• Bridging Differences

    In Bridging Differences
    Deborah exchanges views with a different colleague, each for a month or two.  Her current correspondent is Harry Boyte, a Minnesotan (although his roots are southern). He has always been a friend and mentor, even though we come to stuff in different ways and even disagree on and off. He is a professor and an activist, a theorist and a practitioner, with a focus on democracy—beginning a long time ago when he worked with Martin Luther King. He has written or edited ten books on the topic and founded a Center on
    democracy which is now at St Augsberg College, but formerly at the University of Minnesota.  

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The Arts

Dear friends and readers,

Too much happening and so I forget to keep up with this! I’m hoping some are also reading Bridging Differences (see inset)—although we’ll be off the air for most of June, July and August.

Was struck by commentary about Michelle Obama’s endorsement of art education. Of course, all help is welcome in an important cause.

But, like others, I’m disturbed by her rationale: it raises test scores.

I used to point out that the purpose of a good arts education is art. And perhaps the best reason to learn to read et al is that it may expand one’s appreciation of the arts. Art is and has been at the heart of what distinguishes human beings from all other species! It’s our greatest triumph. And along with language probably one of our oldest accomplishments.

Story-telling is one of these great arts that distinguish humanity. It’s well to remember that Homer was, in our current sense of the word, an illiterate. “Just” a great story-teller. In our eagerness to get children to read early we’ve forgotten this important form of art. We no longer encourage parents to tell their children stories, or encourage teachers to do the same, much less encourage children to do so! It’s hard to find a civilization, culture or ethnic group that hasn’t achieved art of universal appeal.

Don’t, don’t let them turn art into a test-prep subject.

5 Responses

  1. Beautifully said!

  2. Art education is definitely something we all can agree on.

    So how do we make sure it really is education?

    My experience was, you drew pictures or built models, and the teacher decided if she liked it, and you got a A or D accordingly. A good putting-in-place exercise for academic stars like me, but not of much use.

    SmARTHistory.org is a wonderful resource for exploring Art as in Michelangelo. CreoStudio offers a course to help students “explore their thoughts, ideas, and feelings and develop their creative capacities through digital art”.

    I wish I’d just had lessons in perspective with a straightedge and pencil!

    Of course you said “The Arts”, and classical, jazz, and other music fit in there with drama, etc. All essential.

  3. I love this, Deborah. The creative impulse is what allows people to be great, nations to flourish, communities to thrive, new solutions to thorny problems that we face to be obtained. Creativity is really the only thing worth teaching when you get down to it…every possible form of being “educated” or even useful in society comes down to that, in a sense…or springs from that. Okay, and maybe teaching emotional resilience so people can know how to face themselves, be civil, get along, not tolerate bullying, and so on.

  4. I so much agree with your expressions of the importance of art. I teach integrated abilities dance (wheelchair dance) at schools in in group homes with seniors and persons with disabilities. Many of the students would be considered as persons with “severe” disabilities. The joy that can brought to them through this interactive art, and their engagement with their peers, laughter, and fun are expressions of education that cannot be interpreted with filling in an oval with a pencil. Thank you!

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