Soft Boundaries: Re-Visioning the Arts and Aesthetics in American Education

By Claire Detels | Go to book overview
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2
History, Philosophy, and the Canons of the Arts

The need to raise public understanding about the arts in America is taking on special urgency as we approach the twenty-first century. The initial exclusion of the arts from the precollege curriculum proposed in the 1990 Education 2000 plan for national education reform spurred recognition around the country that the importance of the arts in our educational system and in American culture as a whole is very poorly understood. In the wake of that omission a consortium of educators in music, visual arts, dance, and drama formulated a set of national standards for precollege arts education that contains new emphasis on teaching about the history, theory, and interpretation of the arts, along with the more traditional emphasis on teaching practical skills of artistic production, such as, singing or painting. The passage in 1994 of the revised Education 2000 -- since renamed the Goals 2000: Educate America Act -- means that the new standards for arts education have now become part of our national educational policy and are now being established at state and local levels. 47

In my view, the approval of national standards has played a positive role in focusing attention on the need for arts education in this country. However, more than standards are needed to make a lasting improvement in that education. If the new standards are to be more than rhetoric, it will be necessary to train arts educators very differently, so that they can integrate practical experience with intellectual understanding in their various classes in painting, theater, dance, choir, and band and so that they can make interdisciplinary connections with other arts and nonarts disciplines. It will also be necessary to prepare nonarts specialists teaching social studies, English, and even math and science, to incorporate knowledge about the arts into their courses. (How this can be done

This chapter appeared in an earlier version in the Journal of Aesthetic Education ( 1998, University of Illinois Press).

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