Throughout the development of art education within the United States, there has been a constant struggle for the arts to prove itself valuable enough to merit its teaching in public schools. To address this, art educators and political officials alike have made major changes in art education methodology over time. The wide spectrum of changes that art education has undertaken since its inception can essentially be labeled as those that are meant to make art education standards based, and those that are meant to make art education expression oriented. Due to the consistent need for validation demanded by public funding entities, art education has been subjected to an internal “tug-of-war” in which teaching practices of the subject greatly favor one or the other in regard to fulfilling high standards or promoting the expressive power of art as a medium. In this paper I will discuss the early history of art education within the United States, how the rise of progressive education within the United States affected art education, current trends regarding how art education is taught and valued in the United States, as well as my own investigation into the issue of art education methodology as demonstrated through my visual thesis, Practically Abstract. While at times they may seem contradictory, I argue that both standards based and expression based art education can, and should, coexist due to how the differences among them can contribute to each other to make a more effective educational experience as a whole for students.


Education, United States public schools, High standards, Abstract art, Representative art

Document Type


Year of Completion



Art Education


Winn Rea