School Subject Art - Reason or Feelings?

Education Inquiry - open access journal

Art Education- Mostly For Girls?


Later on in the interview when we are talking about why some of the boys in the class do not seem to like Art, they speculate in this way:

Anette: I mean what you, yeah, interest, what you like, if you don't like Art, then … if you are more into … into like sports, of course you think that Art is a bit lame.

Jenny: Yeah … or else you don't like to express your feelings.

These girls offer a very clear description of Art as a subject that is about expressing feelings, or emotions, a theme that is recurring in several of my interviews. Anette and Jenny also think that if one does not like Art the reason may be that one does not like to express one's feelings. At the same time, some of the boys around them are described as being chiefly interested in sport, which in these girls’ opinion seems to exclude liking Art.

Although the concept of “feeling” or “emotion” is not mentioned in the 2000 Art syllabus22. During my investigation, the current Art syllabus was the one issued in the year 2000. Since the article was written, a new syllabus has been issued and carried out where the concept of ‘emotion’ is actually included again in the following sentence: “We are constantly surrounded by images that are intended to inform, persuade, entertain and give us aesthetic and emotional experiences” (Skolverket, 2011).View all notes, there is an idea of the subject as being strongly associated with feelings, which the pupils have to relate to. In the syllabus, there are concepts such as “pleasure”, “creativity”, “beauty” and “personal development”, and two of the criteria for a higher mark than Pass are about using pictures to express thoughts and ideas (Skolverket, 2000). The concept of “expression” occurs in different forms no less than seven times. It might be the case that it is part of a discourse, connecting “expression” with “feeling”, so that the text appears to contain “feeling” even when it does not.

However, the pupils seldom come into contact with the policy documents in other ways than through the Art teachers who organise the activities in the Art classroom. These Art teachers may have a conception of the subject stemming from older curricula and syllabuses than the current policy documents (Marner, Örtegren & Segerholm, 2005 Marner A, Örtegren H, Segerholm C. Nationella utvärderingen av grundskolan 2003 (NU-03): Bild [The National Evaluation of Primary and Secondary School: Art Education]. 2005; Stockholm: Skolverket. [Google Scholar]). In the 1995 Art syllabus (otherwise very much like the 2000 Art syllabus), “feelings” are found as follows: “It (the Art teaching, my comment) must meet their needs to work with and give shape to observations and express opinions, feelings and experiences in a pictorial language and develop their feel for the mode of expression of pictures” (Utbildningsdepartementet [Ministry of Education and Science], 1995, my translation and italics).

The concept is also found in the curriculum, Lpo 94, in the following formulation: “They [the pupils] must be allowed to test and develop different forms of expression and experience feelings and moods”. The context from which the quotation is taken is about “how the intellectual as well as the practical, sensual aesthetic aspects are paid attention to” in the educational activities (Skolverket, 2006, my translation and italics). A clear distinction is made here between intellectual aspects on the one hand and on the other practical, sensual and aesthetic aspects, in a way that connects feelings and moods above all to the sensual and aesthetic aspects. This division between intellect and feeling may be discussed in the light of a dualistic understanding of gender in which man and woman are made a pair of opposites.