Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The Art of Being Human

Academic journal article Phi Delta Kappan

The Art of Being Human

Article excerpt

STUDYING the arts can inform the study of the other subjects in the curriculum and so pay achievement dividends in math, English, history, and so on. Studying the arts can spark the creativity, imagination, and critical thinking of both students and teachers. Studying the arts can raise a person's self-esteem and develop a sense of discipline that carries over into all areas of life.

I believe all three of those statements to be true. But, as Craig Sautter points out in this month's lead article, "An Arts Education School Reform Strategy," these assertions are difficult to "prove" from existing research. Nevertheless, he argues, "there is a growing body of evidence that supports the power and value of the arts in education." He bases that claim on some scattered studies and a great deal of accumulated wisdom stretching back over a quarter of a century.

And I can see the evidence every day in my own home. I live amid a houseful of artists. Everyone practices at least one art form every day. We have music, dance, painting, sculpture, pot making, and all forms of the fiber arts. And our efforts do pay off in the kinds of extrinsic ways that Sautter alludes to in his article and that are often invoked to justify keeping the arts in our schools.

I've seen my 8-year-old daughter come to understand the relative size of simple fractions as she learns to count quarter, eighth, and sixteenth notes. I've seen her older sister, who still dabbles in a number of musical and visual arts, catch the fire of ballet and somehow find more than 15 hours a week to devote to classes and exercises - to say nothing of the briefer interludes of pirouettes and glissades that seem required merely to cross the kitchen. …

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