Ted's teaching tips

11th May 2001 at 01:00
An urban art form, or an unsightly defacement of the environment? Graffiti is a common feature of the landscape in many cities, so is it favoured by the young and condemned by the old, or do people's views cut across cultural and age lines?


What is "graffiti" (marks on walls, plural of Italian graffito ("little scratch")? Where are examples of it found (mainly, though not always, in cities, often in slum areas; all over the Berlin Wall when it was pulled down)? Why do people draw graffiti (to decorate squalid areas, to make a protest or draw attention to something, sometimes just vandalism)? Have you seen any graffiti and what did you make of it? Which bits of this picture do you like or dislike, or are you indifferent to it?

Urban environment

Some cities look run down, so how can they be improved (sculptures and statues; decoration of buildings; concealing more unsightly features, such as dustbins, rubbish tips; keeping streets tidy; introducing parkland, flower beds, trees and greenery)? Can you think of any city or town that has made efforts to improve its environment? Why are some cities ugly (legacy of past, especially 19th and early 20th century, when factories polluted air, smoke stained buildings; low-cost housing, industrial premises, office blocks erected at speed, without thought for appearance)? Think of a town or city you know well: if you were in charge, what would you do to improve it? Is there a wall in your school that the class could decorate to improve the evironment (with permission and agreement!)?


How can people without a voice protest if they have no power (marches, meetings, writing to the media, seeing their elected representatives, such as councillors and MPs)? What happens when people turn to violence instead (street riots and fighting, injury to people, damage to property)? What do you know about the history of protest (for example the emergence of unions, poll tax, suffragettes)?


Write some snappy slogans that you might put on a banner when marching to make a point about something you believe in. Write a letter about a point you wish to make to a councillor or MP. Design a decorated wall with thematic pictures and lettering.

Ted Wragg is professor of education at Exeter University


Is graffiti an ugly blot on the city's landscape, rather than an attempt to brighten up squalid surroundings?


People should not be allowed to deface in an amateurish way what has been conceived professionally. Neither should they be able to ruin other people's property. Although some graffiti "artists" are talented, the vast majority are crude users of spray cans. Most graffiti "art" is tags.


The wall and rubbish in the picture are ugly, so any colourful cover is better than filthy dustbins. Many graffiti painters are artists, creating eye-catching images and clever styles of lettering. Writing slogans is one way for disempowered people to make a protest.

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