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Thinking About the Arts in Education: A Reformed Perspective

by Philip W. Jackson - 1994

Presents a new perspective on how to integrate the arts back into education and how to make art education part of the school reform process. The perspective would teach only artistic insights that would best serve children at different times in their development, stressing the continuity between art and life. (Source: ERIC)

I was recently invited to address a conference of art educators whose theme focused on the question of how the arts might contribute to the process of school reform. I readily accepted the invitation, for I thought the task would be an easy one. In my mind's eye I could already see how to proceed. I would begin with a quick overview of the sorry state of arts education in the schools of our nation; move to an indictment of today's school reformers, charging them with a lack of concern for the aforementioned state of affairs; proceed next to a set of quick-fix prescriptions that promised to set things straight once and for all; and gradually build up to a rousing defense of education in the arts, one that would bring tears to the eyes of art lovers everywhere and maybe even put a lump in the throat of Jesse Helms. I had visions of myself modestly acknowledging the thunderous applause that would greet the close of my remarks.

Then, just to be on the safe side, I decided to do a little background reading before I began to write. I read an article by Judith Burton that appeared in a recent issue of Art Education; I read the concluding chapter, written by John I. Goodlad, of the Ninety-first Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education; and I read a book entitled Custom and Cherishing, co-authored by Robert Stake, Liora Bresler, and Linda Mabry and containing eight case studies of how the arts are currently being taught (or not taught, as the case may be) in a set of quite ordinary elementary schools situated across the country from New Hampshire to California.[1] I read other things as well but those three were enough to make me discard my plans and begin again. They forced me to acknowledge that my initial premises were all wrong.

I had faintly suspected as much from the start, to tell the truth, but I had been reluctant to face up to that suspicion. However, the readings I have named made it abundantly clear that I had started off on the wrong foot. What I should have known at the start and what these readings forced me to acknowledge was first, that most of us are by now a bit weary of hearing about how bad things are for the arts in today's schools, and that includes hearing about the neglect of the arts by policymakers and would-be reformers from the president on down (this is not to say that such a gloomy picture is untrue, only that we are tired of hearing about it); second, that there are no quick-fix solutions to this sad state of affairs, no remedies that will turn things around and set them right, at least none that stands a chance of drastically modifying the status quo within the foreseeable future, which certainly extends to the end of this century, much less do it in time to greet next year's crop of kindergartners and high school freshmen; and, third, if there is anything we do not need under these lamentable circumstances it is more inspirational rhetoric aimed at bringing tears to our eyes and filling us once again with false hope. Judith Burton describes us as having become "trapped within the confines of our own rhetoric, sometimes believing that if we say things often enough, loudly enough, peppered with much metaphor and color, that what we say is, or will become true."[2] John Goodlad speaks for all who have had their fill of such talk, including those who may themselves have contributed to it, when he says,

I have joined with arts educators over the years in envisioning just over the dry hills a green valley made even more beautiful by colorful schools with the arts at their center. Always the valley lies beyond the next dry ridge. I shall eschew attempting to contribute still one more time to the utopian literature of the arts paradise unrealized.[3]

Goodlad's phrase "the utopian literature of the arts paradise unrealized" made me smile. It sounded like something that would roll off the tongue of a politician who was in love with his own words (and what politician isn't?). Thus it was a perfect parody of the inflated rhetoric that Goodlad himself was explicitly disavowing. I could not help but join him in his disavowal. I too wanted to eschew that kind of talk.

But if inspirational rhetoric was out, along with finger-pointing at bureaucrats and others, and if promises of future pie-in-the-sky were no longer acceptable, what was left for me to say to an audience of art educators? Fortunately, all was not lost. Judith Burton, in the article already cited, came to my rescue by suggesting something else for me (and others) to talk about. Robert Stake and his colleagues supplied another alternative. I found their suggestions so appealing that I decided to weave my remarks around them, much as I shall be doing here as well.

Burton distinguishes between two ways of teaching art. One she calls "art with a capital A"; the other, "art with a small a." In Burton's terms, those who teach art with a capital A "teach conventional techniques and formulas--the tricks of the art trade" to their students. They do so, she says, "in the name of having children behave 'as artists' in order to be initiated into the vernacular of artistry." The trouble with this kind of teaching, we are told, is that "the educational value of learning such formulas is short-lived." Because they are not learned in "an appropriate developmental context" and at a level of complexity that students can handle, those techniques and formulas "are held to inflexibility and only give of endless repetition."[4]

A different way of teaching art--Burton's "art with a small a"--calls for the teacher to select out of his or her "own repertoire of understanding just those insights that will best serve children at different times in their growth and development." How can that selection be accomplished? What it calls for, according to Burton, is that we "rethink our ideas of artistry, with a big A, recast them in the context of ideas about representation and symbolic capacities." We need, she says, "to embark on the difficult task of rethinking our own conventional conceptions, tracking them back, so to speak, to their origins in human experience so that we can come to know the many and different levels, nuances, and interweavings out of which our own insights have grown to artistic maturity."[5]

I shall return a bit later for a closer look at portions of that statement but what I find attractive about it in general is the suggestion that by rethinking our individual conceptions of what constitutes artistry and artistic merit we might come to a better understanding of how we ourselves came to adopt the views and the values we currently hold. Such a process, Burton predicts, will enable teachers of art to make better, that is, more developmentally appropriate, decisions about what and how to teach their students. It will contribute, in short, to the teaching of art with a small a. To that I would add that it may also do something else. It may give all of us--not only teachers of art but even those of us who only cheer them on--a new way of talking to one another about the place of art in our own lives and possibly a way of addressing other audiences, such as students and policymakers, as well. On that optimistic note, which is not just pie-in- the-sky, as I intend to show, let me take leave of Judith Burton's ideas for the time being and turn briefly to the suggestion put forth by Robert Stake, Liora Bresler, and Linda Mabry.

Like Burton, Stake and his colleagues also want us to move from something like a capital-A conception of education in the arts to one that is more humble and prosaic--a "small-a" conception, let us call it, just to make the two propositions more or less parallel. But the distinction Stake et al. make is not between a technical, formula-driven mode of teaching, on the one hand, and one that is more developmentally sensitive, on the other. Instead, they contrast the view of arts education as promulgated by the field's leaders with the reality of today's classrooms as seen from the firing line. They accuse those-who- point-the-way of being "out of touch with the practitioners." "The leaders," we are told, have been "calling for revolutionary change, whereas the teachers [hold out] little hope even for evolutionary change." Indeed, many of the latter have a hard enough time hanging on to the small but important place they have made for the arts within their own classrooms and within today's crowded curriculum. Moreover, "in matters of school curriculum," the authors sagely observe, "some incremental change occurs but revolutionary change does not."[6] Thus, they conclude, "the question for arts educators . . . is not 'How can we do it right?' but [rather] 'How can we keep from losing the few-but-many good things we've got?'"[7] The phrase "few-but-many" refers to the paradoxical condition of there being hundreds and perhaps even thousands of schools and classrooms scattered throughout the country in which the arts are taught in an near-exemplary manner by able and dedicated teachers and yet that number remains minuscule in relation to the even larger number of educational settings (comprising the vast majority of schools and classrooms) in which practically nothing is going on in the way of arts education.

In keeping with their conservative strategy of trying first to preserve and strengthen the schools' present offerings in the arts, as opposed to pressing for radical change, which they believe impossible, Stake, Bresler, and Mabry proffer four or five ways to make modest improvements in the status quo. Each of their suggestions strikes me as worthy of serious consideration by practicing educators at all levels of schooling, but the one I find most appealing is their call for more talk among teachers and students about the things they (both teachers and students) enjoy in life and their reasons for enjoying them. "Our children," they explain, "need to be encouraged to explore, to see and hear with other eyes and ears, to sense the power of understanding that can be gained from another's point of view, to translate their own thoughts and feelings into a socially communicable and engaging form."[8] Such would be the goal of the kind of appreciative talk they call for. Its subject could be a great work of art or a classroom art project or an art object that the teacher or an individual student has produced. But it need be none of those and in many instances what might be talked about would not be art at all, at least not art with a capital A. In fact, the authors stress the desirability of having teachers discuss with their students whatever they (the teachers) "have come to cherish," including the popular arts, programs on television, and even more earthy matters, such as the joys of gardening, let us say, or the pleasures of bowling. Such topics of conversation may not always win the approval of arts educators, Stake and his colleagues readily acknowledge, but that lack of approval, they go on to insist, should not deter teachers from discussing whatever they happen to enjoy.

Regardless of subject matter, the outcome for the speaker's audience of such "shared cherishings" would be an increased awareness of what someone else has found to be worthwhile and why he or she has found it so. In any case, those who listened to the kind of talk that Stake and his colleagues are calling for would not only learn what the speaker likes and why he or she likes it but, ideally at least, they would be led to think about their own tastes and opinions in relation to what has been said. And their ruminations need not stop there. If the telling goes beyond a simple declaration of I-like-this-and-here-is-why, audience and speaker alike may soon find themselves pursuing more abstract topics of aesthetic judgment, the sort of questions that ultimately connect to art with a capital A. Why might the conversation be more likely to move in that direction than in some other? Because there are aesthetic dimensions to the intrinsically enjoyable, no matter what its subject. That, in a nutshell, is the unspoken premise that undergirds Stake's proposal. I, for one, accept that premise without question, though I do have worries about how automatically the conversation would take such a turn. I shall have more to say about those worries in a moment.

But even if the transition to more aesthetic and intellectual interests never takes place, the time spent discussing such intrinsic pleasures will presumably not have been wasted, for the students, or whoever might comprise the speaker's audience, will at least have witnessed a testimonial on behalf of something that is genuinely appreciated by someone and they may even have been exposed to a useful lesson in what I. A. Richards long ago referred to as "practical criticism," a term he used to describe the opinions and evaluations of works of art by nonexperts.[9] The students also will have witnessed an instance of something that might be called "heartfelt teaching," for there can be no doubt that the "teacher" under such circumstances (whether an actual teacher or only a student behaving like one) truly believes his or her subject matter to be worthwhile and is eager to share it with others.

In this connection I recall the memorable lines that come near the end of Wordsworth's Prelude, where the poet declares, "what we have loved,/ Others will love, and we will teach them how."[10] His words at that point in the poem were directed principally to his house guest and fellow poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and to his beloved sister Dorothy, both of whom sat listening as Wordsworth brought to a close his latest endeavor, an autobiographical poem of great intellectual reach and unusual length, a work that had taken several evenings, perhaps even a week or more, to read aloud in its entirety. The loved object to which Wordsworth refers is of course poetry itself, a love he fully shares with those present. But as a generalized aspiration his words might well serve as a slogan for all who set out to communicate their enthusiasm for whatever it is they might cherish. All might join Wordsworth in proclaiming to their fellow enthusiasts, What we have loved, others will love, and we will teach them how. Such is the goal that Stake and his colleagues seem to be prescribing for all of us who daily stand before audiences of pliable youth.

The image of teachers talking informally to students about some of the things they (the teachers) truly love appeals strongly to those of us who would like to see teaching retain the kind of intimacy and warmth that it legendarily has had and that it seems in danger of losing in these days of increased accountability, teacher exams, and all of the other moves to "professionalize" teaching and put it on a more scientific footing than it has had in the past. But quite frankly I worry about the practicality of bringing that Wordsworthian image to life, of making it happen. I wonder, first of all, where such talk is to fit within an already crowded curriculum. Where are teachers to find the time for such relaxed intimacies? Second, and even more important perhaps, I wonder about how to make such talk truly educative rather than simply entertaining or diversionary. Even if it should be about an artistic pursuit, which I agree it need not be, I am not confident that it will automatically or even with fair regularity lead to aesthetic insights of a kind that will magnify the importance of the arts within the lives of either teachers or students. Transitions to more generalized insights may occur spontaneously from time to time, one might assume, but they are much more likely to happen if the teacher, or whoever is guiding the conversation, intentionally moves in that direction.

And what would inspire such a move? In a word, insight, insight and understanding. Therein lies the missing element in Stake et al.'s proposal, as I see it, and there too lies the key to change in general within our schools, or so it seems to me. If, in the final analysis, we are to bring students to a better understanding of how all of the arts, from the most popular to the most exalted, might enrich their lives, we must first be sure that we teachers have attained that understanding ourselves or at least are working on it. We must first have integrated at least some of art's lessons into our own ways of responding to the world, including what we do as teachers. Only then will we be in a position to invite our students to do the same.

But what does it mean to apply art's lessons to our own lives? Which lessons? Applied in what way?

Burton does not address those questions directly, at least not in the article from which I have been quoting, but she does say some things in those pages that bear on the kinds of answers that I myself would give. She does so in the section of her piece that addresses the necessity of rethinking our conventional conceptions about a wide variety of artistic matters, tracing them back to their origins in human experience. She calls that task difficult, made so, she says, because of "the many and different levels, nuances, and interweavings out of which our own insights have grown to artistic maturity."[11]

"Levels, nuances, and interweavings"--when I first came upon them, those three terms of Burton's struck me as being descriptive not only of what she takes them to be--that is, the rooted nature of those artistic insights that a few lucky souls may have nurtured to maturity--but of all the rest of our insights as well, those that enlighten our understanding of science, housekeeping, bowling, politics, hotdog vending, and anything else one might care to name. Moreover, it is not just insights whose roots lie buried and entangled in the soil of our psychic past, it is all our thinking, everything we might turn to in our search for understanding.

Pick a subject, an object, the scene before one's eyes perhaps, and concentrate on it for a while. What then happens? If we are at all inquisitive and open-minded, the meaning or significance we attach to whatever we are apprehending grows increasingly complex the longer we stay with it and it does so in a fairly predictable manner, even though its content may defy foretelling. For one thing, our perception takes on depth. We begin to see in the apprehended object or event "more than meets the eye," as we are wont to say. And the "more" to which that expression refers often seems to reside almost a world apart from our initial perception, which is why we commonly employ spatial metaphors to assign it a specific location. We speak of it as lying "within" or "beneath the surface" of what we first see. It is this phenomenon of acquired depth that Burton seems to be getting at with her talk of there being "many and different levels" of our understanding.

Also, when we look closely at almost anything, we see it in more detail. If it is a physical object, like a cup or a landscape, we begin to notice its finer features, its highlights and shadows, its small imperfections, and a lot of other things that had first escaped our attention. The object becomes "nuanced," in other words, which means shaded, from "nubes," the Latin word for cloud. A similar phenomenon occurs when what we are thinking about has no physical manifestation at all, when it is only an idea or the memory of something that took place long ago. With those immaterial objects as well, the longer we reflect, the more nuanced become our reflections.

The interweavings that Burton speaks of make me think of a rug, an oriental carpet, perhaps, with its warp and woof forming a pattern whose colors and complexity delight the eye. From there my thoughts move to the twists and turns that thought itself takes when we give it free rein. I become mindful of the ease and rapidity with which it is possible to leap back and forth imaginatively from thoughts about art to thoughts about ordinary experience, or from memories of our own development to considerations having to do with the development of others, such as our children or the students in our charge. Sometimes these shifts happen abruptly and without warning as when something occurs to us from out of the blue. At other times we consciously try to daydream or "free associate," as it is sometimes called, in the hope of coming up with a fresh outlook or a new idea. Always, however, the specific pattern our thoughts take on such occasions, their interweavings, let us say, turns out to be absolutely unique, one of a kind. We thus are reminded, if we allow ourselves to further reflect on such a state of affairs, that thought itself is infinite in its possibilities, its harmonies, and its disjunctions.

Now here is where the lessons from the arts comes in. For of all the things the arts may be said to do for us (and their celebrated contributions to our well-being are of course multiple), few are more significant than their capacity to elicit our thoughtful attention. The arts teach us to look and to listen carefully. As we concentrate on a work of art, whether as artists or as audience and whether the object itself consists of a finished or an unfinished story, poem, dance, painting, musical composition, or whatever, we become progressively aware of "the many and different levels, nuances, and interweavings" of sense and meaning that the work and our responsiveness to it call forth. Indeed, some commentators would say that complex intermixture of thought and feeling on the part of both artist and audience comprises the genuine work of art.

Art's work, in other words, demands a wholehearted responsiveness on the part of artist and audience alike, a condition of alertness quite unlike the kind of half-awake stupor that marks our usual condition and suffices to get us through most of the day. In two articles on aesthetics and education written some fifteen years ago, Maxine Greene made good use of Alfred Schutz's notion of "wide-awakeness" to depict the heightened awareness I am talking about.[12] Here is the way Shutz defines what he has in mind:

By the term "wide-awakeness" we want to denote a plane of consciousness of highest tension originating in an attitude of full attention to life and its requirements. Only the performing and especially the working self is fully interested in life and, hence, wide-awake. It lives within its acts and its attention is exclusively directed to carrying its project into effect, to executing its plan. This attention is an active, not a passive one. Passive attention is the opposite to full awareness.[13]

What Greene wants us to understand in those two articles of hers is that art's job, or at least part of its job, is to promote the kind of wide- awakeness that Shutz describes. "The very exploration of ways of fostering such [wide-awake] encounters," she says, "(and, indeed, the investigation of what such encounters are) may well open new perspectives on what it is to learn and what it is to see." She then proceeds to warn against teachers' adopting her suggestions mechanically. "[I do not] believe that precisely the kinds of questions I have asked should be asked in every classroom," she cautions, "in the hope that--if they are asked--young people will become more aware of how art means and what it signifies in human life." However, she then goes on to say what she would like to see happen: "I do think that curriculum theorists and teachers . . . ought to frame such questions for themselves and that the sense of open questions ought to pervade the teaching of art."[14]

That same sense should pervade the teaching of everything, I would add, and I have no doubt that Greene would agree. Indeed, the questioning spirit that Shutz describes, his "wide-awakeness," should characterize as much of our lives as circumstances will allow, given the ever-present and pressing demands that invariably force us to operate at less than our full capacity. And therein lies the exemplary function of the arts. By requiring us to respond sensitively and comprehensively to each of its works (on penalty of missing what we came for), by demanding all we can give in the way of attention (a price none can escape paying), and by challenging us to think and to feel with heightened intensity and subtlety, the arts teach us what it means to be fully alive and fully human. By inference and indirection they hint at what some of the other portions of our lives might be like if we were willing to pay the cost. They say to each of us, in a manner of speaking: Get thee hence and do likewise, not by producing further works of art necessarily but by trying to be as artful as possible in the shaping of our own circumstances and conditions whatever they might be. In their role as exemplars, the arts are educative in the most profound sense of that term. I would go further than that. I would insist that when the arts are taught in a manner that makes salient their relevance to the conduct of life in general (which includes the conduct of teaching, I need hardly add) they are the most educative subject in the curriculum. More educative than the three Rs? Yes, by far, though hardly as rudimentary for our day-to-day interchanges with others, needless to say. We obviously require a minimal mastery of language and of numbers in order to engage in satisfactory transactions with the symbolic world in which we live. No one would deny that. But take away our capacity to respond selectively and wholeheartedly to the symbolic richness of life, which is precisely what each work of art invites us to do, and our ability to decode the written word or to juggle numbers would count for very little indeed.

Let me now return to what was said earlier about the insight of teachers, about how crucial it is for them to understand how the arts (or whatever objects or activities they might especially cherish) contribute to their own lives if they are to be in a position to pass that understanding along to their students.

For how many of today's teachers are the arts an important part of their lives? I have no answer to that question but I feel certain the number is smaller than we would like it to be. How many teachers have hobbies or avocations ("cherishings," let us call them) whose aesthetic dimensions they might fruitfully discuss with their students? A much larger number than in the first instance, I would guess, though as I suggested earlier, I am not at all sure how many are consciously aware of the aesthetic principles at work in such activities. A small minority of that total number, would be my guess.

For the sake of argument, let us suppose that my somewhat gloomy "guesstimates," crude as they are, are fundamentally correct. What do they portend for the future of the arts and arts instruction in our schools? The first thing they say to me is that we had better get to work at once in helping our teachers (and ourselves) develop a better understanding of how the arts and aesthetic conceptions in general might contribute to the enrichment of their (and our) lives. This means doing more with the arts in our teacher training programs. It means organizing more conferences like the one to which I was invited, conferences in which art educators and non-art educators exchange ideas and in which the contributions of the arts are openly and forthrightly discussed. It means going out of the way to talk about these matters with our students and our teaching colleagues. It means having the courage to undertake the kind of lonely self-scrutiny of our own conceptions that Burton advocates.

If I had more space I would offer here a full-dress presentation of yet another distinction between art with a capital A and art with a small a, one to place alongside the distinctions that Burton and Stake et al. have offered us. My own version of that now infamous dichotomy would contrast a conception of art that sees it as an activity qualitatively separate and apart from all other human endeavors (that would be my art with a capital A) with one that sees it as a very special activity indeed but one that is nonetheless continuous with the most mundane and ordinary of human affairs (that would be my art with a small a) . I must defer that presentation for another occasion and content myself here with only a couple of passing comments about what the distinction entails.

Art with a capital A, as I would use the phrase, dignifies both art and artists in a way that many of us who might be called art-lovers find quite acceptable and even attractive. It does so, however, at the cost of driving a wedge or building a wall between "the world of art" on the one hand and all other "worlds" on the other. This conception insists on art's uniqueness in a manner that valorizes art's products to a point where some of them become almost priceless commodities in economic terms (many of us may be fundamentally sympathetic with that outcome as well, perhaps). But the effect of so doing is to deprecate not only all that is nonart but even those artistic products judged to be tainted with the impurity of usefulness (hence the appeal of the slogan "art for art's sake" and the persistent effort to maintain a sharp and impenetrable distinction between the fine and the useful arts or between art and design).

In educational and psychological terms, the capital-A conception of art seeks to convince us of art's uniqueness by arguing that there is a special form of human intelligence, maybe even a special region of the brain--a whole lobe perhaps--that is exercised only (or properly so) when we are making something artistic or trying to appreciate someone else's art. In this view, a major reason for teaching the arts in our schools is to fight brain decay of a very special kind. This too is a flattering perspective from the standpoint of artists themselves, who obviously have the requisite cognitive abilities to turn out works of art, and perhaps it is flattering to art lovers as well (since the latter seemingly have at least enough "artistic intelligence" to recognize an outstanding art product when they see or hear one).

A major difficulty with that view, if my knowledge of the situation is sufficiently up-to-date, is that no one has yet isolated those special cognitive abilities, either conceptually or empirically, and shown them to be uniquely associated with artistic activity in a generic sense. This is not to say that it does not take a special kind of know-how to paint a picture or write a poem or do anything else artistic, nor is it to insist that there is no such thing as an artistic temperament or a proclivity toward the arts based on a combination of native ability, temperament, and experience. It is, however, to question whether the specialized knowledge necessary for the production or appreciation of art makes use of a set of cognitive capacities or innate abilities that have been set aside for that purpose by Mother Nature herself, capacities that would otherwise remain dormant and unused. I know of no hard-nosed evidence that would support such a theory.

Finally, the capital-A point of view conceives of art as basically a refuge from the harshness and humdrum of everyday life--a means of escape, when the emphasis is on the making of art, and a final destination, when the focus is on contemplative appreciation. From this escapist perspective art is seen essentially as a form of entertainment, a mode of relaxation, a way of getting away from it all, something to do on a rainy day. In educational contexts this view translates into the practice of introducing art activities during so-called free periods sandwiched between math and science or taking up the "dead" time at the end of the week. In high schools it means placing art far down the list of electives, keeping it essentially "extracurricular."

Once again, there is something very appealing about this aspect of the capital-A view of art, as there are with most of its other manifestations. The satisfactions gained from art are certainly sufficient to justify our wanting to turn to it in moments of weariness or distress or even as a means of brightening up an otherwise dull day. We often find solace in art, of that there can be no doubt. There is also something about the playfulness of art that serves to reinforce its being looked on as a form of entertainment. Art can surely be fun. That too is certain. However, there are genuine costs to this point of view as well, the chief one being that it serves to reinforce and even sharpen the distinction between art and life.

Now what of art with a small a? In my lexicon, as has already been said, art with a small a stresses the continuity between art and the rest of life. This means seeing the connections, relationships, the similarities and the differences, between our encounters with works of art, either as producers or as consumers, and the spontaneous irregularities of everyday experience. It means underscoring art's availability as a standard by which to judge all that we do. It means, as we have seen, carrying art's lessons home with us and trying to apply them in our daily lives. It means taking the arts seriously, even when they are fun and finding in their achievement a source of satisfaction and delight, even when the seriousness of their content bites to the quick.

The small a in this spelling of art is not intended to symbolize a denigration of art's importance in human affairs. Quite the contrary. As both a human activity and a collection of man-made (and woman-made) artifacts, art remains as laudable as ever in this view. It is so, however, not principally because it is capable of transporting us on wings of fancy to imaginary worlds, to scenes unruffled by the winds of change (though it obviously does that quite well from time to time, as a work like Keats's famous "Ode on a Grecian Urn" so memorably establishes). Rather, in the small-a view art is especially laudable and quintessentially educational because of what it invites us to see and hear in the world we look upon and listen to when we turn from art's achievements and rewards and immerse ourselves once more in our daily lives. The world to which we then turn, incidentally, is not limited to the physical universe that lies outside our skin. It takes in our thoughts and our feelings and all those "interior" components that we traditionally include under the rubric of human psychology. Thus, it is what the arts do to us as inhabitants of that all-inclusive universe of both "inside" and "outside" that makes them instruments of education par excellence. On the day when that view of the arts becomes widespread among us, we need no longer worry about finding a place for them in our schools.

That, in essence, was the message I delivered at the conference of art educators. Perhaps they had heard it all before, I cannot say, but they nonetheless responded most generously, for which I was grateful. The view of the arts that I sought to expound toward the close of those remarks offered a tantalizing prospect of what might be. Can that prospect become a reality? Or were my closing remarks simply another example of the kind of uplifting prose that one has come to expect at conferences such as the one I attended, the kind that I had vowed to eschew at the start? I honestly cannot answer that question but I do know that any and all efforts to make that prospect a reality would be well worth the try.


1 Judith M. Burton, "Art Education and the Plight of the Culture: A Status Report," Art Education, July 1992, pp. 7-18; John I. Goodlad, "Toward a Place in the Curriculum for the Arts," in The Arts, Education, and Aesthetic Knowing. Ninety-first Yearbook of the National Society for the Study of Education. Part II (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992), pp. 192-212; and Robert Stake, Liora Bresler, and Linda Mabry, Custom and Cherishing: The Arts in Elementary Schools (Urbana, Ill.: Council for Research in Music Education, 1991).

2 Burton, "Art Education and the Plight of the Culture," p. 13.

3 Goodlad, "Toward a Place in the Curriculum for the Arts," p. 194.

4 Burton, "Art Education and the Plight of the Culture," quotations all from page 15.

5 Ibid., p. 16.

6 Stake, Bresler, and Mabry, Custom and Cherishing, p. 345.

7 Ibid., p. 348.

8 Ibid., p. 345.

9 I.A. Richards, Practical Criticism (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1964, 1929).

10 W. Woodsworth, The Prelude, 1799, 1805, 1950, ed. J. Wordsworth, M. H., Abrams, and S. Gill (New York: W. W. Norton, 1979), p. 482.

11 Burton, "Art Education and the Plight of the Culture," p. 16.

12 Maxine Greene, Landscapes of Learning (New York: Teachers College Press, 1978).

13 A. Schutz, "The Problem of Social Reality," in Collected Papers I, ed. M. Natanson (The Hague: Martinus Nijhoff, 1967), p. 213.

14 See "Towards Wide-Awakeness: An Argument for the Arts and Humanities in Education," pp. 161-67; and "The Artistic-Aesthetic and Curriculum," pp. 168-84 in Greene, Landscapes in Learning. Quotation on page 179, emphasis added.

Cite This Article as: Teachers College Record Volume 95 Number 4, 1994, p. 542-554
https://www.tcrecord.org ID Number: 108, Date Accessed: 1/18/2022 4:53:21 PM

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