Teaching Cultural and Visual Literacy in an Age of Naïveté, Terror and Information Sickness

Prof. Paul R. Solomon
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Ignorance of historical culture and the nature of contemporary arts and culture is rife. Universities are conferring degrees upon a population of citizens without an ability to critically evaluate the very cultural milieus they inhabit. Today’s university students often have a veneer of sophistication, acquired through popular culture, but little awareness of where its signifiers have originated. Students have unprecedented access to media — and often posses the latest technological tools — but are not aware of how passive their role in our culture is.

Today’s humanities and arts teachers require new methodologies to encourage critical thinking and critical consumption of media and culture. Within the large classes that have become commonplace in institutions of higher education, techniques for engaging students in active dialogue are vital. This presentation will illustrate specific techniques that allow the meshing of historical and contemporary cultural issues into humanities, general education and foundation level art curricula. Techniques for integrating contemporary concerns, such as war and peace and disasters of all kinds, into historical studies will be included.

Keywords: Cultural Literacy, Visual Literacy, Humanities, Historical and Contemporary Art Issues
Stream: Teaching and Learning
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: Teaching Cultural and Visual Literacy in an Age of Naïveté, Terror and Information Sickness

Prof. Paul R. Solomon

Director of Direct Encounter with the Arts; Associate Professor, School of Art
College of Fine Arts, Western Michigan University


Paul R. Solomon is a writer, producer/director, and visual artist working in narrative forms that attempt to represent memory, history and the longing for identity. Solomon wrote the play Aching to Go Home, staged at the Epic Theater in Kalamazoo, Michigan in May, 2004 and directed by Doris Mirescu of Dangerous Ground Productions, NYC. He directs the interdisciplinary arts program, Direct Encounter with the Arts at Western Michigan University. In February, 2004 he gave a presentation entitled Teaching Art in Times of Terror: Integrating Post September 11 Issues Of War And Peace, to the College Art Association at its annual conference in Seattle, Washington. His visual art, utilizing photography and related media, has been widely exhibited and published. Prior to moving to Michigan, Solomon worked out of his studio in New York City, and produced photographic work for clientele throughout the United States, Italy and elsewhere. He also taught photojournalism at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University, New York. His degrees are from The Rhode Island School of Design and The Ohio State University.

Ref: H06P0243