Monday, October 26, 2009

If you want science, start with the arts

If you know anything about cutting edge science, you know that the theoretical foundation, moving from hypothesis to testing of hypothesis is dependent on the use of metaphor. We also use metaphor to help ourselves understand complex processes that cannot be easily or readily observed. Einstein formulated his theory of relativity by observing trains coming and going from the station and we build our own understanding of things by making metaphorical leaps from the firm platform of personal experience.

We have constructed a system of science education based on right and wrong answers, and as we face the future, with loss of brain power in science, you will hear the howls, that the arts should be further marginalized to make room for more concentration on science.

There are right and wrong answers. But when you clearly examine the arts, you begin to understand that they are the right means through which to propel students into science. The arts develop intrinsic motivation in the pursuit of rigor, while providing the metaphorical foundation for extension of human scientific knowledge. If we have become a nation of idiots, it is not because we have forgotten to teach science, but that we have neglected to teach the arts.

Today I return Eisner's the Arts and the Creation of Mind to the Library, but I want to write down a few important notes and it may as well be here so you can see what I'm thinking. The author describes Viktor Lowenfeld's widely accepted ideas about the stages through which children's arts progress.
"Lowenfeld points out that as children move into adolescence, personality factors or dispositions toward the expressive character of artwork begin to appear. He identifies two types of personalities or emphases in visual expression. One he calls visual and the other haptic. the former leads to work that emphasized verisimilitude, the latter to work that emphasizes emotional expressiveness. In a sense the former is represented by visual realism. The latter by Expressionalism. The disposition to one or the other is a consequence of the child's biological endowment rather than, say the models of visual art the child has encountered or the expectations held for the child by significant adults."
the following is quoted directly from Lowenfeld, Creative and Mental Growth, Macmillan, 1947:
"... it was shown that the inability inspectively to notice visual objects is not always an inhibitory factor in creative activities. On the contrary, the very fact of not paying attention to visual impressions may become the basis of a specific creativeness of the haptic type. This is of greatest importance for art educators, especially for those who still are concerned with visual stimulations only. A visually minded individual would be disturbed and inhibited were he to be stimulated only by means of haptic impressions--that is, were he asked not only to use sight, but to orientate himself only by means of touch, bodily feelings, muscular sensations and kinesthetic fusions."
I find this to be particularly profound as it applies directly to what I observe in the woodshop with my kids at work. Some are concerned with the haptic relationship, of hand on wood and can spend hours (it seems) sanding a piece of wood to perfection, while overlooking whether or not it will visually fit its adjoining parts when their sanding efforts are complete. Others express the idea that if it looks ok, no sanding is needed. Can it be that both are right? And in particular, Lowenfeld's observations tell us that all of us can be artists, even if we don't like to draw.

1 comment:

  1. As an alternative to Quantum Theory there is a new theory that describes and explains the mysteries of physical reality. While not disrespecting the value of Quantum Mechanics as a tool to explain the role of quanta in our universe. This theory states that there is also a classical explanation for the paradoxes such as EPR and the Wave-Particle Duality. The Theory is called the Theory of Super Relativity and is located at: Super Relativity
    This theory is a philosophical attempt to reconnect the physical universe to realism and deterministic concepts. It explains the mysterious.