In my opinion, one of the most important texts on design education comes from Chapter Five of The New American High School, by Ted Sizer (1932-2009):
My father, a professor of the history of art and director of the Yale Art Gallery, loved to build stone walls—"stone art,” it might legitimately be called—one of the most complicated examples of which was the retaining wall that kept our front lawn from washing down the hill before it. Building that retainer—which today still exists precisely as it did in 1940, with every rock solidly in place —was an extraordinary bit of artistic exercise, tough on the back and the fingers and demanding the almost three-dimensional imagine necessary to lodge a secure rock on all six sides, the result producing a tight fit. Frank found rocks that filled my father’s description and hauled them over to him. “Practical art,” my father called it.
The “practical arts” hidden in professional art and design colleges are not often recognized as design education. Educational reformers want to understand “design thinking” and “studio thinking,” but its beautiful complexity can not be codified. Most models I see adapted for K-12 classrooms does not recognize or give space to the pedagogical listening, deep observation, visual research and acuity, and critical analysis found in the 3- to 6-hour design studio critique. As a way to start, I suggest observing an exemplar design faculty in art and design school. Perhaps, take a basic design course in one of the design disciplines such as industrial design, graphic design, interactive design. I believe everyone has the right to access their own design instinct as part of school and life, as Sizer names the “practical arts.”