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Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Musings: Most Recent Missouri Outing

We are blessed to be in a part of Missouri (and the world) in which we have access to numerous conservation areas all within a 30 minute drive from our home.  The photos below were all taken near the river at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area.  The habitat supports a tremendous variety of waterfowl and just across the river, bald eagles can be seen nesting, hunting, and doing other bald eagle type things.

In the off chance that you happen to live around this area and haven't visited this great area, do so immediately--unless it's early morning during waterfowl hunting season, then you should wait.



Sunday, March 28, 2010

Artist of the Week : I'm in the Mood for Caspar David Friedrich

As spring approaches here in Missouri, my better half and I get the urge to frequently travel around the backwoods roads in search of wildlife, new scenery, old buildings, aliens, and new valleys to explore.  South of here, the landscape is rugged and marked with crags, bald hills, and other typical Ozarky type minutiae that always reminds me (to some degree) of Friedrich's work.

Friedrich was a German painter active back in the early 19th century and although his paintings certainly can be evaluated and analyzed via a critical eye with regard to pantheism, the divine element within nature, man's place and struggle with nature, blah, blah, blah, I am going to post them simply with regard to a purely subliminal consideration of their intrinsic beauty.  This post shall be a tribute to the visceral response--"It's pretty!"--which normally sets me on edge for reasons that nobody cares to hear (trust me, I've tried to tell plenty of people). 

"Genie├čen," in the words of the Germans, although I'm not sure which ones exactly,


The Wanderer Above the Mists


The Abbey in the Oakwood


Evening


The Lone Tree


Largeness


Landscape with Oak Trees and a Hunter


Two Men Contemplating the Moon


Monk on the Seashore

All of these images were obtained from http://www.caspardavidfriedrich.org/ on March 28, 2010.  There are plenty more at this great site if you are interested to see more of Friedrich's work.


Friday, March 26, 2010

Artist of the Week: Andy Goldsworthy: Easily One of the Coolest Artists on the Planet

I came across an Andy Goldsworthy book while perusing a bookstore that I desperately wanted but (naturally) could not afford so I'm going to post some of his images here via the power of copy and paste.













Movement, change, light growth and decay are the lifeblood of nature, the energies that I try to tap through my work. I need the shock of touch, the resistance of place, materials and weather, the earth as my source. I want to get under the surface. When I work with a leaf, rock, stick, it is not just that material itself, it is an opening into the processes of life within and around it. When I leave it, these processes continue.  Goldsworthy

Education: From Paulo Freire to Henry Giroux and Back Again

From: http://www.truthout.org/10309_Giroux_Freire accessed March 26, 2010 from an article by Henry Giroux, Rethinking Education as the Practice of Freedom: Paulo Freire and the Promise of Critical Pedagogy
Education is not neutral. It is always directive in its attempt to teach students to inhabit a particular mode of agency; enable them to understand the larger world and one's role in it in a specific way; define their relationship, if not responsibility, to diverse others and to presuppose through what is taught and experienced in the classroom some sort of understanding of a more just, imaginative, and democratic life. Pedagogy is by definition directive, but that does not mean it is merely a form of indoctrination. On the contrary, as Freire argued, education as a practice for freedom must attempt to expand the capacities necessary for human agency and, hence, the possibilities for democracy itself. Surely, this suggests that at all levels of education from the primary school to the privileged precincts of higher education, educators should nourish those pedagogical practices that promote "a concern with keeping the forever unexhausted and unfulfilled human potential open, fighting back all attempts to foreclose and pre-empt the further unraveling of human possibilities, prodding human society to go on questioning itself and preventing that questioning from ever stalling or being declared finished."[9]
I came across the above excerpt when--well-- I can't tell you exactly how I ended up at the above quote because to retrace my steps through the aether of the internet portals that led me there would require more recollection than I am capable of mustering.

I wanted to write about Freire because the NAEA's national conference features him and I have to admit that I know very little about him other than the snippets that were collected over the years during various classes. 

To tackle the topic that is Freire and his legacy is impossible in this forum so instead, I will focus on the above quote from Giroux--not to imply that my response below will necessarily have any relevance due to my tendancy to drift off-topic, but one can hope.

Deconstructivism and other components of the postmodern legacy which promote a critical understanding of society are certainly nothing new within the art education field.  Critical examination of visual imagery present within popular culture can be quite revealing as to who and what is being addressed and whose agenda is best served.  It can be quite revealing as to how pervasive this can be within the advertising field in which the disparity between the constructed ideal of the observed is seldom congruent with the self-image of the one observing.  The trick is to help students understand what is happening beyond the images that they encounter in their day to day life so that they can not fall into the trap of blindly accepting what is presented to them.

I lost the source, but there is evidence that it is a teachable skill--i.e. students can be aided to view the world with a critical eye but it takes someone to make the effort to help them do so.  The same source also stated that students will seldom develop these skills on their own so it is critical that there are role models within our youths' lives that help them out because it is much too easy to walk thorugh life with your eyes closed.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Education: New Study by the NAEA about NCLB's Impact on Art Education--and many many more acronyms for your perusal

The topic of No Child Left Behind legislation and its impact on education has been a topic of interest for me throughout my graduate career. It was the subject of many discussions and many of my papers, so I was definitely interested in the NAEA's report since the research specific to art education, although present, is somewhat lacking. Thank you NAEA for your latest contribution.

A link to the executive summary is here:
http://www.arteducators.org/research/NCLB_Summary_of_Findings_2-10_3.pdf

For the serious ArtEd nerds, the full report is here:
http://www.arteducators.org/research/NCLB_Proj_Report_2-10.pdf

Here is the condensed version via the press release:

Key Findings of the study include:


(1) In the areas of staffing, teaching loads, and enrollments art education programs have experienced limited negative consequences because of No Child Left Behind.

68% of subjects reported that staffing stayed about the same, 65% of subjects reported that teaching loads stayed about the same, 62% of respondents reported that enrollments in their programs had stayed about the same.

(2) No Child Left Behind has created a number of negative affects on art education programs in the areas of scheduling, increased workload, and funding.

67% of subjects reported that art schedules had been affected by NCLB. Although teaching loads (i.e. the number of art classes that art teachers teach) had not been affected, art educators were teaching fewer art classes, because they were required to teach classes in other disciplines, such as language arts and math, provide remediation, or

conduct test preparation in subjects. 58% of respondents reported that their workloads had increased because of NCLB.

While 53% of subjects reported that funding stayed about the same, 43% reported decreases in all areas or in some areas. Funds cut from art programs were redirected toward core classes, for test prep, remediation, and for special needs and low performing students support.

• 63% of respondents reported budget cuts in the funds needed to purchase consumable supplies.

• 34% reported cuts in budgets for instructional resources.

• 4% of subjects reported that all funding for their art education programs had been cut.

• Other funding reductions were experienced in the area of budgets for field trips.

• Those reporting funding cuts reported cuts ranging from 75% (7%) to 5% (7%).

• The average funding cut reported was 30%.

(3) Art educators generally have negative attitudes about the overall impact NCLB has had on art education programming.

The general response participants had about the overall affect of NCLB on their programs was not positive. Art educators in this study, as a group, have negative attitudes about the impact NCLB has had on a number of essential aspects of their programs.

• 67% of subjects felt that NCLB has not helped students in their programs become better learners.

• 75% of subjects felt that the quality of their students work has not improved because of NCLB.

• 89% of subjects felt that NCLB has had a negative impact on faculty morale.

• 61% of subjects felt that NCLB has not made them a better teacher.

• 73% of subjects felt that NCLB has had a negative affect on their attitude about being an art educator.

• 54% of subjects felt that the quality of education in their schools has not improved because of NCLB.

• 71% of subjects felt that NCLB has not had a positive affect on their art education programs.

• 70% felt that the status of art education has not been improved by NCLB.

(4) Some aspects of art education programs have experienced positive affects from NCLB.

Art educators found a number of positive affects from NCLB. As a group art educators feel that NCLB has contributed to making them become more reflective about their programs and their teaching.

Curriculum

68% of subjects reported that their curriculum had been affected by NCLB, including the following areas of both positive and negative impact:

• 60% of subjects reported increased emphasis on national and/or state standards in their curriculum.

• 43% reported spending increased time building or revising their curriculum.

• 38% increased emphasis on higher order thinking in class assignments.

• 65% reported decreased studio time due to increased emphasis on NCLB content in their art classes.

• 36% of subjects reported decreasing art content from their curricula due to increased demands to include language arts and math content in its place in their curricula.

Only 19% reported no changes in their curriculum.

Instructional Practice

• 51% reported that they are more reflective about the effectiveness of their instructional practices.

• 42% reported using more varied instructional methods for instruction.

• 37% reported that they use technology more frequently for instruction than previously.

Assessment

They reported spending more time revising curriculum and instructional practices and increasing their emphasis on assessment of learning in art. 57% of subjects reported that assessment of learning in their art programs had been affected by NCLB.

• Of those 50% reported increasing emphasis on assessment in their art programs.

• 43% reported using more types of assessments.

• 33% reported conducting more assessments.

• 51% negatively reported that they spent more time grading, creating, or explaining assessments to their students, or managing assessment data.

The 3,412 respondents to the survey of visual arts educators were from elementary schools (34%), middle schools (22%), high schools (32%), higher education (7%), supervision and administration (3%) and museum education (2%). Respondents reflected a highly qualified teaching force with 76% of respondents holding graduate degrees and an average of 16.4 years in the profession. Respondents taught in suburban (35%), urban (25%), rural (21%), and town (19%) settings.

NCLB has caused the American public to focus its attention on the purposes of education in the United States and its expectations for the education systems in the nation. As the era of NCLB comes to a close with the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the continued inclusion of the arts as one of the core subjects is more important than ever to have in the legislation as the nation moves forward on a renewed agenda for improving America’s schools. While the arts have been included among the core subjects in this important legislation, they have yet to realize parity in the curriculum with other core subjects. It is hoped that the next reauthorization will not only affirm the importance of the arts as a core subject, but will find ways to support the allocation of federal, state, and local resources to fully realize this important vision for all students.
Source: National Art Education Website accessed March 25, 2010 from: http://www.arteducators.org/research/NCLB_Press_Release_2-10.pdf
http://www.arteducators.org/research/nclb

Artist of the Week: Two Mesmerizing Videos: One by Blu and David Ellis and the other by a solo Blu



Education: Funding for Higher Ed

I came across this article and thought it serendipitous since I was thinking of this very subject just yesterday.

The good, the bad, and the Student Loan Bill


Though conservatives have uniformly opposed the legislation as wasteful, ineffective, and overreaching, the student financing part presents a complicated situation for the conservative mind.

By Derek Turner

Published March 24, 2010

Though many cheers of delight and shrieks of dismay were heard this past Sunday as Obama’s health care reform bill passed in the House of Representatives, there has been relatively little discussion of a component that has nothing to do with health care. Within the 2,000-plus pages of the bill, legislators inserted comprehensive reform of student loans and the Federal Pell Grant program. Though conservatives have uniformly opposed the legislation as wasteful, ineffective, and overreaching, the student financing part presents a complicated situation for the conservative mind.

The bill can be broken down into two parts. First, it removes a major part of the federal student loan system: private banks, which have historically been the “middlemen” for federal student loans. The federal government would offer the loans to the private institutions and insure them against student default. This system worked relatively well, but it cost the government more money to partially subsidize the process. With this bill, the banks are removed from the process, and in their place, the government will directly provide loans to students. This switch will create $61 billion in savings over the next 10 years.

The second part of the bill dictates how that $61 billion is going to be spent. About $30 billion will be spent on increasing Pell Grants (grants given to low-income college students), and about $10 billion will go toward deficit reduction. To sum it up, the government is making the process more efficient and using the proceeds to reduce the deficit and spend the rest on education. Upon regaining my breath after hearing that first bit, I began to think about the pros and cons of this bill from a conservative standpoint.

The streamlining of government is music to the conservative ear. Such consciousness of using the taxpayers’ money in a responsible way is a rarity, and reminders that it still exists in some policymakers’ minds are extraordinarily encouraging. Too frequently, the government makes very little effort to get the most bang for the tax buck. For that reason, among others, conservatives tend to want the government to remove itself completely from many parts of life, since the government seems incapable of achieving a goal in a fiscally responsible way.

However, the manner in which the government is spending the money it has saved through this streamlining sets two strains of conservatives against each other. On one hand, criticism may be in order for the government’s refraining to spend the entirety of the $60 billion on making a dent, however small, in the increasingly frightful national debt. As commentators and market watchers talk about the United States’ losing its AAA credit rating, the debt seems to be worthy of extraordinary attention. Though this specific amount may not have a large impact, it is the attitude of using every penny saved to stem the debt that should be encouraged.

On the other hand, fiscal conservatives may also argue that $10 billion is enough to direct to the deficit and that the recycling of those funds back into education is actually a wise investment in the country’s future. Except for the most libertarian-leaning, most conservatives believe that the government does have a responsibility in the area of education for its citizens. If that’s the case, then being able to maximize expenditures through efficiency would be praised, as would the use of any extra funds allocated for a better or more efficient government role. Additionally, the increase in Pell Grants will give low-income students more opportunities to attend college. From our perspective at Columbia, this could mean even more diversity of experience on campus and more deserving individuals getting the caliber of education that we enjoy.

Despite the many benefits that this reform will bring, the picture is not entirely rosy. The more direct process of giving federal loans opens the door to the bane of conservatism: regulation. In the past, the federal government has had the habit of putting many strings on money that it uses for educational programs. The No Child Left Behind program, which had the government giving money to high-performing schools, is an example. Now that the government will be the only agent giving out federal loans, it may be tempted to involve itself in the workings of the higher education institutions to which these loans will be given. This has a potential for disaster. Most universities in our country do an excellent job of educating, and the lack of regulation promotes the possibility of innovation and development that can make education even better. Should the government start putting strings on student loans to affect university policy, innovation will be cramped, and the quality of higher education could easily decline. But if the government resists that temptation, this could just be the best policy passed thus far in the Obama era.

Derek Turner is a Columbia College sophomore majoring in anthropology and political science. Opening Remarks runs alternate Thursdays.
Source: http://www.columbiaspectator.com/2010/03/24/good-bad-and-student-loan-bill

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