26th January 2001 at 00:00
ART EDUCATION 11-18: meaning, purpose and direction. Edited by Richard Hickman. Continuum. pound;50 (pound;14.99 pb)

The contributors to this book have no doubts about the need to redefine the meaning and purpose of art and design education. Not that they agree a common direction, but they do offer multiple visions of what kind of art we want pupils to study and produce, and why we need to teach it anyway. Their views challenge much of the prevailing orthodoxy surrounding "school art".

Richard Hickman considers the many rationales that have been advanced for art education over the years and concludes that we should recognise the intrinsic value of education in art and education through art. He emphasises the importance of enquiry and the futility of prescription. "In art education we cannot have clear direction unless we have clear and meaningful purpose, but sometimes the purpose only becomes transparent after the event."

Lesley Burgess and Nicholas Addison make a compelling case for using art in schools and the need to encourage students to go beyond the boundaries of what they already know. Colin Grigg discusses how teachers might expand their use of galleries, particularly by exploring how certain critical studies and contemporary art history strategies might reframe students' understanding of galleries and the works they contain.

The taxing relationship between "art" and "visual culture" is explored by Howard Hollands, who concludes hat we have to accept a radically broader definition of art and education. Darren Newbury also considers the connections between art education and visual culture and comes to a different set of conclusions.

Andy Ash discusses the use of the World Wide Web in art education and provides a guide to the many types of resource available on-line and the strategies that might make maximum use of them.

There is a disturbing insight into the values implicit in much art education from Michele Tallack, who proposes a series of values-related questions that should inform critical and contextual studies.

Neglected areas are discussed by Rachel Mason, who examines the meaning and values of craft education and illuminates its potential by comparing approaches in the United Kingdom and Japan.

James Hall argues that the arts are quintessentially the area of the curriculum that supports students' spiritual growth and well-being and that this has far-reaching implications for curriculum and assessment.

This is a serious book that seeks to jolt some art and design teachers out of a rut, emphasising throughout the need for purposeful enquiry, risk-taking and creative opportunity. However, it is an engaging rather than difficult read; its theory and philosophy are firmly grounded in the authors' extensive understanding of classroom practice.

John Steers is general secretary of the National Society for Education in Art and Design

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