I often cite Elliot Eisner as one of my formative influences as an art educator. His article, “The Art and Craft of Teaching” (1983) is among the first articles on education I remember reading. I also recall getting terribly upset when, as a young high school teacher, I read his critique of visual culture in art education just when I was developing a genuine enthusiasm for it.
While I haven’t spent much time in deep conversation with his work over the past few years, his voice has been quietly humming in the back of my head. Few in our field have written with such eloquence and encouragement as Eisner. Few have been able to speak so clearly and comprehensively about our field – in both artistic and intellectual terms.
What a coincidence that he should pass away this week, just as I am beginning a new term teaching History of Teaching Art. I’m going to take this as a sign that I need to revisit his work, beyond his oft referenced list of 10 Things the Arts Teach. I started tonight by rereading “The Art and Craft of Teaching” (1983). This was an article written not for art educators, but for educational leaders to encourage them to reconsider scientifically determined guidelines for teaching and learning. It was a call for an authentic form of teaching, an active and reflective practice. It is an article all teachers, and parents, ought to read and take seriously for, as Eisner predicted, we are suffocating in a time of numbers-driven schooling, rather than people-driven learning.
RIP Elliot Eisner. In your honor I pledge to be the most human educator I can be. (Even as I am tethered to this computer…)