International Journal of Art & Design Education

What is Art Education Doing?

Volume 6.3   1987



In this paper the author maintains that expression and meaning in art, as in any other sphere of human activity, are logically tied to a public context and tradition. Concentration on spontaneity, novelty and self-expression, typical of the child-art period led inevitably to a self-generating interior tradition of art in schools which has an inadequate and at best superficial relationship with the public traditions of art. In so far as this situation obtains, it not only gravely undermines many of the fundamental justifications for art education, it also means that the majority of pupils leave school with little or no interest or understanding of art of today or any other age. The advocacy of critical studies with 'appreciation' as its watchword has a basically sound philosophical justification. However, this view has radical implications for practice and although positive work is being done, changes to method and content become only short-lived fashions unless they have a sound conceptual base. Most of the arguments in this paper are to do with questions of justification. It attempts to address the general question: What is art education doing? It suggests that not only should the persistent notions that linger on from earlier ideological periods be subject to rigorous examination, so too should the currently popular 'critical studies'.