Crystal Bridges research
A recent blog post by Max Brantley wishes to express a variety of negative conclusions about a University of Arkansas study of the educational effect of school field trips to Crystal Bridges. Those of us in the museum field might look at the study from a different perspective. We are often asked to justify ourselves with more than the usual quality of life platitudes. "The society is better because of institutions like this" works for me, because it is true, but for those who want rigorously achieved results, the Crystal Bridges study is a blessing. Unless the researchers are lying about their process, we have excellent documentation in the study that museums can make a difference in several areas. Among the reasons that they used Crystal Bridges was the fact that they could control the variables. Those of us in museums that were not involved in the study will have no problem in citing the study as one more piece of evidence in favor of supporting museums — our museums. Relying on a possibly faulty memory of a presentation on the study at the Arkansas Museums Association meeting last March, I think I remember that empathy was increased by the museum visit. Maybe Mr. Brantley needs to visit museums more often.
(Worthen is director of the Historic Arkansas Museum)
As always, enjoyed your "Visionary Arkansans" piece. Found a quick and (to me) interesting tidbit: Matt Price is the first Arkansan featured, and across the fold in the portion about Theo Witsell, there is a connection to Mr. Price. The "amateur botanist" mentioned for which Pelton's rose gentian was named can only be Matt Price's grandfather, whose photographs of wildflowers would be at home in any great museum of natural history. I just happened to observe this because I happen to be related to them myself. Arkansas is still kind of a small place.
From the web
In response to an Arkansas blog citation of Ernie Dumas' column on the dangers of putting guns in schools:
Educators should not be furthering the wild-west "cowboy" story, thus amplifying the National Rifle Association's contention that firearms are essential implements of manly heroism. I don't want our schools promoting false values and an ultimately destructive culture of violence as the only or the best remedy to violence.
In response to an Arkansas blog item on University of Arkansas research on the value of a field trip to Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art:
"For example, 88 percent of the students who saw the Eastman Johnson painting, At the Camp — Spinning Yarns and Whittling, knew when surveyed weeks later that the painting depicts abolitionists making maple syrup to undermine the sugar industry, which relied upon slave labor. Among students who saw Thomas Hart Benton's Ploughing It Under, 79 percent could recall that it is a depiction of a farmer destroying his crops as part of a Depression-era price support program."
It would be extremely remarkable if students remembered two among hundreds of paintings in so much detail. Either they were prepped for the study, or the questions (no doubt multiple choice) were designed to be obvious. Sorry to be so negative but that doesn't pass the smell test.
As a former AR public school teacher in the Ozarks, I can attest to the value of SOME field trips. Imagine exposing a young teen to her first escalator! Field trips are a teacher's way of teaching outside the box for the teachers who use the opportunity to do so. However, as Maxifer mentions, it is much work on the teacher before, during, and after the trip. Getting qualified subs for my class was my biggest nightmare since I returned from one trip to find the substitute had "taught" the students "ain't" was correct. Ugh.
Charlene Elizabeth Jones
In response to The Observer's column about "Fiat Flux," the writings of Dr. W.R. Bachelor edited by historian William D. Lindsey:
Observer, I am very grateful for your kind review of my book about Wilson Bachelor, and I very much agree with you about his attractiveness as a writer and thinker.
I did want to point out that you have my middle initial slightly wrong, though. It's D. for Dennis and not B. for, well, the many things B. might stand for. Thank you again for your kind remarks about the book and for recommending Dr. Bachelor's work to others.
William D. Lindsey
In response to an article in the Sept. 5 issue about Matt Bell's Blue Hog reporting on Lt. Gov. Mark Darr's problematic expense report:
Some of us might call this the free market at work. Maybe Tolbert will look at the Democrats reports. It's all good. From the other side of the aisle, kudos to Matt.
Dreaming of a day when Matt outs Shoffner and Bookout and Tolbert outs Darr and Hutchinson, but for now the checks and balances of party competition will have to suffice.