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Yenawine speaks the truth!

December 28, 2013

As I have indicated in a recent post (click here), I have been reading Philip Yenawine’s book, Visual Thinking Strategies: Using Art to Deepen Learning Across School Disciplines.  At the end of chapter 4, he has a wonderful quote from a student about the value of Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) in her sixth grade experience (the full quote is on page 104).  The student writes:

….from corner to corner, figure to figure, and color to color these questions will make this piece “whole.”  Let’s just say, this can really help you find a deeper meaning in an art piece!

Yenawine writes this in response to the students thoughts about how VTS helped her find “deeper meaning” in an art piece:

I hope you have read between the lines of this chapter: I think the definition of achievement that now measures the effectiveness of teaching and of teachers is too narrow.  When I, at least, see Craig’s students becoming thoughtful, imaginative, rigorous scientists and Tracy’s students learning to “devour literature,” I think that the passage of tests tells way to little, and might not even accommodate the kind of accomplishment that will enable the young people in our care to eventually help fix the world, now ailing in so many ways.  The child who in sixth grade knows to look for “deeper meaning”– whether it’s in art, clouds, or human behavior—is a child empowered in a way that correct word choice or spelling doesn’t begin to describe.” (page 104, italics are mine)

I like the way Yenawine begs for us to consider the essential question: Is our test-driven educational culture really preparing our students to be ready to tackle the complex and challenging situations they will face in the future?  Are we preparing ALL students, not just the privileged few, to emerge from school as effective stewards of a troubled world?  The answer is unclear.  Our focus should be on changing directions using strategies that are known to engage students and evaluate strategies that merely place them into categories which end up diminishing their confidence rather than encouraging them to try harder.

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