art and teaching
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Date Reviewed: November 29, 2018
This book is a collection of lectures given by Maxine Greene over a period of twenty-five years. Greene, who passed away in 2014, was an outstanding example of the integration of scholarship and the arts, aesthetic education and social thought. As such, this book is for all those who are interested in education and who seek to make their classrooms energetic, immediate, and alive with imagination and critique (vii-viii). It is a book for any educator in any discipline who seeks to embody transformative classroom experiences for their students.
Variations on a Blue Guitar’s introduction and preliminary material familiarizes readers with Greene’s work and her role in the Lincoln Center Institute for the Arts in Education at Columbia University. The book is divided into five sections. The first introduces the reader to aesthetic education. Greene believes that aesthetic education creates different modalities of expression that result in new ways of doing education in the classroom. For Greene, engaging art in education elicits “fresh connections, unsuspected meanings, and. . . continuing discovery” (42).
The second section works through the experience of the imagination and its implications in the classroom. One of the goals of education using art is to suggest alternative realities for the material being discussed. Greene describes concrete, purposeful, and evocative experiences with art. However, she also gives concrete examples of how one can live these experiences in moments of awareness in the natural world (72). Furthermore, she uses examples from literature, visual art, and even the natural world of these moments of awareness where an awakening occurs and one has a new field of perception of reality.
The third section of the book moves from these experiences to the concrete classroom. Greene advocates for including art in active learning, critical questioning, narrative, meaning-making, authentic assessment, collaboration, and community (146). She champions the arts in a world that is increasingly technological and dependent on the internet and computers; some experiences can only be rendered through the arts (172). This emphasis on the arts does not ignore excellence and standards. In fact, art improves classroom standards that appeal to traditional banking models of education.
In the fourth section of this book, Greene describes how minorities are a rich source of creativity and thinking outside the box. Education should strive not to rule others and furthermore it should not classify minorities or put them in hierarchies to silence them (198). Greene’s endeavor to give dignity to often silenced voices is a strength of this book. She states, “[T]he cruelest thing we can do. . . is to categorize young people. . . whether we call it ‘Asian,’ ‘Hispanic,’ ‘African American’” (152).
Overall, this book is beneficial as Greene pushes the reader beyond conventional means of education. It is a helpful resource for teachers in all fields of the discipline as they discover new dimensions of themselves and their pedagogy.
Date Reviewed: July 20, 2018
Sabrina D. MisirHiralall uses Kuchipudi dance rather than Western-based pedagogical and philosophical methodology to educate non-Hindus about her religious tradition. In her text, Confronting Orientalism: A Self-Study of Educating Through Hindu Dance, MisirHiralall describes her journey from learning this style of dance as a young woman to engaging learners in experiencing and thus better understanding the Hindu tradition through an epistemological approach that uses dance as means of dispelling perspectives based on a colonialist point of view and its subsequent influence on modern pedagogy. Her main purpose in doing so is to confront orientalism and address two of the primary lenses through which non-Hindus view what is called Hinduism. The first of these lenses sees adherents such as herself as exotic. The second lens imposes a Western understanding of religion on what she describes as a way of life (174).
In an extensive introductory chapter, MisirHiralall describes personal experiences as a child, and later as a young woman, that led her to consider methodology drawn from traditional ways of learning that utilize dance, storytelling, and music, rather than from texts. Why she has selected dance as the primary means of educating becomes clear; Through dance, the stories that shape the religious life of Hindus come alive. Dance invites her as the educator to present an authentic approach that teaches and informs. Teaching through dance allows her to interact more with the learner in both preparing for and experiencing the dance.
In subsequent chapters, MisirHiralall examines how effective teaching through dance can be and where it may not meet her expectations in overcoming orientalism. In her chapter “The Gazes,” MisirHiralall identifies different kinds of gaze: Imperial, Western male, and sacred. While her main objective is to encourage the sacred gaze, she describes how she continues to be subject to and the subject of the Western male gaze that perpetuates the exotic lens. The concept of gaze can be a complicated and multifaceted one. What she describes about gazes could also be applied to teachers and professors who encounter gazes of interest or disinterest. Gazes from learners are not limited to those she described. Instructors are subject to many types of gazes and are seen through many lenses.
Because this is a self-study, MisirHiralall includes references from her journal and supports her stance on teaching space, gaze, and epistemology with extensive research. Her text invites educators to consider how extensively Western methodology permeates the educational system and what challenges should be faced in overcoming “the illusionary boundaries of the West and the East” (176). This work suggests a way forward by which educators could engage personal assumptions and pedagogical