From Yankee magazine, March-April 2012:
“In her 1999 book, Pip Pip: A Sideways Look at Time, the British author Jay Griffriths sketched out two ways of interpreting the past. There’s “artifact history,” she wrote, and “ritual history.”
Most of us are familiar with artifact history. New England brims with house museums filled with bed warmers and boot hooks and forgotten china patterns. They’re durable curiosities, encrusted with the special sort of patina that results from the glazed looks of countless half-interested tourists.
Ritual history, however, is far more perishable and elusive. It’s that continuation of an action performed by one’s grandparents and their grandparents. Ritual history tends to erode less noticeably—around the margins at first, like the banks of a river. Eventually the river shifts course and few remember how it once flowed. The next generation thinks that the river has always flowed that way.”
This is how I have come to view teaching art. As new technologies and approaches come into play, how art is taught changes and evolves. As it evolves, some of what was taught and how it was taught in the past falls quietly by the wayside, becoming invisible to newer practitioners and teachers. My guess is that art teachers from 50 years ago would be astounded (Appalled? Excited?) by what is taught and how it is taught to art classes today. As we would be if we were around 50 years from now.
The rituals of passing on knowledge from one generation to the next are never static. It’s something to think about the next time a new, young faculty member proposes curricular change in your department!