Joni H. Hough
November 1, 2013
Advanced Art Education Methods
Review of Duncum
In the article, “Breaking Down the Alleged ‘U’ Curve of Artistic Development,” Duncum argues against using Gardner’s “U” curve theory in judging the artwork of children in middle childhood. Duncum instead proposes a straight line theory to explain children’s artistic development. My experience working with children in middle childhood is more aligned with Duncum’s straight line theory than Gardner’s “U” curve theory.
Duncum begins by explaining that the “U” curve represents early childhood as the first point on the “U.” Adolescents is represented as the second point. The middle signifies the decline in development that accompanies middle childhood.
One problem with Gardner’s “U” curve theory is that the “experts” have difficulty determining the age of decline, with it ranging from as young as five and as old as fourteen years old. Duncum’s line theory signifies change with a jagged, diagonal line that accounts for the range of ages at which children develop.
Duncum further argues that the “decline in quality” of drawings from middle childhood is a judgment based on stylistic preferences. This may be due to the psychologist lack of art expertise. I agree with Duncum on this point because I see value in the work of children in middle childhood. Duncum offers several alternative models of viewing the drawings of middle childhood including the artist as craft person and viewing the work as graphic development.
Because Gardner describes the time of middle childhood as a time when children acquire greater skills in artmaking, Duncum questions why this time is then considered the trough of the “U” curve. Duncum also questions why Gardner is judging the product when, as a psychologist, he is concerned with the process. I agree with Duncum on this point. Gardner should not be focused on the product.
According the Duncum, Gardner looked at seven conditions of artmaking: “(a) a playful exploration of forms, leading to (b) the intentional (c) communication of (d) subjective knowledge which (e) is worthy of social attention (f) by means of aesthetically pleasing object (g) fashioned by learned skill” (74). According to Gardner all of these conditions can only be met by an adolescent, stating that only in adolescents is artwork worthy of social attention. I believe that children’s artwork is worthy of social attention regardless the age of the artist. Artworks created in early and middle childhood are just as worthy of social attention as those from adolescents. Further, Duncum points out that some middle-childhood-aged children can produce work that even Gardener would consider worthy of social attention.
Finally, Duncum proposes his own model of child development. His model is a straight line, showing all developmental stages are equally important. This model also shows the breaks between early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescents as jagged and tapered showing that the transitions between stages is gradual and uneven. This model is more aligned with my experiences with middle childhood artists.