Teaching from the Left

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This article examines ways in which real issues in contemporary society can be addressed in art education classrooms, from upper elementary grades through higher education. Classroom projects incorporate zines, “artist pages,” and mixed-media three-dimensional works of art focused on information, advocacy, or protest, with a goal of transformative learning. Curricula utilize methods and outcomes based on critical and design thinking for communication of progressive socio-cultural and political ideas in visual and written form. In addition, the authors view a progressive perspective, also defined as “left” in traditional political polarity (Bienfait and Beeka 2014), as the most compatible with constitutional democracy in the United States. Themes, hands-on curriculum, and socially engaged fact-based research on issues such as environmental problems, healthcare, class warfare, or global warming, for example, are key to successful production of art that communicates and supports critical engagement. The tools, materials, and processes discussed in this article and the artworks produced by students represent new understandings as well as transferable and transdisciplinary skill sets that are imperative for the twenty-first-century global citizen.