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education (longwinded. dont read if you're short of breath)

updated sat 30 nov 96


Karl David Knudson on tue 12 nov 96

Hmmm I though that this thread was going to die but it seems to have
gotten better. I'm sorry I don't remember who it was who (Debra?) replied
earlier asking the relavance of my original quote as it would only hurt your
teacher's feelings.

On Sun, 10 Nov 1996, Linda Arbuckle wrote:
> ----------------------------Original message----------------------------
My old quote deleted to save bandwidth

> I'd say that I agree w/ Debra's comment. First thing to attempt is saying
> that you need more help/advice/whatever. Attacking the person who may be
> able to help tends to make them defensive (good, or bad, it's human nature).
> Rather than taking the attitude that you aren't being adequately serviced,
> it may be more productive to consider the situation, do some research, and
> figure out how you can participate to make things better. Yes, professors
> have responsibilities that they should take seriously. But if it's not
> happening, you can shout invective and leave, or you can ask for help, or
> you can be an activtist and HELP make it better for everyone.

Sam's problem as I understood his post is that his professors are
unwilling to see or even hear what it is that he wants out of an
education. He went through the trouble of emphasizing, "My teachers
would be upset, IF THEY WERE LISTENING" Rather than support his choices
regarding his education-which he will probably pay between $4,000 and
$80,000 for depending upon his school- his professors seem determined to
force their own dogma upon him. It was only a few weeks ago that we
learned the devastating reprocussions that a few bad math teachers had on
some students (remember Numerology et all?). Imagine the effect that this
would have had on a student who wanted to be a mathamatician, and was
paying for it?

Linda you make some good points here to help solve some problems. clearly
you do care about your student's education and their goals. I suspect that
the vast majority of teachers and professors do so and rightly should.
However there will come a time in everyone's lifetime that they will met
a person who's goals are directly opposite to your own way of thinking.
A good teacher will be able to overcome his/her own biases and support
the student, a bad one will not.

> I woud also offer a response to your comment about the best school for
> learning as apprenticeship. Machines make clay faster, cheaper, and
> technically bettter than most people do. To be equipped for a lifetime of
> art work, we need to put something in the clay that machines can't. There
> is meaning, content, in all the many decisions an artist makes as he/she
> works. Understanding how to look and ways to think are the BEST tools for
> career longevity in the arts. An apprenticeship usually provides repetition
> (valuable in many ways) and one view of how things work, as well as one
> person's take on marketing and business (again, valuable). It's a good
> supplement to an academic education, but doesn't offer the breadth of
> thinking, challenges of talking about work (yours and others) on a regular
> basis, and the contact with diverse works and views. Perhaps I'm biased
> because I come from the "system", but I think the mind is the artist's
> finest tool. A good academic art education stretches one's thinking. Yes,
> the skills must also be there, and yes, you need to learn business info,
> too. But to my thinking those are more discreet kinds of information.

Excellent point. I still stand by my original statement that the best
way to learn to make a living is clay is in a good apprenticeship. BUT,
as you rightly point out, ability is little use without motivation. I
would argue that the majority of the content that is brought out in
education is from within and can be discovered without a formal degree.
Would I learn more if I took the $40,000 I'd likely spend on grad school
and spent a year or two traveling and visiting other artists?

People have often asked me if I plan to go to grad school. I have almost
always answered probably not as I have a hard time justifying at the moment
just what good an MFA does? I think about an article in a recent Crafts Report
concerning univeristies graduating thousands of MFA's who have no ways,
means or ideas on how to support themselves much less make a living. Is
a MFA a teaching degree? I find it odd then that the art of teaching
seems to get so little attention. I would expect an MD to have some
practical knowledge in medicine before he starts treating people. And in
our current age of art budgets and later and later retirement ages who's
going to have job opportunities or funding in art anyway? Liberal Oregon
just passed another property tax limitation, (it seems the first one
didn't decimate public education well enough) we used to not have money
for materials and repairs, I hope that there will be faculty next year.
The most original explanition of an MFA that I've heard with regards to
it's practical use is that it will give you respect from galleries
who would then consider your work more artistically meritous because of
the alphabet soup at the end of your name.

Is the art education system realy just self-propagating? Is the only 'good'
goal of a BFA student to become an MFA student? And an MFA is good
for what...?

As Linda stated earlier ability without motivation is not a good thing,
likewise a motivated person with no ability to bring it to fruitation is
also stuck. Success comes only with a merger of the two.

Art knowledge is important, self discovery is important. Grad school
for many satisfies these needs is a good experience. Many of our
most respected peers are grads and teachers. Most of our most
respected members are professors! Try it yourself, sit down and
name who you thing are the most influential, famous, wonderful, keen
ceramicists. Most of them teach I'll bet. Either we've got the best
people in positions of educating or there's a heck of a conspiracy going on.

It was quite foggy this morning in Eugene,
opinionated as usual.