oranje - recent posts from my current home

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Arts in educational settings

The New York Times previewed Project Zero's new book yesterday. The book, due for release soon, challenges the notion that arts education increases student academic achievement. What might be more accurate is to say that the benefits of arts education lie in other areas, and is related to quality of life issues.

In their view art education should be championed for its own sake, not because of a wishful sentiment that classes in painting, dance and music improve pupils’ math and reading skills and standardized test scores. (You can read the article here.)

Ellen Winner and Lois Hetland of Project Zero have a very good point. If it is desirable to increase proficiency in math, why not have more math studies? They seem to be championing art for its own sake instead of as academia's lame sister.

I have worked in arts education projects and community art projects for a number of years in several capacities. And you know? I can't really say what the long-term impact of these projects are. Typically, my contact with students is pretty much one-time only. I don't receive reports on changes in the students' achievement.

I think that where artists can contribute in educational settings is in projects that demonstrate synthesis. Arts studies can demonstrate the application of abstract knowledge. This type of project leadership is rarely undertaken, however. It can be complex to administrate. It is difficult to demonstrate the outcomes.


Marc Snyder said...

This is only tangentially related, but the role of studio arts in a liberal arts education was one I thought about a lot when I was teaching art at a small liberal arts college. It seemed to me that one of the great strengths of the studio class was the critique, and specifically the requirement to stand next to your work and say "I did this, and this is why". In most other majors or classes, a student could remain relatively anonymous - someone who was working at the B - C level could do the work, hand in the papers, get the grade, and never really have the experience of saying "this represents the best of my thinking on this problem".

That experience, of owning your work and having to defend it publically, seemed applicable to problems far beyond the art studio.

Susan Constanse said...

Hi Marc,
Thanks for visiting.

This is a really good point. Unless you participate in a formal debate, I don't think that this type of activity is incorporated into most students' experience.