Thursday, October 29, 2009

sustaining rigor

How do you create rigor in our schools? Put the arts in their appropriate central place. One of the things all artists have noticed in their own lives is that the pursuit of rigor is a necessary component to satisfaction. There is the ever present compulsion to learn new things, and to achieve a level of comparable expertise in the skillful application of acquired learning. The mind revels in the exploration of the new, and in the testing of one's own abilities to create. A true artist won't do the same things over and over finding total satisfaction in the mindless replication of processes. We find our greatest rewards in the mastery of new things. We observe and refine, constantly testing the malleable qualities and limits of our materials, and refining the techniques and qualities of hand, mind and eye through the creative processes available to us.

Is this hard for educators to understand? No doubt they can learn lessons from observation of their own lives. Watch what compels their own interests. It has been surprising to me, how many people I have talked with whose lives in science and business are balanced by their exploration in the arts. If you want rigor in schools, real rigor that is intrinsic rather than tested and imposed by administration, you start with the arts.

And so is a renewal of education in which the arts are central instead of peripheral a reasonable concept? Without a doubt. Cook, clean, plant, make, make music, dance, put the hands (and feet) to work and the heart follows.

1 comment:

  1. I was sharing several Matisse prints with a 5-yr old, and I told him how meticulous the artist was in his work and how he would always strive for perfection. A few days later, the boy came up to show me a completely unrelated piece of work, and he said, "I was very careful with my work, just like Matisse." You're absolutely right, the arts MUST play a bigger role in education. Thanks for the reminder...