The trickster and the questionability of questions

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The "Trickster" and The Questionability of Questions
BY CONNIE STEWART
Tricksters Coyote and Raven are some of my favorites and I wondered what lay ahead of us on this trip. Later, I acknowledged the Trickster when a flat tire forced us to ignore the wise convention of an early start; when unexpected snow banks forced us off the known trail and on to other paths; when a presumed easy fording ofa small stream instead required the creative response of an improvised bridge and human chain. In the past, my husband and I set the protocols for safe and environmentally responsible camping for the restofthefamily.Thisyear, I especially acknowledged the Trickster when I realized that it was now our adult children who made those decisions for me. Stories of clever cultural heroes are toldthroughout the world illustrating life's multiplicities and paradoxes. In these stories. Coyote, Raven, Eshu, and Hermes force others to examine established conventions, find alternate paths, and reevaluate presuppositions. Most importantly, the Tricksters take (or steal) privileges and possessions that belong to authority figures in order to empower others (Hyde 1998). Tricksters represent creativityand ingenuity in ways that are also integral to arts education. Like the tricksters, strong arts programs teach that a question can have many answers and there are multiple ways to interpret what is seen (Eisner, 2002). In this article. I will discuss how I apply iessons learned from the Trickster stories to my role as an arts educator. As a Coyote, Raven, Hermes or Eshu in the classroom, I teachby asking questions. TTie goal of my instruction is for my students to learn by considering multiple answers and by asking questions themselves. My questions are constructed so there is not a sole "right" answer, but even opposing answers can be correct. A Trickster story from West Africa illustrates how questions can have opposing but equally true answers. on the pleasant man on the fine horsewith a white cap. The other friend agreed that he saw a charming man but the cap was black. A fight ensued. The fighting was so intense that the neighbors could not stop it. Finally Hshu returned, stopped thefight,and showed the men the cap. Of course, the question of the color of the cap had two opposing but equally correct answers. I think about the Eshu story as I lead class discussions abouthistorical and contemporary art. I currently teach university-level art history survey, contemporary art, and art education classes. 1 also lead discussions about art in K-12 and community settings whenever possible. My teaching style is to facilitate guided discussions about the art we are studying. I began leading class discussions by practicing successful questioning formats developed byother arteducators, including Feldman (1970), Johansen (1982), Anderson (1988, 1993), Barrett (1994, 2000), Hambiin (1991), and Housen and Yenawine (2001). As I reflected on these discussions, my most rewarding conversations about art were part of my work during community workshops, in long-term care facilities, and with senior community centers. In community rather than academic settings, the discussionswere less focused on specific facts about the image. Instead, the discussions were about personal stories and applications to contemporary life. Participants were willing to explore their own relationship to the artwork. The goal of my questioning changed from discussing the same ideas and interpretations in every class to finding new meanings with each new group. ,

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orthepast 27 years myfamily and I have "vacationed" by undertaking an 18-mile backpacking trip in the high mountains of Colorado. This year, on the way to the trailhead, I spotted both a coyote and several ravens. I smiled because stories of the

Eshu the Trickster
There is a story about Eshu, a trickster from the Yoruba people. In the story E.shu tests two friends by making a cloth cap. The right side was black....
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