Wednesday, August 04, 2010

More on Fantasy Violence in Children's Art

Excerpts from "The Secret Art of Boys."

Under the guidance of educators who are interested in facilitating personalized pathways to creative experience, children and in particular boys, will thrive in learning environments where ideas related to super heroes, monsters, villains, military action, and other aspects of their make believe worlds can be expressed. Just as fantasy violence can be a part of children’s play i.e. cops and robbers, super heroes or war play (Brown, Gurian, Kindlon & Thompson 00, Jones 2002, children will express fantasy violence in the art they create (Duncum 05, Rubin 05, Lowenfeld 57).

Many educators, who might consider such content inappropriate for school and resort to censorship, miss out on opportunities to integrate and synthesize essential learning into children’s desire to express make believe violence in their fantasy art. Art teachers sensitive to child centered learning may view children’s decisions to express fantasy violence as a means to facilitate profound educational and creative growth experiences.

Concerns that art expressing fantasy violence will lead to real violence are unfounded. When rare events of lethal violence are fully examined, the motivations for committing such heinous acts are clearly related to revenge motives and victim mentalities. A common thread in these acts is the transmission of actual threats in spoken or written forms. Other red flags to consider in the context of an individual’s normal behavior might include changes in their appearance and changes in friends, frequent use of inappropriate language, changes in personal habits or humanitarian or religious values and episodes where individuals are quick to anger, cry or reveal other unstable emotions (Hollowell ‘05).

Fantasy violence and play violence is what it is: fantasy and play. Play is a natural form of learning and one of the ways children learn best. Play is fundamental to intellectual development. Just like real artists it is not uncommon for children to play with ideas, materials and techniques in choice based art programs. The concern that real violence can be triggered in children who engage in artistic activity related to their fantasy play, contradicts what we know about creativity.

The creative process strengthens children’s self confidence as new concepts, objects, ideas, and performance skills are born from individual or collaborative efforts. Conceiving and solving artistic problems in a state of creative flow has the affect of releasing tensions, anxiety and ameliorating violent or aggressive dispositions (Lowenfeld ‘57, Rubin ’05, Csikzentmilhaly ‘99, May ‘75).

Brown, S. (2009) Play: How it shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates the soul. New York, Penguin.

Csikszentmihayli, M. (1996). Creativity: Flow and the Psychology of Discovery. New York, Harper Collins Publishers, Inc.

Lowenfeld, V. (1957). Creative and mental growth (3rd ed.). New York, Mcmillan.

Hollowell, Perry "ACTIVE SHOOTER PREVENTION MATRIX". Law & Order. 04 Aug, 2010.

May, R. (1994), The Courage to Create. New York, Norton Publishers.

Rubin, J.A. (2005). Child Art Therapy. Hoboken, New Jersey, John Wiley and Sons, Publishers.