Home Forums Dialogue Portal Dialogue Portal: Part 4 5. CULTURALLY-RESPONSIVE

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    5. CULTURALLY-RESPONSIVE: Do you think that present-day art curriculum is culturally responsive to issues of gender, race, age, sexuality and disability issues?


    I do not believe that present day art curriculum is diverse enough nor does it embrace gender, age, sexuality, and disability. The community and school district are afraid of what may be generated in a care-free environment to create art and explore and test boundaries. For me as a middle school teacher, my curriculum and boundaries are set by the surrounding community and parents. If I encouraged students to work outside the curriculum and encouraged issues of gender, race etc… my voicemail and inbox would be overflowing with concerns and complaints from parents, and administration. I do not think that art curriculum today equally addresses these important issues, and I strongly feel we are slighting our students by not encouraging them to explore these boundaries and topics and only providing them with a less broadened view of the arts.


    I believe present-day art curriculum is culturally responsive to issues involving gender, race, age, sexuality and disability. Art is one of the most versatile disciplines and students have access and ability to create what is meaningful and significant to them. Students will relate to and relay whatever message is important to them, either through their artwork or through means that they find comfortable. A curriculum must be adhered to and followed but student artists have the ability to create and manipulate whatever material and project is presented. Art education is watching each student take on the creative process as an individual, every single day, and being there to support and guide them along the way. It is important as an educator to differentiate instruction as needed.


    Amen to your response. I too believe that present day art curriculum is not diverse enough to embrace gender and sexuality in a free and expressive manner as art is meant to be. In the same breath, being a middle school teacher and parent, I understand the concern parents might have with a curriculum that introduces expressive ideas of sexuality and gender to this age group. For me, a high school setting would be better suited to explore all issues of gender, sexuality, and disability. Even then, there is the fine line of over-stepping boundaries in the public school system. We live in a society where no one, particularly teachers, are allowed to criticize or comment on something or someone for fear of being discriminating toward a group or individual. As mentioned in KStamm’s post, the floodgates would open.
    In the school where I teach, some disabilities are recognized and are integrated into the art curriculum. We have a class dedicated to the IU students and all the emotional support students are a part of an art class as part of their regular class studies. Some might view it as being “the easy class” to integrate these students into but it is a valuable class for these students.
    I feel that present-day art curriculum is definitely more open to diverse topics at the higher level forms of learning where maturity is developed and expression is embraced.


    I don’t feel it is culturally responsive at all, but I feel strongly that it needs to be. I feel that present-day curriculum is focused on the products our students create and how much we can incorporate the facts into their assignments.
    The ability to explore through the arts is incredibly important. Allowing students to focus on issues of gender, race, age, sexuality, and disability within the arts will offer them the chance to truly connect with that which they are creating, and therefore the techniques and history behind their media and ideas. It would be incredibly beneficial for curricula to migrate towards cultural-responsiveness.


    I believe it mentions these contexts but never really goes in-depth. This could be due to the fact nobody in public schools want to talk about issues of gender, race, age, sexuality, and disability because it could be inappropriate. Because of all the negative experiences where teachers have taken it too far which unfortunately happens, it may be hard to convince your school to have discussions about these topics. However, they are important and are significant to our culture.

    Jacqueline Geiple

    I agree with both of the above responses. I believe our curriculum provides the potential for such issues, but it is rarely addressed at all, and if so, usually glossed over to avoid any problems. I believe the arts are a great place for these discussions to take place, because so many of these issues can be addressed through art, however, that puts a lot of trust on your students’ maturity and sensitivity levels. You can’t assume that all of your students are going to be mature and respectful to those around them, and you don’t want to be responsible for offensive comments or any other problems. However, I feel that if these issues become a more integrated part of the curriculum from early on, then students will be much more prepared to have open and respectful discussions for more serious issues down the road. There is a shift in our culture in general at the moment, but it is a very split-shift. It seems that half of our culture is very receptive and open to these discussions, while the other half directly opposes and fights them…that strong polarization makes it even more challenging.


    I agree with Jacqueline about maturity playing an integral role when race, gender, sexuality and disabilities are addressed in our present day curriculum. Teaching middle school students brings challenges in those areas because they are still trying to figure out where they fit in society. Questions arise and assumptions are created and answered usually not by the parent/guardian but rather the friends they associate with. As an educator, it is our responsibility to clear their vision and bring awareness (very carefully) so that there are no assumptions or stereotypes being formed. In our 21st Century world, I feel that this is where avatars can help break those barriers in the classroom. The avatar allows students to do things they might not normally do (whether it’s because of a disability or fear of acceptance). I think that challenges in the curriculum involving race, gender, disability and sexuality will always exist but to eliminate some question and bring awareness is the goal.


    In regards to music education, which as director of education for orchestras is where my main experience lies, as well as having been a “band mother” for nine years, I have not observed any attempt at cultural responsiveness to issues related to any of the mentioned areas: gender, race, age, sexuality and disability. There may be programs in the field that do address those issues, but I haven’t observed them. Music education is narrow and highly focused; which is understandable in regards to the level of proficiency required to play an instrument at even an intermediate level. Still, it troubles me that there is so little emphasis on developing other qualities, such as empathy and multiple perspectives. Often music students, and even professional players, have under developed social skills, and due to the intensely narrow focus on gaining facility in performance techniques, musicians often find it challenging to make spontaneous connections between their art form and other subjects and disciplines. This model is slowly changing, but the emphasis is on slow. Another lack that is present in many K-12 music programs, as well as college level programs is creative exploration. Composition is often neglected in the curriculum. This is not the case if students pursue jazz, but classical and jazz typically follow different curricular strands. Another problem, is that band and orchestra teachers are often beset with a burdensome requirement for winning contests and competitions; this is especially true in Texas, where band programs are not just large, they are enormous. Along with this highly competitive element in the area of ensemble performance, is an emphasis on solo competition and solo performances. Many orchestra musicians suffer from having been isolated for decades in practice rooms in order to gain the necessary mastery of their instrument to compete in the professional orchestra world. I believe this all has a debilitating effect on the orchestral field, leading to a lack of vision and ability to collaborate. The orchestra, itself, is built on a patriarchal model that encourages authoritarian behavior and responses. The music director or conductor has complete control and the section musicians have little or no say in the interpretation of any given piece. This allows for great synchronicity, but not a great deal of creativity, empowerment or spontaneous expression.


    I agree with what everyone else is saying, I think we are missing opportunities to connect art, any one of the disciplines, to broader human themes, as well as to particular human conditions. I see it in music education; the focus is narrow and just about the art form itself, and not even that in any contextual manner.


    I do feel that present day art curriculum is overall much more culturally responsive to issues of gender, race, age, sexuality and disability issues. As an elementary art teacher I, for the most, part steer clear of sexuality issues, but I do feel that most teachers at this time have been making efforts to improve and are continuing to try to grow in their abilities to touch on these areas through their art curriculum. Most of the teachers I know go out of their way to introduce many female artist as well as artists of varying races. Chuck Close is a great artist to use when discussing various disability issues. I think that art is a powerful tool for addressing these topics due to the amazingly wide variations of art and artists that we have to draw from when teaching. I would say that you can literally think of at least a handful of artists that can relate to each of these topics in some way. It just goes to show that art is everywhere and relates to everything in our lives. I really do think that there has been a movement in art education to use the broadness, the flexibility and obvious creativity of our “subject area” to address these issues that really need to be dealt with and can have a huge impact on the lives of our students.

    Lance Rautzhan

    It depends on how much a given state funds its schools and how much of that money is geared toward new technology. Incorporating new technologies and the internet into the art classroom makes possible collaboration with students anywhere in the world. In collaboration there is kinship and understanding that bridges cultural divides. So, school administrators should be taking the possibility of breaking down cultural barriers with new technologies into their budget considerations. A student in a predominantly white rural high school who is introduced through a collaborative online project to a student in Kenya is better served than if they are isolated in a bubble. For me, the art room was always a place of equality and understanding. That mantra can be perpetuated by the internet and new technologies that connect us globally.


    When thinking about how my curriculum addresses the issues of gender, race, age, sexuality and disability I am immediately drawn to wondering why these are the key issues that we are concerned about? Is it because these are the issues that our students are interested in? Or is it because we are teaching with social justice in mind? Is it really the art teachers job to explain and expose our students to such issues? Or are we just using education to further our own individual perspective?

    I believe that the art curriculum and the lessons that I present address each of these issues but only when they need to. I do not go into my lessons with the intent to teach my students what I believe is important in the world. I go into my lessons and I teach with the intent to get to know my students curiosities and take what THEY think is important in the world and provide them with the chance to explore and create based off of their own issues. The curriculum over all looks at the individual student and is presented/worded in broad terms so that the teacher can tailor their lessons and units to what those students need. This is not just a matter of differentiation for different learning styles, but it is differentiating to engage a population that is different from each other and different from me. I believe that the topics listed are extremely sensitive to my 6th grade students and if I presented too many perspectives at once, they would feel overwhelmed and their insecurities would only deepen. I think that by extracting one or two of the topics that are relevant to the students, it provides a safer space for the students and the teacher to participate in discussion and creation together.

    Kerry R

    I think that the consciousness is changing to be more culturally responsive – certainly not perfect, but changes in policy and awareness are gaining traction. In my line of work within the arts community, we have a policy on cultural inclusiveness that I am proud to do my best to implement. The arts are the way to ignite and implement recognition. I’m encouraged to learn that several leaders in environmental education are embracing the arts as a way to integrate the importance of aesthetics into curriculum. A local college near me has grouped outdoor environmental projects aimed at restoration with art courses so that the disciplines can work together to create beautiful and sustainable surroundings, each learning the value that the other expertise brings to projects. Steps in the right direction!

    Liz Leslie

    I think that present-day art curriculum can do a much better job of being culturally responsive to issues of gender, race, age, sexuality and disability issues. I try to talk about these issues in my classroom whenever possible. For instance, this week in distance learning, students in first grade are reading the book Violet the Pilot which centers on a female main character who is an inventor and a pilot. Still, Violet is portrayed as a freak who no one will befriend because she is different. I think there is so much more we can do to honor these issues, but the constraints of time, behaviors, grading, observations, and other things can get in the way of a well rounded curriculum.

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