Back in the classroom after about eight years and a lot has changed. Technology has changed, the kids have changed, and I’ve changed. The number one issue these kids are thinking about, the reason they are attending college – to find a job.
I am having a bit of difficulty connecting my class to their goal. I’m teaching art appreciation, a humanities elective. I’m very interested in the idea of selective perception and bias in the hopes that we might all learn to check that bias at the door and think like scholars. There is an easy and effective tool art historians use when looking at art – they describe, analyze, interpret, and then judge the work. As humans, we are quick to judge. I think that’s fine – start there (fight or flight). Decide in advance of inquiry whether something has merit, normal human behavior…. just don’t stop there. Start again and use your tools (your eyes, your words, your memory), call on your dictionary of symbols, pay attention to what you see, capture in detail what is in front of you. Work like a forensic scientist as you gather data.
Sounds like a lot of work. Getting to judgement, arriving at an answer rather than landing on one. It’s kind of scary to step out of your cultural, familial, institutional box of wisdom and seek some knowledge. I give all these kids credit for taking that first step – they applied and were admitted into our hallowed halls. Now comes the harder work of change. I’m hoping for some fits and starts but anticipating some kicking and screaming.
I think I’ll fall back on my oldest teaching trick. I’ll teach them that the answer to every question is, it depends . . .