Three Codes: A Collaged Analysis of Dress Codes and Art Class Assessments in a U.s. High School

Open Access
Bloom, Amy Lee
Graduate Program:
Art Education
Doctor of Philosophy
Document Type:
Date of Defense:
August 15, 2014
Committee Members:
  • Christine M Thompson, Dissertation Advisor
  • Christine M Thompson, Committee Chair
  • Yvonne Madelaine Gaudelius, Committee Chair
  • Charles Richard Garoian, Committee Member
  • Jacqueline J A Reid Walsh, Committee Member
  • Graeme Leslie Sullivan, Special Member
  • aesthetics
  • art education
  • dress codes
  • grading
  • high school
  • knowledge production
  • zines
In this dissertation I examine two common practices within a U.S. high school: dress codes and grading within an art class. Viewing the practices as aesthetic judgments that are regulatory and disciplinary, I layer and collage them in text form and in visual form, to analyze their effects within school. I interviewed young women to gather their memories of dress in high school. I also solicited stories about their use of drawings both inside and outside of art class. These stories create a narrative of how girls present themselves through dress and art production according to their perceptions of what is important within the school structure; but also how they use dress and drawings for their own purposes of pleasure, informal communication, and achieving goals. I interviewed art teachers to gather similar stories; to develop a picture of the ways teachers imagine their performance and appearance are judged by themselves and others, and how this relates to the judgment of their ability as a teacher. Layering the responses shows how teachers and students are enmeshed in practices of shaping each other’s perceived value, partly through what I call school aesthetics. Using feminist methodologies allows questioning and disrupting of the traditional authoritarian position of the expert, and in turn of the teacher as expert. Pushing this disruption, I argue that the practices analyzed here produce divisions among students, and between teachers and students. Using Foucault’s theories as a methodology of “pointing-to” areas I believe are useful to examine, I raise the question of whether these repetitive dividing practices are intrinsic to our systems of education: routines that continually re-form students into hierarchies of knowers and non-knowers, those who belong and those who are outliers, as the knowledge and behavior deemed essential shifts with the perceived need for divisions. The third code I explore regards the formal code of the dissertation. I consider the aesthetics of knowledge production and I present part of my research in the form of collage, zines, and comics; advocating non-traditional, multi modal forms of research as valid and potentially useful to high school students and teachers.