Sunday, September 13, 2009

Bias Against Visual Communication in "Serious" Education

If you look at the list of basic or core skills listed by your State Education Agency or University System you will find the word's visual communication or visual literacy noticeably missing.

Yes, you will see "art" listed in a compendium of courses that students might elect to take or an art history course required in some general education requirements but you will not find "visual communication" or "visual literacy" listed as a basic or core skill for learning, thinking, or communicating.

They will all list something like "written communication", "quantitative literacy", or sometimes even "informational literacy" but they will carefully avoid suggesting that learning, thinking, or communication can take place through visual images, objects, environments or visual experiences.

Leaving out visual communication is not an oversight - it is intentional. In fact, many state education department and university officials will say that to include visual literacy as a core skill in universities or K-12 education would require a complete restructuring of our entire system of education. They are for "educational reform", but including visual communication would be expecting too much.

The Wall Street Journal (left) is an example of a "serious" publication that is only recently, and begrudgingly, introducing some images and color into their pages. Even the scholarly publication of the National Art Education Association, Studies in Art Education, (right) follows the format of scholarly journals with heavy reliance on text and few if any images inside (none in color).

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