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By Bridgette Waldau

History of Art Education In Schools

Showcasing T he Arts

Art education in schools was a thing practically unheard of two centuries ago. It was endorsed by Benjamin Franklin in 1749 in his Proposed Hints for an Academy, but art training for students in America started around the turn of the 19th century.

“We know from long experience that no one can claim to be truly educated who lacks basic knowledge and skills in the arts.” -National Art Education Assoc.

Public school art education in America during the 1800s emphasized drawing skills to keep pace with the other countries during the industrial revolution. This early art curriculum was ‘freehand drawing.’ In art education, two different approaches emerge. Some educators call for a rigidity and practical learning while others foster natural, creative expression. Both methods become the foundation for practices and theories, continuing for years to come. The turn of the century in 1900 brought the study of great pictures, usually historical or sentimental. These were the seeds of art history and the art criticism in the public schools. Before World War I, education is focused on the continual development of industry. School administrations model their management after the efficiency of work plants. Students are seen as products, so art often fails the test of cost-efficiency. There is change within the United States from 19311950 , which is reflected in the educational system. Art education plays a major role in the Progressive Education. The independent nature of democracy is the foundation of Creative Self Expression, which dominates teaching methods of the time. The arts once again find a place within American education. Art education in the 1950s is greatly influenced by the global social context of the time. Sputnik inspires a push toward a curriculum infused with math and science. Creative self-expression is viewed as a way to increase creative thinking skills in math and the sciences. 1960-69 is a turbulent decade in American history. Art education is entering one of its most dynamic time periods. Research in art education increases dramatically and dozens of conferences and seminars are held regarding developments in art education.

Heartland LIVING

August September 2014


The twenty-year period between 1970-1990 is marked by public concern with social issues, demonstrations and unrest. Many of the movements in art education during this time are rooted in prior educational reform movements. During the 1980s the Getty Center for Education

in the Arts began supporting a comprehensive approach to art. It was called, Discipline Based Art Education. This comprehensive program includes four areas of academy study and disciplines – art history, art criticism, aesthetics and studio. The national standards were created at this time and continue to be used today as a basis for creating art lessons in the classroom. With the passage of the Goals 2000: Educate America Act, the national goals are written into law, naming the arts as a core, academic subject--as important to education as English, mathematics, history, civics, geography, science and foreign language. Art education trends in America come in cycles and familiar ideas reappear with a new twist or title. How educators teach art has become increasingly important and also widely debated. The twenty-first century may resolve long conflicts by introducing art education theories and practices that mesh together both content and self-expression. Through national school reform and arts infusion, art education K-12 should evolve into a comprehensive method to help educate the whole child. ¢

Heartland Living Aug-Sept Issue 2014  
Heartland Living Aug-Sept Issue 2014  

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