Sunday, August 21, 2011

"What can education learn from the arts..."

Carl Jung gave us the name for the strange phenomenon of synchronicity,  "the experience of two or more events, that are apparently causally unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner."   -Wikipedia

Four days ago I was in my studio putzing around. Of all the things in that space that might have commanded my attention, the one object that succeeded was Herbert Read's little book, The Philosophy of Modern Art, which I opened and began to read. I read the book years ago, and haven't been back to it since. Until a few days ago.

Since then, as I was getting syllabi ready for the beginning of classes, I happened across an old syllabus of a former colleague of mine in which she quotes this intriguing statement from Elliott Eisner of Stanford University:

"One of the first things that work in the arts develops is a sense of relationship, that nothing stands alone. Whether in music, theater, or painting, every aspect of the work affects every other aspect. Attention to relationships is a fundamental mode of thinking that the arts not only invite but require."     (-thanks to Bevin Engman, Colby College)

Wanting to read more, I sought out Elliot Eisner online. I came across one of his lectures in which he traces the thinking behind some of the early models for educational theory, such as the model of schools as factories that is responsible for many of the ills of the system today. Eisner states that a new vision is needed,  and articulates the reasons why the arts are the best model for education. And who should he mention as his influence?

"The contours of this new vision were influenced by the ideas of Sir Herbert Read, an English art historian, poet, and pacifist working during the middle of the last century. He argued and I concur that the aim of education ought to be conceived of as the preparation of artists. By the term artist neither he nor I mean necessarily painters and dancers, poets and playwrights. We mean individuals who have developed the ideas, the sensibilities, the skills, and the imagination to create work that is well proportioned, skilfully executed, and imaginative, regardless of the domain in which an individual works. The highest accolade we can confer upon someone is to say that he or she is an artist whether as a carpenter or a surgeon, a cook or an engineer, a physicist or a teacher..."

It's a brilliant essay. Reproduced here courtesy of the encyclopedia of informal education, www.infed.org.

What can education learn from the arts about the practice of education?

Homepage:  www.infed.org