Arts with the Brain in Mind

Arts with the Brain in Mind

Arts with the Brain in Mind

Arts with the Brain in Mind

Synopsis

How do the arts stack up as a major discipline? What is their effect on the brain, learning, and human development? How might schools best implement and assess an arts program? Eric Jensen answers these questions--and more--in this book. To push for higher standards of learning, many policymakers are eliminating arts programs. To Jensen, that's a mistake. This book presents the definitive case, based on what we know about the brain and learning, for making arts a core part of the basic curriculum and thoughtfully integrating them into every subject. Separate chapters address musical, visual, and kinesthetic arts in ways that reveal their influence on learning. What are the effects of a fully implemented arts program? The evidence points to the following:
• Fewer dropouts
• Higher attendance
• Better team players
• An increased love of learning
• Greater student dignity
• Enhanced creativity
• A more prepared citizen for the workplace of tomorrow
• Greater cultural awareness as a bonus To Jensen, it's not a matter of choosing, say, the musical arts over the kinesthetic. Rather, ask what kind of art makes sense for what purposes. How much time per day? At what ages? What kind of music? What kind of movement? Should the arts be required? How do we assess arts programs? In answering these real-world questions, Jensen provides dozens of practical, detailed suggestions for incorporating the arts into every classroom.

Excerpt

Right from the start, it’s imperative to understand that evidence from brain research is only one of many reasons to support the arts as an integral part of the educational process. There are studies that report benefits from a long-term arts curriculum, but many of them are deficient in some respect (Eisner, 1998). A recent Project Zero study (2000) cautioned against making causal links between arts and academic performance. This Harvard group is correct; arts are not to be used as a “quick fix” to shore up other nagging deficits in a district’s educational process. Arts are for the long term; and one should be cautious in claims about how they affect test scores. In fact, a report by the Arts Education Partnership and the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, funded by General Electric Corporation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Champions of Change (Fiske, 1999), suggests that the influence of the arts is far wider and deeper than simply improved letter grades.

If we place value only on higher test scores–and if the tests measure only math, problem-solving, and verbal skills–the arts are at a clear disadvantage. If we demand quick results, the arts will not supply them. The arts develop neural systems that often take months and years to fine-tune. The benefits, when they appear, will be sprinkled across the spectrum, from fine motor skills to creativity and improved emotional balance.

In today’s educational climate, delaying returns on investment beyond a few weeks is considered inefficient and sinful; and since artmaking is inefficient, how does one justify arts in the curriculum? In the . . .

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