Saturday, December 22, 2007

Rationale Part One: The arts let you "see inside of somebody."

It is clear that our schools need to do a better job of educating the whole child. In that vein, there is real need to move away from a content-based approach and focus on a student-based approach. We, as teachers, need to get to know our students from all sides so that we can tailor our teaching directly to them. As a young student named Noel says in Cohen and Gainer’s 1987 book Art: Another Language for Learning “Art lets you see inside of somebody” (as cited in Edwards & Nabors, 1993, p. 80). This is a statement that really lingers for me and colors my teaching methods. Through integrating the arts, we get the chance to really see our students, and they get the chance to really see themselves and others in the class as well as us.

We need to get away from overloading our students with content; the day has long passed when one person could know everything there was to know in the world. As Eric Jensen says in his book Arts With the Brain in Mind, “Filling the brain with knowledge is history” (2001, p.8). We need to move away from the tendency to confront students with “a great mass of information” (Verlee-Williams, 1983, p.59). Instead we need to teach our students to know how to access information and what to do with it after they’ve obtained it. We need to teach them to make connections with prior knowledge and relate it to their own lives. We need to throw our classroom doors and windows open and make them “permeable” to the outside world (Frostig, 2006, p.3). Students need as Duckworth says (as cited in Goldberg, 1997, p. 31) the opportunity to utilize their “repertoire of thoughts, actions, connections, predictions, and feelings.” They need to “understand how to solve problems, what makes arguments plausible, how to build teams, and how to incorporate the concept of fairness into daily life” (Jensen, 2001, p. 9). Integrating the arts can help to accomplish all of these things, because they give the students the opportunity to process and own what they have learned.

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