Arts in General Education -- Revisions Due!

Article excerpt

General education arts curricula in America's colleges and universities rest on underpinnings that are rapidly disappearing. Students who entered degree programs in the 1990s have had fewer opportunities to explore and learn about music, dance, theatre, and the visual arts, and those now teaching arts courses in general education have come to realize that minimal arts understanding is carried over from public school educations. Those of us who entered the academy in the 1970s and earlier were afforded a vast array of privileges allowing involvement in singing, playing an instrument, dancing, acting, and experiencing the visual arts. For those students less fortunate than we, arts curricula should no longer assume that the opportunities we enjoyed will exist or even come close to what was offered previously.

For many students now entering colleges and universities, arts experiences are limited to hearing a few concerts, attending two or three plays, brief visits to museums, and whatever opportunities steady diets of television and film provide. As educators, we must become more aware of these differences and revise our thinking and curricula in ways that will bring the arts into lives lacking the valuable experiences that we enjoyed and through which our lives were enriched. For sure, major curricular revisions are due, if we truly have as our goal a citizenry that is sensitive to and aware of the wonderful opportunities that come about through an understanding of the fine and performing arts.

Perhaps one of the most complex problems existing in this arena is the uneven preparation that entering college and university freshmen bring to the classroom. Few have experienced playing an instrument or singing, while even fewer have known involvement with theatre or the visual arts. Nevertheless, students with previous arts experiences are often enrolled in general education arts courses with students who have minimal or no arts background. Consequently, instructors must deal with vast gaps in knowledge and understanding between the most advanced and the least prepared.

Another major area of concern resulting from minimal experience comes about when that lack of exposure fosters a view among students that the fine and performing arts are elitist and without merit in the learning process. …