Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Reinvesting in Success, What is the Problem?: Questioning the Relevance of Art in Education

The National Arts Educational Association (NAEA) cites “10 lessons the arts teach” (http://www.arteducators.org/advocacy/10-lessons-the-arts-teach). Based in the teachings of Elliot Eisner (2002) these lessons give students possibilities of finding more than one solution to a problem as multiple perspectives allow problem solving techniques that can evolve and transform. The discourse of art is complex and demands technical focus of that based in the symbolic and the unspoken.  The capability to express feelings allows unique experiences of relationships that cannot be found in core curricula based only in common core standards.

Art defines culture and explains history. Recently, NPR reported that Spain’s Niemeyer Center for the Arts will close December 15th after nine months of operation (http://www.npr.org/2011/12/04/143064303/curtain-could-fall-on-a-dazzling-arts-center-in-spain). It is a victim of the economy. Listener Joann Flora responded to the announcement by positing that in 1000 years the economy will not be what is remembered (http://www.npr.org/2011/12/11/143532213/your-letters-spains-white-elephants-meatballs). It is art that will survive and increase in economic value. Eisner (2002) reminds us that art is a cultural artifact and as such, is important to the fullness of a student’s learning experience. Art values are found everywhere and the outcome is technological and economic.

This past spring the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities published Reinvesting in Arts Education (May, 2011).  As the title clearly states, art is an investment that has “transformed the way we communicate, socialize, and do business.” Furthermore, “creative experiences are part of the daily work life of engineers, business managers, and hundreds of other professionals” (Arne Duncan, May, 2011).

I have difficulty in finding an argument omitting arts education from curricula other than NCLB made us do it.  Duncan (October 17th, 2011) declared that “Fixing No Child Left Behind (NCLB) is four years overdue” (http://www.ed.gov/blog/2011/10/reforming-nclb-requires-flexibility-and-accountability/). That same day the Secretary of Education proclaimed that “Our schools need to sustain arts and humanities programs where they are robust, and strengthen them where they are not” (http://www.ed.gov/blog/2011/10/the-arts-and-humanities-in-a-well-rounded-education/comment-page-1/#comment-32140).

If “reinvesting” in the arts will help “fix” NCLB and allow students to succeed beyond schooling and become innovative contributors to economic productivity, why is there an argument as to its importance as a necessary part of the education of all children? I recommend visiting the November and December posts of Marilyn Stewart and Jo-Anne Kirkman in NAEA's "Monthly Mentor" blog as they dialogue both the realities and creative connections to art and culture (http://naea.typepad.com/naea/2011/11/index.html)

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