Significant recent developments in Australian art education have moved away from a consideration of the aesthetic value of fine art products to a broad sociological conception of the visual arts which includes folk and popular arts. Many art educators assume a socially functionalist approach which celebrates cultural diversity and attempts to describe the function of cultural artifacts, sometimes in terms of lived experience. While acknowledging the importance of these developments, the author adopts the view that cultural production is part of an unjust society in ferment and is a site of ideological struggle. The view advanced is that to be true to its subject, art education must adopt a socially critical position. Drawing upon the culturalist tendency within English Cultural Studies, possible theoretical foundations for a socially critical art education are explored. These include: social structure is as important as lived experience; society is comprised of competing interests and is structured in dominance; cultural production is constitutive of social reality; basic to human action is agency, constraint and struggle; and explicitly engaged judgement is essential to the development of a more democratic society.
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