Saturday, December 22, 2007

Rationale: Part Three: Why We Should Teach the Arts

Why teach the arts in our schools? Why is it essential that school systems as well as individual classroom teachers make the arts an integral part of the curriculum for students at all grade levels? In short, an important outcome of education is for students to be aware of, to be enriched by, and to appreciate the shared human experience within the diversity of a multi-cultural world. That is, the desired outcomes of education must go beyond simple recall and identification. Rather, students must be trained to be independent, critical thinkers and problem solvers who can tap their creative and imaginative potential. Such outcomes cannot be realized if the arts modalities are not used in teaching. After all, the visual and performing arts, music, and literature teach us most profoundly about the human condition. Using the arts to teach children of all ages makes sense because the arts appeal to the multiple intelligences, the arts are a universal tool for communicating, the arts encourage students to participate actively in their learning environment, and it is through art that children can appreciate best their cultural heritage.

Howard Gardner's theory of the multiple intelligences explains why it is that our classrooms are so diverse in terms of the way children learn and respond to instruction. "It is of the utmost importance that we recognize and nurture all of the varied human intelligences, and all of the combinations of intelligences. We are all so different largely because we all have different combinations of intelligences" (Gardner as cited in Armstrong, 2000, p. 1). Gardner suggests that educators cannot effectively teach and successfully reach all of the students in their classrooms if they refuse to pay attention to the multiple intelligences. The intelligences interact in complex ways, yet all students have the capacity to develop all eight intelligences-linguistic, spatial, logical, kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalistic-to a competent level of performance if given "appropriate encouragement, enrichment, and instruction" (Armstrong, 2000, p. 9). The arts offer the best way to appeal to all of the human intelligences.

Integrating arts modalities into the academic curriculum is as important a priority as any issue facing American education. For both the student and the teacher, the arts offer the opportunity to reflect on both content and process, and play an integral role in joining fact and meaning in a person's education.

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