthy diet including a variety of influences.
  • Social or Community Values are usually those politically hot topics driven by all kinds of people from a wide variety of cultures. These big ideas will test the metal of an art teacher. How to teach variety without teaching in a condescending way and without insulting the intelligence of the parents and students in their care, becomes very important in the writing and deliberation of these lesson plans. A good teacher will be very selective here. Remember, no matter what you believe, there will always be someone who is insulted by it somewhere. Students need to be challenged and appreciative of differences in people in order to receive the highest form of art education. My reason for arguing this lies in the fact that students who learn to process through a wide variety of opinions while still maintaining the enduring qualities of their own beliefs are smarter, stronger, and ready to take on many of life's challenges. It is wonderful to keep little ones innocent but this does not mean that they should be naive. I understand that people often use these two words interchangeably but that is not how I am comparing the two. 
To be naive in my experience means that a student lacks wisdom and is easily misled.
To be innocent means that one maintains cultural values that dictate moral convictions.
  • The media or the marketplace are often categorized under visual culture in many teaching publications. However, I have listed them apart from the visual culture defined by social groups or from community values. My reason for doing this is because I believe that popular media often represents a powerful subgroup within a specific political party or belief system. These influences may also be, quite frankly, economically driven or laced with some other form of prejudice. The origins for big ideas based upon a wealthy, smaller population that means to influence or propagate private agendas may cause cultural havoc on young impressionable minds. It is probably better to save these lessons for mature students.
  • Big ideas have always included some personal agenda in the designing of lesson plans. Personal agenda does not need to be seen as negative. For example; if an art teacher is a sculptor and not a painter, this may increase the number of sculptural lessons that he will teach to your child.  Most teachers educate with those resources that they feel most comfortable with. However, there can be great negativity in personal agendas. If an art teacher does not believe that he has not benefited greatly in his choice of career, he may not teach art with the enthusiasm necessary to encourage your child or to believe in himself.
  • Genetics influence art education but to what end we are not very certain. There has been little study in this field in terms of art education as of yet. However, we are aware that the chromosomes specific children receive from their parents do directly influence the way in which they process creative information. Not only do Gardner's theories of education have much to do with this concept but those students born with a disability or who are particularly gifted may also influence the way a teacher writes and implements an art lesson plan.
  • Human History influences big ideas tremendously in nearly every lesson plan that your child will be taught. The obvious lessons are those that are based upon a specific artist or a past event.
  • Big ideas influenced by philosophy are often categorized as forms of indoctrination. Students are taught to follow and accept those principles common to a particular school of thought or art movement.
  • Big ideas specific to psychosomatic education are commonly referred to as age appropriate materials or gender specific materials. Psychosomatic education relies heavily on socialization as well as genetics so this is why I have included it on this list in addition to genetics.
article by Kathy Grimm copyrighted 2012