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  • On Reviewing: A Response to Mary Ann Stankiewicz
  • Ralph A. Smith, Professor Emeritus

I very much appreciate the positive comments made by Mary Ann Stankiewicz in her review published in Studies in Art Education of my Readings in Discipline-Based Art Education: A Literature of Educational Reform.1 I was gratified to read that she believes the volume is a comprehensive and valuable guide that all art educators should own as a reference source for the intellectual history of American art education in the late-twentieth century. Stankiewicz further notes my steadfastness in holding to a vision ofaesthetic education that is firmly rooted in the humanities and my forthrightness in acknowledging that a different choice of selections might well convey a somewhat different picture of Discipline-Based Art Education (DBAE). Between encomia, however, Stankiewicz raises questions about my editorial politics (that is, opportunities editors have to make selections they think are important) and my views about art education.

The format of Stankiewicz's review was patterned after an essay in the volume by Frances Schoonmaker who discusses the professional preparation of teachers in terms of autobiography, school contexts, and scholarship. Accordingly, Stankiewicz recalls in some detail her own extensive participation in the Getty's educational venture in art education. And instead of referring to the Introduction's discussion of historical antecedents of DBAE she provides her own account of events that were contemporaneous with Getty's period of operation and refers to some currents of contemporary thinking. In other words, she does not give the kind of space to the book's contents that reviewers usually do.2 This prompted me to recall some material from the book's Introduction, which is followed by a sketch of the DBAE literature project that furnished the impetus for the volume and rejoinders to some of Stankiewicz's concerns.

DBAE Remembered

The Getty Center for Education in the Arts (later renamed the Getty Education Institute for the Arts and eventually discontinued) flourished mainly in the 1980s and 1990s and proceeded under the banner of DBAE. The Getty's notion of DBAE supported a major trend that had been growing in the field since the mid-1950s. In this respect the Getty initiative was neither novel nor revolutionary. Yet by correcting an error of certain reform movements, namely those whose tendency was to bypass professionals in the field, it did constitute a significant venture. Getty officers perceived the field to be [End Page 93] moving in the direction of strengthening the content of art education with additional content that was believed requisite for an intelligent and sensitive engagement with works of art. In effect the Getty position argued that a well-developed sense of art is composed not just of the rudiments of artistic creation art but also those of a number of other relevant disciplines, for example the interrelated disciplines of art making, art history, art criticism, and aesthetics (usually understood as the philosophy of art). It was acknowledged that these were not the only disciplines relevant to art education, but they were considered to be basic. Nor was it believed that these disciplines should be taught as separate subjects; rather, they were meant to suggest content and useful modes of inquiry. As Stankiewicz notes, DBAE endorsed both the substantive and procedural dimensions of the cognitive revolution that was occurring in thinking about mind and learning. Indeed, mind building emerged as one of the major themes in the theory underlying the Getty approach.3

Not surprisingly, the Getty approach had its critics. As pointed out in my "Afterthoughts,"the Getty initiative was contemporaneous with the increasing politicization of cultural and educational life.4 The critical literature produced in this climate — subscribing variously to postmodernism, multiculturalism, feminism, cultural studies, social reconstructionism, and deconstruction — was often by turns extreme, dense, and intimidating. It further tended to be skeptical of Western cultural values and traditions. I think it is fair to say that many in the field of art education were ill prepared to digest these writings or to be alert to some of their potential negative consequences. I mention just a few of these.

For example, although developing an appreciation for hitherto unfamiliar cultures is...


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