November 2010

IN BRIEF: ART EDUCATION

"Hijacking" Article Stirs Debate

Following the publication of "The Hijacking of Art Education" in our April issue, an editor at the Wall Street Journal asked Michelle Kamhi to write a shorter piece on the subject for their "Taste" page. Her WSJ piece, "The Political Assault on Art Education," was the lead article on the June 25 page. It reported, in part, on a highly politicized session at the 2010 National Art Education Association convention as emblematic of the recent trend in art education. It comes as no surprise to us that it has generated considerable debate.

In addition to online comments (mostly agreeing with Kamhi's critique), the Journal published a response from a former art teacher, Samuel Frazer, in the newspaper's Letters section (July 8)--a sure sign of the importance that editors attributed to the issue. Frazer wrote that he was "appalled" at the practices documented by Kamhi, which he characterized as "what one would expect to find in totalitarian countries." At the other end of the opinion spectrum, Los Angeles Times art critic Christopher Knight thoughtlessly tweeted that "Ayn Rand cultist Michelle Marder Kamhi" (see "The Ad Hom Instinct" regarding a similar charge by philosopher Denis Dutton against Louis Torres) had made "a political assault on arts education." And Richard Kessler, the executive director of the Center for Arts Education in New York, dubbed her "The Joe McCarthy of Art Education."

Finally, the president of the National Art Education Association, Barry Shauck, posted his official response on the NAEA website--charging (erroneously) that Kamhi had made "sweeping [and inaccurate] generalizations about the field of art education and the leadership of NAEA based on only two presentations from the more than 1,000 peer-reviewed convention sessions."

For more thoughtful responses to the questions raised by Kamhi, see some of the comments posted on Reddit, as well as the "Forum on Social Justice Art Education" in this issue, which includes Kamhi's reply to Shauck. See also the Rethinking Art Education weblog post "Identity Wars" by James Haywood Rolling, Jr., Chairman of the Art Education Department at Syracuse University (followed by Kamhi's reply); and the essay "Social Justice Art and Liberal Democracy," by Donald A. Downs, on the Minding the Campus website.

- The Editors