Art for Art's Sake

Prof. Gerry Sussman said, “Being smart in the arts is the same as being smart in engineering is the same as being smart in writing is the same as being smart in anything, really. It’s the ability to manipulate all the pieces of the puzzle in your mind, try to fit them together, and when they don’t fit quite right … you sand the edges/corners and make them all fit.”

Teaching your students about art is a good idea:

It's been proven that early exposure to visual art, music, or drama promotes activity in the brain.

Art helps children understand other subjects much more clearly—from math and science, to language arts and geography.

Art nurtures inventiveness as it engages children in a process that aids in the development of self-esteem, self-discipline, cooperation, and self-motivation.

Participating in art activities helps children to gain the tools necessary for understanding human experience, adapting to and respecting others' ways of working and thinking, developing creative problem-solving skills, and communicating thoughts and ideas in a variety of ways.

The arts are not so much a result of inspiration and innate talent as they are a person's capacity for creative thinking and imagining, problem solving, creative judgement and a host of other mental processes. The arts represent forms of cognition every bit as potent as the verbal and logical/mathematical forms of cognition that have been the traditional focus of public education (Cooper-Solomon, 1995).

The British aesthetician and critic, Herbert Read, went so far as to say, "Art is the representation, science is the explanation… of the same reality" (Fowler, 1994). The arts are able to teach divergent rather than convergent thinking and encourage children to come up with different, rather than similar, solutions because the solutions to artistic problems are multiple.

The arts break through the black-and-white, true-false, memorise-that, name-this that cause Eisner concern. This kind of reasoning is far more the case in the real world, where there are often many ways to address a problem and, "An effective work force needs both kinds of reasoning, not just the standardized answer" (Fowler, 1994).

In his music advocacy speech at the 1996 Grammy Awards, Richard Dreyfuss announced, "It is from that creativity and imagination that the solutions to our political and social problems will come. We need that Well Rounded Mind, now. Without it, we will simply make more difficult the problems we face" (Dreyfuss, 1996).

The results of balancing the arts with other learning areas in the curriculum have shown that where 25% or more of the curriculum is devoted to arts courses, students acquire academically superior abilities (Perrin, 1994), demonstrating an apparent relationship between learning in the arts and other areas. Perrin also refers to long-term educational aims, saying that workers at all levels in our post-industrial society need to be creative thinkers and problem solvers and able to work collaboratively, they must be judicious risk-takers, they must be able to push themselves towards high levels of achievement, and they must have the courage of their convictions, and that arts education develop such skills. Perrin suggests that these attributes are nurtured in the arts because "the student artist (musician, dancer, visual artist, writer, or actor) learns by doing" (Perrin, 1994).

We may agree with Einstein and Iris Murdoch and also with Polanyi, that "we can know more than we can tell" (Polanyi, 1967). There are, though, other ways of "telling" besides verbal language. The arts as ways of knowing are as potentially powerful as any other form of human discourse and they are just as capable of contributing to the development of the mind on a conceptual level (p.48).

The key learning area of the arts is able to provide children with unique and multiple ways of exploring, forming, expressing, communicating and understanding their own and others’ ideas and feelings. It provides students with the skills and knowledge necessary to understand how the arts reflect and depict the diversity of our world, its cultures, traditions and belief systems. The procedures within the arts can contribute to the development of the potential of the whole child by proving children with the opportunity to:

Develop the full variety of human intelligence

Develop aesthetic awareness and perception

Develop the ability for creative thought and action

Develop an understanding of cultural change and differences

Develop feeling and sensibility

Develop physical and perceptual skills

Explore values, and

Achieve positive self-esteem (Commonwealth of Australia, 1995)

The future of this world rests upon the shoulders of its youth. It is our responsibility as adults and educators to ensure we do all in our power to aid the development of children’s potential. Equity in educational opportunity is essential if society is to tap all the possible resources in the shaping of its future, and the arts are an integral and undeniable part of this development of potential.

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