Australian curriculum: visual arts. What were they thinking???


I have just posted about the publishing of the dance curriculum on Violet’s blog. Nothing hugely new or controversial there.

But on the area of the site that details learning in the visual arts, there is a video that I just have to comment on.

What were ACARA staff thinking?

The video shows Ruth Flaherty, who is the President of VAESA (Visual Arts Educators of South Australia) talking about learning in the visual arts. I want to try to empathise with her point of view but I can’t. Her view of visual arts education is outdated in the extreme and fills me with horror. Her words don’t even bear any connection to the curriculum content that is detailed on the site. Her words demonstrate the limited view held by artists and other community members who don’t understand arts learning in a contemporary context.

Flaherty may be reading from a script that someone else has written, but that’s no excuse. She is sitting in a primary classroom where the ‘artworks’ on display can only be described as ‘cookie-cutter’ (Are they meant to be artworks?). She talks about the value of visual arts learning as being about ‘fun’, ‘building self esteem’, developing ‘creative problem-solving skills’. And she trots out old chestnuts like ‘students love art’ and ‘there’s no right answer’. As she goes on, she seems not to understand the meaning of the words she is using (e.g. art is a ‘process, not just a practice’). And the vision of students making artworks must have been chosen to match what she is saying. I won’t say anything more about that.

I won’t comment on Flaherty’s own practice, but I think ACARA staff should have found a spokesperson who was more representative of visual arts learning in the 21st century. Unfortunately the view we receive from Flaherty would have been amusing to my own wonderful art teachers 40 years ago!

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