Thursday, June 12, 2008

Art as Experience

The arts and learning: There are many academic articles that point out the advantages of the arts, yet few have been able to prove a direct link between art education and higher test scores. Due to the nature of quantitative and qualitative research, that does not allow researchers to delve inside someones brain to explore if it was the art class they had had that may have helped them get higher test scores in math and reading, we may never get a definitive answer. Neurological research is budding in this area that may help us to more clearly map out these corrolations between actions and academics. But for now, what is known is that history is put into context through the inventions and creations of a given era. In a broad sense through art. When historical time lines are studied it is wars and what was conquered that are marked and in between are inventions and artistic achievements. Western culture has taken art history and created a studied discipline. In reality art history, which in the broad sense includes, creative discovery, invention and architecture is a key element in the nature of humankind and therefore not a discipline but a phenomenon of being. One can argue rightly that geography, medicine and raw materials are what produces mega powers or wipes out entire races (Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond). What endures is the writing, the structures, the art. What man creates is his legacy and what we grab onto for understanding of the past. So my argument for art in school is that it is not a subject, it is, as John Dewey brilliantly wrote in 1934, experience. In his book Art as Experience he eloquently explores how art is life. Here is a paragraph on architecture: "...Buildings, among all art objects, come the nearest to expressing the stability and endurance of existence. They are to mountains, what music is to the sea. Because of its inherent power to endure, architecture records and celebrates more than any other art the generic features of our common human life" (p.230). So do we need art in our schools? Yes. Yes in the broadest definition of art, as human experience, as who we are and in how we can make sense of our world and create avenues to higher levels of understanding.



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