Monday, October 23, 2023

In Search of Generative Experience

I was delighted when Professor Kelly Vaughn and Dr. Isabel Nunez invited me to participate in their book project, “Enacting Praxis: How Educators Embody Curriculum Studies.” In chapter 14 titled, “In Search of Generative Experience,” I utilize William Pinar’s method of currere to excavate memories related to childhood trauma, the beneficent affects of creativity and a journey of intellectual discovery. 

I’ve taken revelations from those memories and applied them in my profession as curriculum worker and as a practitioner of Teaching for Artistic Behavior. The end result is an autobiography juxtaposed with lamentations for my late father whose school experiences unfolded in a different direction. 

Chapter 14 is inside Kelly & Isabel’s book here:,page%20a%20call%20to%20action.

Many thanks to Professor Vaughn who suggested we use one of my paintings on the cover design!

Friday, February 17, 2023

Check Out March Edition of School Arts Magazine Here!

 It was my good fortune that Nancy Walkup asked me to co-edit the March edition of School Arts Magazine. Needless to say, this edition is devoted to choice-based Art Education and Teaching for Artistic Behavior.

I am privileged to know so many wonderful art teachers, many of whom made contributions to this publication.

Please enjoy the March digital version of School Arts Magazine here:

School Arts/March 2023 

Sunday, January 24, 2021

The Abject Failure of Test-Centered Education To Inform and Sustain the United States Democratic-Republic

Elliot Eisner reminds us in his book, "Arts and the Creation of Mind," that curriculum is a mind altering instrument. 

When education reformers tell us, "we will do what's best for kids," then turn around and use radical behaviorist, "efficiency-based" curriculum experiences on the child, one has a recipe for authoritarian educational experience. 

As I examine the kinds of school experiences American children have endured over the past several decades, one can see how standardized testing, competition, data-driven education and a general narrowing of the curricula has dominated the US K-12 educational landscape. 

Democratic education is not as it has been characterized by corporate education reformers as a parental choice of placing a child inside a charter school, public school or private school where the bulk of classroom experience remains dependent on rote memorization and cognitive skill exercises for selected response assessments on standardized tests. That kind of choice is Orwellian. The adults have predetermined the educational outcomes in all three of these learning situations and the curriculum is designed to pressurize the experience of children through external motivations. Grades are generated by data. Data becomes a form of classroom currency. Children are situated in the role of "worker bee" laboring for grades, compliant to instructional and task directives. School becomes a place for workplace preparation.

Democratic education is powered by classroom experiences where curriculum is generative, student-driven and authentically creative, a laboratory of democracy where communities, relationships, collaboration and student's ideas are nurtured and generated within a culture of care.

The importance of compassion, intellectual freedom and shared experience in the development of our understanding of the human condition cannot be understated when considering foundational experiences of children in preparation to live in democratic society as adults. This experience comes from observing, communicating, sharing, working, creating and connecting with fellow human beings during one's formative years. This shared experience must come authentically for empathic intelligence to take hold. 

Where curricula is standardized, mechanized, bureaucratized and children are pitted against each other and their teachers in a scheme to see who can race to the top, understanding of one another's unique humanity is not attainable. Inside this pressurized authoritarian structure, participants inevitably view fellow human beings as "the other." It's the worst way to develop citizens for participation in democratic society because participants leave the experience susceptible to authoritarianism. 

Ronald Reagan's report on public education, "A Nation At Risk," was a political attack on American public education and the intellectual and academic freedom of teachers in it's schools. This report spearheaded the legislative and policy assault from conservatives and neo-liberals to squelch the excess of democracy  and educational practices that place child development and unique inborn endowments at the forefront of educational experience. 

We are reminded by Jane Healy, Ph.D. about the damage curricula can cause when it ignores childhood and the constant evolving present in the life of the child: "Driving the cold hard spike of inappropriate pressure into the malleable heart of a child's learning may seriously distort the unfolding of the child's intellect and motivation. This self-serving intellectual assault, increasingly condemned by teachers who see it's warped product.... in a society that reveres the speed with which a product can be extruded from the system that has become impatient with the essential process of childhood, that measures children's mental growth like meat on a butcher's scale, and that deifies test scores instead of taking the time to respect developmental needs. Every child is potentially in jeopardy."

Eisner reminds us also that authentic creative learning experience in the school setting is not just the domain of art teachers, but of all teachers.

I am not confident democratic society in the USA can survive with an electorate educated on test and punish accountability schemes. Individuals who endure and survive 16000 hours of test and punish curricula experience during their formative years of childhood are highly susceptible to authoritarian directives, because that is what they have been behaviorally conditioned to do. Defenders of democracy viewing the events of January 6th must ask the question, "How did this happen?" We should remember the educational seeds for the events leading up to the invasion of the U.S. Capitol building were sown long ago.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

It's Complex: Teaching for Artistic Behavior In the Age of #Covid19

Despite leading the World in #Covid19 infections and deaths, the U.S. will be sending K-12 students back to their classrooms for the 2020-21 school year. The US Department of Education has prioritized sending children and their teachers back to school this fall.  School and public education is an integral part of reopening and maintaining the US economy.

My initial thought on this situation is the idea that federal and state departments of education, their lieutenants and system functionaries would send children and teachers back to crowded, indoor confines during the #Covid19 pandemic without doing exhaustive research and preparation for their health and safety, is unconscionable. Let's be clear, public schools in the U.S. are already operating on shoestring budgets with overcrowded conditions. I foresee immense problems here. The spread of #Covid19 from home to child to school then back home is a very real concern.

Compounding this situation for K-12 public education is that waiting in the wings of the #Covid19 pandemia, are proponents of school privatization and data-driven ed-tech. Eliminating brick and mortar public schools and teacher unions has been a dream of public education deformers. Never mind there are immense neuro-developmental problems related to children staring into computer screens for hours at a time, remote online learning platforms are being pushed as viable substitutes for brick and mortar K-12 school experience.

From my perspective, technology is a two edged sword. In K-12 settings, digitized media can enhance constructivist and creative learning experience. Writing, researching and reflecting on art, photography, video, audio and interactive experience through digital media is quite meaningful and provides immense personal satisfaction. Conversely, I  believe sequestering children for extended periods of time in virtual or hybrid digital realms, locked inside adult designed data-driven, information processing learning programs is problematic.

I look at the call to go back to school as a challenge that I readily accept. I am not fearful. I will answer the call to go back knowing that their is no substitute for in-person educational experience and in particular, Teaching for Artistic Behavior.

The Subjective Realm and Emergent Curricula

I don’t want to enter into this situation with naive exuberance. I will be there for my students and to provide the very best educational experiences that American public education can provide. For better or worse, children and their teachers are heading back to school in the midst of the worst pandemic in over 100 years. I am determined to make a difference in the educational lives of my students. Consequently, going back to school is going to generate stress and distress on untold numbers of children. In order to counteract that certainty, I am going to double down on my pedagogical practice. The gift that keeps on giving is the fact that Teaching for Artistic Behavior means students have opportunities to take their subjective realm and situate it for investigation and exploration. I will be there to facilitate this process for my students.

If state and federal lawmakers think increased numbers of children are not going to experience toxic stress in school during this pandemic, they are mistaken. Ameliorating children's stress through cognitive behavioral therapy is problematic. Children should not be conditioned to be passive about their situation. The curriculum becomes inconsequential to the real issue that confronts children and that is the situation of their lives. The curricula should be centered upon the child's lived and experienced reality, their concerns, interests, fears and ideas. In a TAB classroom, these realms can be addressed, investigated and extrapolated upon.

TAB philosophy and pedagogy is all about strengthening pathways to intellectual, creative, literary, social and emotional development within the heterogeneous school settings in which they occur. TAB curriculum experiences practiced from a school, hybrid or remote setting can be emergent and rhizomatic. I will be utilizing more dialogue with students, offering more content, suggestions for investigation and possibilities for study. I am prepared to offer more interdisciplinary exploration. If I could paraphrase Nan Hathaway, "In a TAB classroom, the behaviorist objective of creating an art object like the one modeled by a teacher is not the thing. The child and their subjective learning experience is the thing." The development of and capacity to utilize one's agency, to learn about one's creative capabilities, to learn about one's capacity to collaborate, to connect with one's interests and concerns to art and the world of art around us and to learn about one's identity, that is the hallmark of Teaching for Artistic Behavior.

TAB Resources for #Covid19:

Friday, May 29, 2020

Beyond the Art Room: Remote TAB Studio Learning In Pandemia

#RemoteEducation, #RemoteArtEducation #RemoteTAB #RemoteTeachingforArtisticBehavior #Covid19 #DistanceLearningArtExperience #distancelearningselfexpression .
K-12 educators across the World faced a new challenge at the beginning of Spring this March. With little warning, teachers reinvented or made major readjustments to their educational programs to accommodate remote learning mandates in a matter of hours. Instead of face to face interactions with teachers, fellow classmates, school settings and the natural world, children would now be learning in isolation away from their peers and teachers. Educational experiences would be centered on virtual and mixed reality through digital screen interaction. 
Teaching about the artistic process was the emphasis of our instruction.

Computer-based learning is not the educational program we signed up for but for now, it’s the one we must continue to utilize. From my perspective, #Covid19 did not significantly affect our learner-directed high school TAB art education program. We already had an electronic portfolio program in place. Kids basically kept adding on to existing portfolios through self-directed art making.
My adjustment was to integrate more online content and suggest more possibilities for creative self-expression. Despite the extraordinary circumstances of the global pandemic, over 70 percent of our students were responding positively to this arrangement. They worked regularly at contributing art work to their portfolios and reflecting on those activities. There was little need to make wholesale changes to our program or utilize additional behavior modification incentives to coerce children to make art. My main adjustment during remote learning time was to provide more open ended activities, more choices, daily content and more individual dialogue.

Because human beings are predisposed to use their hands, children of all ages are quite adept at mark making with all kinds of materials and can initiate this process on their own. Similarly, children can play, manipulate and make assemblages and sculpture with all sorts of materials and objects they have at home. We would use any materials or tools available to us, utilizing any ideas that came to us. We had our cameras, digital image making programs and desire. My interest with remote learning, was to help the children recognize their capacity for spontaneous art making, in which they would take the initiative with their ideas. Taking initiative without coercion is always a good thing.
Our emphasis earlier in the year to provide support and structure for the development of autonomy and the practice of freedom served our students well during remote learning time. Students were already on their way to becoming self-directed artists, practicing creative freedom in our studio classroom. Now they would do it in make shift home-studios. I believed the important thing would be to provide children a connection to humanity that would sustain their self-confidence, energy and sense of agency. 

We are now confronted with the distinct possibility of beginning the school year in a remote learning setting again. I think whatever one’s learning management platform might be, leading by example and establishing expertise in your subject matter is critical for the students to believe in their educational experiences and establish a relationship of trust. Understanding my students are unique individuals, instructional goals remain the same. Continue sharing new insights and pathways to art making and maintain dialogue with students about their work, ideas and creative process. Personal interaction between children and their teachers is critical for the process of intellectual development to unfold. 
During #Covid19 remote learning time, I did not want to burden children with tasks that caused undo stress. All activities were centered upon minimal portfolio contributions. I would accept most creative efforts by students, including their feral art, they could document through photography, video or other means. Our dialogue was mainly through written correspondence instead of remote meetup/interaction. 

Questions going through my mind during the month of March centered around mental health, “What is the affect of distance learning on the child and the family? “Is distance learning benign or harmful to the family’s cohesion?” “Does distance learning have adverse affects on the relationships of children and their caregivers?” Anecdotally, conversations with busy parents who are participating in distance learning, lead me to believe there are serious problems when it comes to distance learning, tasking of children and remote education. Research reveals there are significant negative impacts to student’s emotional health when it comes to academic learning. Would these stresses be transmitted and experienced to other members of the family? I wanted our art experiences to have minimal extemporaneous impact on students and their families. 

Their are differences between traditional TAB inside a K-12 studio setting and #RemoteTAB but both forms can provide potent intellectual and creative learning experiences for children when facilitated by an art teacher who is willing to adhere to the TAB curriculum structure. These questions led me back to Kathy Douglas’ statement, “What is the least amount of information I can give children to support their autonomous artmaking?”  To answer that question, and facilitate TAB distance learning I continued to offer at least four activity choices every instructional day we were observing class. 

Could student’s remote art activities be self-generated and self-sustaining as they were in our authentic TAB art studio? Can children carry out remote, self-directed art activities at home without adult support?  Short answer: Yes! Can students generate ideas, realize them, reflect and report their findings back to me? Absolutely! With a Canvas learning management platform already in place we continued to communicate instruction in several modalities. I used text, images, video and live meetings regularly for demonstrations, criticism, art history and class announcements. Students need to be comfortable with photographing their work and transmitting the files back to their teacher. They need to be comfortable writing or recording reflective thought. From my experience with electronic portfolios back in 1998, children as young as eight years old can participate in this process. At the beginning of the 2020 pandemic, my goal was for students to continue to operate as autonomous agents just as they were in our regular classroom. 
I cannot understate how important the human and natural-world connection is during this extraordinary time. Human beings are biologically hardwired for experiential, hands-on learning. Personal interaction is critical to the development of creativity and intellectual capacity. 

Many of my colleagues were monitoring this educational paradigm shift on social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. It is my view, this shift was successful, mainly because TAB and choice based teachers and their students are a resourceful group. Their efforts already three quarters of the way into the year, set the stage for a successful completion of home based artmaking experiences for hundreds of thousands of children in learner-directed art programs.

It seems that for now, remote learning will be a new normal. Having facilitated #RemoteTAB over the past eight weeks, I want to offer some observations and analysis.

Silicon Valley, Wall Street and other advocates of machine-based learning may advertise computer
programs as essential to the new educational normal, but as a long-term alternative to educate
children for participation in democratic society, there is the question of how behavior modification
methods written into these programs, debases a child’s capacity for critical thinking and agency while
reinforcing apathy and alienation. Then there is the question of how remote
learning exacerbates screen addiction in the hundreds of thousands of children who suffer from this
Make no mistake, there is no substitute for real-world interaction and authentic relationships with human beings. Altered reality, virtual reality, hybrid reality, mixed reality is not the same thing as reality. Interfacing with a digital screen for long periods of time causes atrophy of the mind, body and human spirit. I am not happy (horrified is more like it) living in pandemia and fear for the future of public education and art education programs. The pandemia has laid bare a national failure to imagine and prepare for this situation. I look forward to going back to school and working with children inside my TAB studio classroom. Art education is more important now than ever before. We cannot afford more future failures of imagination.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The Importance of Learning Subjectives: School Arts Magazine Article

My sincerest thanks to Nancy Walkup for publishing my essay on learning subjectives.

I have spoken to Nancy on several occasions and she cares as deeply about art advocacy and the power of art education to positively affect children's well being and intellectual development as I do.

I think about learning subjectives quite a bit in the classroom, particularly how they relate to individual student's interest in creative activity.

Here is a link to School Arts magazine and the article below:

Friday, June 28, 2019

Trauma Informed Education: Teaching for Artistic Behavior Curriculum Experience

A Curriculum That Addresses Adverse Childhood Experience

Twenty one percent of all children in the USA under the age of 18 live in poverty.
Approximately 50% of all children in the USA will experience their parents separation or divorce.
Approximately 1 in 5 children will suffer from a significant form of mental illness during their school years.
More than 1 in 5 children are targeted regularly for bullying.
Thirty percent of all children in the USA will have experienced three or more adverse childhood experiences before the age of 18.

Disaffected, disengaged, disruptive, angry and alienated children exist in vast numbers within America. In the USA, statistically significant numbers of children experience trauma in one form or another. The school inherits the affect of the trauma experiences those children carry with them.
Does the mechanization of school curricula structured around behavioral objectives exacerbate the problem of children affected by adverse childhood trauma?
How are schools in the USA doing responding to the needs of students who suffer from adverse childhood trauma?

My answer: Not very well.

Why is there a school bullying epidemic?
Why are school districts continuously reporting thousands of student behavioral infractions each year to their state departments of education?
Why is the USA's high school drop out rate at or above 10% across the country?
Why is teen suicide the second highest cause of death in the USA?
Why do significant numbers of children hate school?
Why do vast numbers of young people who are eligible to vote, not vote?
Why are children bringing guns to school?
What is the affect of increased computer screen time on the developing minds of children? Is increased school-based screen time neurologically and socially beneficial to children?
Trauma in the lives of children is a problematic conundrum for school districts to address because administrators and educators are under great pressure to assess children's learning with high stakes standardized tests regularly (10-20 standardized test events) throughout the school year.

This means the curricula, the reason for the school's existence and single greatest activity event experienced by the child in school, is structured around high stakes standardized testing content.  Make no mistake, wherever schools are judged by the state with student test data, the curricula is fundamentally a standardized test preparation experience centered upon information processing activities and learning objectives the child has had little or no part in developing.

The school counselor, nurse or concerned educator might consider the child's psycho-emotional conditions and constant evolving present but does the curricula?

A child volunteers to work on a public art project set up inside our Teaching for Artistic Behavior art room.
If we are to recognize the biological nature of the human condition (mind), one that concludes the architecture of the child's mind (and all humans) is based in the emotional realm, then we recognize that TAB is a responsive educational experience that responds to time sensitive and emotional needs of the learner.

The TAB curriculum IS designed by art teachers for child autonomy from a multiplicity of entry points.
There is a whole lot of learning and possibilities for creative activity going on in TAB classrooms!
TAB classroom art studios feature learning centers and instructional menus that facilitate children's time sensitive desire to learn at their own pace and schedule.

There are many factors involved in effectively alleviating, treating and caring for children affected by trauma. The TAB classroom offers a safe, supportive, nurturing environment, opportunities for empowerment, self-expression and affirmation of the individual through the pursuit of personal art ideas. Considering the work of trauma care specialists Roger D. Fallot, Ph.D. and Maxine Harris, Ph.D, Teaching for Artistic Behavior learning environments and curriculum structures meet or exceed the core values utilized to ameliorate and care for trauma affected individuals. Those values are safety, trustworthiness, choice, collaboration, and empowerment.
TAB studio learning environments are designed for student autonomy and the stimulation of student agency, creative collaboration and alternative forms of creative learning experience. The primary curriculum is always focused on art.
In a TAB classroom, students have choices to direct their learning. In this photograph children examine research, develop special projects, engage in individual projects or collaborate.
Collaboration and art play are a natural feature of TAB learning activities.

Because TAB curriculum experiences can be learner driven and are consensual, the child has control over the content, schedule, learning objectives, methods and materials of their learning activity. 

Teaching for Artistic Behavior educational practice features the core values of Fallot's and Harris' trauma informed care protocol as a way to access, develop and enhance an individual's unique creative capacity. TAB learning environments are special places where all children, including trauma affected individuals succeed and learn naturally. The conditions for authentic creativity that exist in TAB classrooms are not a periodic subset in week long intervals but exist round-the-clock. This environment is inclusive, provides unconditional regard for the individual's creative ideas, and offers abundant learning opportunities.

In a TAB classroom, trauma affected children can regain self-confidence and repair their human spirit within the context of authentic creative learning experience.

The Relationship of Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction to Many of the Leading Causes of Death in Adults: The Adverse Childhood Experiences Study

For mental health professionals:
Creating Cultures of Trauma Informed Care