LOS ANGELES — `ARTISTS speak to us in a language that carries meaning that cannot be conveyed through words,'' says Elliot W. Eisner, professor of education and art at Stanford University, and one of the chief gurus behind discipline-based art education (DBAE). ``Will our children be able to understand what they have to say? Even more will they know their messages exist?'' he asks. Two years ago, the world's richest museum, the Getty in Malibu, began pushing the idea of using art as a multipurpose conduit for child development. The Getty Center recently held its second major national conference to gauge DBAE's progress.
``It's definitely a national trend,'' says Kellene Champlin, Director of Art Education for the Fulton County Schools in Atlanta. ``The approach is so comprehensive it's so unlike any of the smaller waves of the past such as the `creativity movement.' DBAE is here to stay.''
Among the gains in the past two years: Ten universities across the nation, from Ohio State to Cal State at Sacramento, have been using Getty grants of $25,000 to change the required course work for future, K-through-12 art teachers. ``Most art teachers are required to take between 75 and 90 percent of their courses in art production,'' says Leilani Duke, director of the Getty Center for Arts Education. ``These grants are getting university faculty to rethink such requirements toward more broadly discipline-based programs.''
The Getty also recently finalized a project with the 17 campuses of the California state university system for similar curricula-change programs. And the National Endowment for the Arts has embraced the idea in a prominent new report entitled, ``Towards Civilization.'' The endowment's recent budget sent up to Capitol Hill asks for an increase of $1 million for broad-based arts education.
The greatest hurdle to DBAE is a muddied understanding of what it has to offer. There is lack of understanding about the possible programs, and their adaptability to current programs.
The basic Getty structure for implementing DBAE is three regional centers in California - Fresno, Sacramento, and Los Angeles - and one each in Ohio, Minnesota, Nebraska, Tennesee, and Florida. Each has a five-year grant to establish teacher institutes in their own state, and institutionalize the concept in statewide districts.
``What we're finding now is people are saying, `Where do we go, who do we talk to? rather than saying, `We don't want it.''' says Ms. Duke. ``The resistance and skepticism have died down.''