Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Age of Inattention

And how to end it.
Linda Friedlaender, the curator of education at the Yale Center for British Art, and Irwin Braverman, at Yale's medical school, created the program a decade ago and guide groups through the New Haven museum. Each student is assigned a painting—"Mrs. James Guthrie," say, by Lord Frederic Leighton—which they examine for 15 minutes, recording all they see. Then the group discusses its observations.

There is no redness, no apparent pressure, in Mrs. Guthrie's fingers as she holds a flower. Does that mean she's putting it into the vase—or taking it out? The conclusion matters less than the collection of detail. "We are trying to slow down the students," Ms. Friedlaender told me. "They have an urge to come up with a diagnosis immediately and get the right answer."

Many have been taught that schooling is a race to the finish. Others learned early that equations beat etchings (picture book writers, once considered the "academicians of the nursery," have been trampled on the fast track to pre-K). Ms. Friedlander is realistic: "This is not an aesthetic experience we're providing. The artwork is a means to an end. (Read entire post.)

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