Saturday, March 26, 2011

decline of the arts...

Jacob Bronowski said:
“The discoveries of science, the works of art are explorations — more, are explosions, of a hidden likeness. The discoverer or the artist presents in them two aspects of nature and fuses them into one. This is the act of creation, in which an original thought is born, and it is the same act in original science and original art.”
You can download a report Arts education in America: What the declines mean for arts participation, here, documenting the steady decline of the arts in schools.
“In America, we do not reserve arts education for privileged students or the elite. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds, students who are English language learners, and students with disabilities often do not get the enrichment experiences of affluent students anywhere except at school. President Obama recalls that when he was a child ‘you always had an art teacher and a music teacher. Even in the poorest school districts everyone had access to music and other arts.’ Today, sadly, that is no longer the case.” – U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, April 9, 2010
The arts are what make learning relevant in the lives of children. The arts are what lure parents to participation is schools through their children's performances. The report shows that while the decline in arts opportunities and participation has been worst for the poor and minorities, the measured decline is true for all children in the US. That decline has had tragic effect on our nation's schools, which are widely considered to be in a state of crisis.

I've modified the scaffolding drawing slightly to show the relationship between the child's experience and the sloyd principle of movement of attention from the known to the unknown, which is not a static relationship but dynamic, continuously unfolding and made new. The arts are not just the arts, but form the 4th leg of the scaffold by providing the core of the child's experience. You cannot successfully whittle a stick without becoming engaged in the close and direct observation of physical reality, and thus crafts, are at the core of science and scientific process. Each and every manipulation of material reality offers the potential for the engagement in scientific method. One of the first publications of the London Royal Society was Joseph Moxon's Mechanick Exercises, his so called Book of Trades, providing those who launched the scientific revolution an understanding of how tradesmen shaped physical reality into useful form, thus providing early scientists the necessary means to create the tools of scientific investigation. The integration of children into crafts is their foundation in science. And what is it about that simple thing that our educational administrators and politicians seem to not understand?

Building a successful scaffold to engage the child's attention in learning is dependent on the child's engagement in the first place through continuity of experience. Making a connection from a child's own experience to the inquiry at hand is what lures his attention onwards connecting his or her own reflective internal dialog to classroom participation. If a teacher wants students to follow a lecture into greater knowledge, he or she must connect with what they already know. If we want to develop scientists in college, we'd better give children a start making beautiful and useful objects in elementary and middle school, or they just won't be ready for the emotional engagement and intellectual rigor involved in science. The following is from the NEA report:
A small but growing body of research has shown that arts education is associated with the development of dispositions and inclinations that scaffold learning in general, reaching well beyond the arts to a broad range of positive cognitive, social, and emotional outcomes. Some studies have found that arts learning has a more significant effect on low-income student achievement than it does on the academic performance of more privileged students, and that arts education is an effective pathway to deeper engagement and success in school for students who are at the greatest risk of academic failure. Some research has shown that arts education can have significant influence on student achievement, even when measured by the narrow standard of improving test scores.

Please let me know if any of this is useful to you.

Make, fix and create. DIY/TIY. Your children will most likely not get the arts and crafts they need in their schooling.

Just in case anyone has any further doubts about the relationship between the arts and science, consider this: "Processes of metaphor are functional in the generation of new hypotheses" -Donald A. Schön

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe people see those colored blocks and other toys that engage the child's hands as something that should end when they go to school.

Mario