Ten Lessons the Arts Teach

By Elliot Eisner

1) The arts teach children to make good judgments about qualitative relationships. Unlike much of the curriculum in which correct answers and rules prevail, in the arts, it is judgment rather than rules that prevail.

2) The arts teach children that problems can have more than one solution and that questions can have more than one answer.

3) The arts celebrate multiple perspectives. One of their large lessons is that there are many ways to see and interpret the world.

4) The arts teach children that in complex forms of problem solving purposes are seldom fixed, but change with circumstance and opportunity. Learning in the arts requires the ability and a willingness to surrender to the unanticipated possibilities of the work as it unfolds.

5) The arts make vivid the fact that neither words in their literal form nor number exhaust what we can know. The limits of our language do not define the limits of our cognition.

6) The arts teach students that small differences can have large effects. The arts traffic in subtleties.

7) The arts teach students to think through and within a material. All art forms employ some means through which images become real.

8) The arts help children learn to say what cannot be said. When children are invited to disclose what a work of art helps them feel, they must reach into their poetic capacities to find the words that will do the job.

9) The arts enable us to have experience we can have from no other source and through such experience to discover the range and variety of what we are capable of feeling.

10) The arts’ position in the school curriculum symbolizes to the young what adults believe is important.

SOURCE: Eisner, E. (2002). The Arts and the Creation of Mind, In Chapter 4, What the Arts Teach and How It Shows. (pp. 70-92). Yale University Press. Available from NAEA Publications.

Why Arts Education?

The National Art Education Association

What does art education do for the individual and for society? Why do we teach art? How does art contribute to education at all levels? There are many good answers to these questions, but three stand out as crucial in today’s social and economic climate. We believe that art—and therefore art education—means three things that everyone wants and needs.

Art Means Work
Beyond the qualities of creativity, self-expression, and communication, art is a type of work. This is what art has been from the beginning. This is what art is from childhood to old age. Through art, our students learn the meaning of joy of work—work done to the best of one’s ability, for its own sake, for the satisfaction of a job well done. There is a desperate need in our society for a revival of the idea of good work: work for personal fulfillment; work for social recognition; work for economic development. Work is one of the noblest expressions of the human spirit, and art is the visible evidence of work carried to the highest possible level. Today we hear much about productivity and workmanship. Both of these ideals are strengthened each time we commit ourselves to the endeavor of art. We are dedicated to the idea that art is the best way for every young person to learn the value of work.

Art Means Language
Art is a language of visual images that everyone must learn to read. In art classes, we make visual images, and we study images. Increasingly, these images affect our needs, our daily behavior, our hopes, our opinions, and our ultimate ideals. That is why the individual who cannot understand or read images is incompletely educated. Complete literacy includes the ability to understand, respond to, and talk about visual images. Therefore, to carry out its total mission, art education stimulates language—spoken and written—about visual images. As art teachers we work continuously on the development of critical skills. This is our way of encouraging linguistic skills. By teaching pupils to describe, analyze, and interpret visual images, we enhance their powers of verbal expression. That is no educational frill.

Art Means Values
You cannot touch art without touching values: values about home and family, work and play, the individual and society, nature and the environment, war and peace, beauty and ugliness, violence and love. The great art of the past and the present deals with these durable human concerns. As art teachers we do not indoctrinate. But when we study the art of many lands and peoples, we expose our students to the expression of a wide range of human values and concerns. We sensitize students to the fact that values shape all human efforts, and that visual images can affect their personal value choices. All of them should be given the opportunity to see how art can express the highest aspirations of the human spirit. From that foundation we believe they will be in a better position to choose what is right and good.

We in the National Art Education Association are committed to this three-part statement about the importance of art instruction for America’s children. Our specific recommendations for school art programs are set forth in Purposes, Principles, and Standards for School Art Programs and in Design Standards for School Art Facilities. In addition, our various publications describe in detail the views of leading art educators about the issues confronting the art teaching profession.

If you are interested in further information about these publications or about membership in the NAEA, subscriptions, orders, or information about art education, contact:

The National Art Education Association
1916 Association Drive
Reston, VA 20191-1590
(703) 860-8000
Fax (703)860-2960


"The Impoverishment of American Culture
And the need for better art education"

The Wall Street Journal
Leisure & Arts

by Dana Gioia
Thursday, July 19, 2007

There is an experiment I'd love to conduct. I'd like to survey a cross-section of Americans and ask them how many active NBA players, Major League Baseball players, and "American Idol" finalists they can name. Then I'd ask them how many living American poets, playwrights, painters, sculptors, architects, classical musicians, conductors and composers they can name. I'd even like to ask how many living American scientists or social thinkers they can name.

Fifty years ago, I suspect that along with Mickey Mantle, Willie Mays and Sandy Koufax, most Americans could have named, at the very least, Robert Frost, Carl Sandburg, Arthur Miller, Thornton Wilder, Georgia O'Keeffe, Leonard Bernstein, Leontyne Price and Frank Lloyd Wright. Not to mention scientists and thinkers like Linus Pauling, Jonas Salk, Rachel Carson, Margaret Mead and especially Dr. Alfred Kinsey. I don't think that Americans were smarter then, but American culture was. Even the mass media placed a greater emphasis on presenting a broad range of human achievement. I grew up mostly among immigrants, many of whom never learned to speak English. But at night watching TV variety programs like the Ed Sullivan Show, I saw--along with comedians, popular singers and movie stars--classical musicians like Jascha Heifetz and Arthur Rubinstein, opera singers like Robert Merrill and Anna Moffo, and jazz greats like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong captivate an audience of millions with their art.

The same was true of literature. I first encountered Robert Frost, John Steinbeck, Lillian Hellman and James Baldwin on general-interest TV shows. All of these people were famous to the average American - because the culture considered them important. Today no working-class kid would encounter that range of arts and ideas in the popular culture. Almost everything in our national culture, even the news, has been reduced to entertainment, or altogether eliminated. The loss of recognition for artists, thinkers and scientists has impoverished our culture in innumerable ways, but let me mention one. When virtually all of a culture's celebrated figures are in sports or entertainment, how few possible role models we offer the young. There are so many other ways to lead a successful and meaningful life that are not denominated by money or fame. Adult life begins in a child's imagination, and we've relinquished that imagination to the marketplace. I have a reccurring nightmare. I am in Rome visiting the Sistine Chapel. I look up at Michelangelo's incomparable fresco of the "Creation of Man." I see God stretching out his arm to touch the reclining Adam's finger. And then I notice in the other hand Adam is holding a Diet Pepsi.

When was the last time you have seen a featured guest on David Letterman or Jay Leno who isn't trying to sell you something? A new movie, a new TV show, a new book or a new vote? Don't get me wrong. I have a Stanford MBA and spent 15 years in the food industry. I adore my big-screen TV. The productivity and efficiency of the free market is beyond dispute. It has created a society of unprecedented prosperity. But we must remember that the marketplace does only one thing - it puts a price on everything. The role of culture, however, must go beyond economics. It is not focused on the price of things, but on their value. And, above all, culture should tell us what is beyond price, including what does not belong in the marketplace. A culture should also provide some cogent view of the good life beyond mass accumulation. In this respect, our culture is failing us.

There is only one social force in America potentially large and strong enough to counterbalance this commercialization of cultural values, our educational system. Traditionally, education has been one thing that our nation has agreed cannot be left entirely to the marketplace--but made mandatory and freely available to everyone.

At 56, I am just old enough to remember a time when every public high school in this country had a music program with choir and band, usually a jazz band, too, sometimes even an orchestra. And every high school offered a drama program, sometimes with dance instruction. And there were writing opportunities in the school paper and literary magazine, as well as studio art training.

I am sorry to say that these programs are no longer widely available. This once visionary and democratic system has been almost entirely dismantled by well-meaning but myopic school boards, county commissioners and state officials, with the federal government largely indifferent to the issue. Art became an expendable luxury, and 50 million students have paid the price. Today a child's access to arts education is largely a function of his or her parents' income. In a time of social progress and economic prosperity, why have we experienced this colossal cultural decline? There are several reasons, but I must risk offending many friends and colleagues by saying that surely artists and intellectuals are partly to blame. Most American artists, intellectuals and academics have lost their ability to converse with the rest of society. We have become wonderfully expert in talking to one another, but we have become almost invisible and inaudible in the general culture. This mutual estrangement has had enormous cultural, social and political consequences. America needs its artists and intellectuals, and they need to re-establish their rightful place in the general culture. If we could reopen the conversation between our best minds and the broader public, the results would not only transform society but also artistic and intellectual life. There is no better place to start this rapprochement than in arts education. How do we explain to the larger society the benefits of this civic investment when they have been convinced that the purpose of arts education is to produce more artists, which is hardly a compelling argument to the average taxpayer?

We need to create a new national consensus. The purpose of arts education is not to produce more artists, though that is a byproduct. The real purpose of arts education is to create complete human beings capable of leading successful and productive lives in a free society. This is not happening now in American schools. What are we to make of a public education system whose highest goal seems to be producing minimally competent entry-level workers? The situation is a cultural and educational disaster, but it also has huge and alarming economic consequences. If the U.S. is to compete effectively with the rest of the world in the new global marketplace, it is not going to succeed through cheap labor or cheap raw materials, nor even the free flow of capital or a streamlined industrial base. To compete successfully, this country needs creativity, ingenuity and innovation.

It is hard to see those qualities thriving in a nation whose educational system ranks at the bottom of the developed world and has mostly eliminated the arts from the curriculum. Marcus Aurelius believed that the course of wisdom consisted of learning to trade easy pleasures for more complex and challenging ones. I worry about a culture that trades off the challenging pleasures of art for the easy comforts of entertainment. And that is exactly what is happening--not just in the media, but in our schools and civic life.

Entertainment promises us a predictable pleasure--humor, thrills, emotional titillation or even the odd delight of being vicariously terrified. It exploits and manipulates who we are rather than challenging us with a vision of who we might become. A child who spends a month mastering Halo or NBA Live on Xbox has not been awakened and transformed the way that child would be spending the time rehearsing a play or learning to draw.

If you don't believe me, you should read the studies that are now coming out about American civic participation. Our country is dividing into two distinct behavioral groups. One group spends most of its free time sitting at home as passive consumers of electronic entertainment. Even family communication is breaking down as members increasingly spend their time alone, staring at their individual screens.

The other group also uses and enjoys the new technology, but these individuals balance it with a broader range of activities. They go out--to exercise, play sports, volunteer and do charity work at about three times the level of the first group. By every measure they are vastly more active and socially engaged than the first group. What is the defining difference between passive and active citizens? Curiously, it isn't income, geography or even education. It depends on whether or not they read for pleasure and participate in the arts.

These cultural activities seem to awaken a heightened sense of individual awareness and social responsibility. Art is an irreplaceable way of understanding and expressing the world--equal to but distinct from scientific and conceptual methods. Art addresses us in the fullness of our being--simultaneously speaking to our intellect, emotions, intuition, imagination, memory and physical senses. There are some truths about life that can be expressed only as stories or songs or images.

Art delights, instructs, consoles. It educates our emotions. And it remembers. As Robert Frost once said about poetry, "It is a way of remembering that which it would impoverish us to forget." Art awakens, enlarges, refines and restores our humanity.

Mr. Gioia is the chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts.

This article is a condensed version of his June 17 commencement address at Stanford University.

Scholastic Magazine:
Brain Storm
As neuroscientists begin to figure out how the brain learns, educators are using the research to change the way they teach.

By Caralee Adam

The human brain is an amazing organ. And we're only just beginning to understand its potential.

For one thing, it's constantly changing. Its ability to adapt and rewire itself-its plasticity-was discovered only recently, in the late nineties.

Scientists previously thought we were born with all of our brain cells, but now we know that the brain can grow new neurons-and that physical exercise and mental stimulation can facilitate their growth, which has major implications for education.The brain is also sensitive to context and culture, says Kurt Fischer, director of the Mind, Brain, and Education master's program at Harvard Graduate School of Education. "Different people have different interests and learn differently," says Fischer. "When we engage people in their own interests, they are more awake and alive."

Although we're just starting to understand how the brain works, says Sarah Armstrong, a teacher, administrator, and author of Teaching Smarter With the Brain in Focus, we can extrapolate from the research and modify teaching methods accordingly. "We have enough information in the neuroeducation arena that we can begin to make these connections-and we should," she says. "If we wait around until everything is fully corroborated, we may have missed a decade of students."

Of course, it's a tricky leap to change teaching methods in your district. Consider, though, three distinct ways that brain research is being used in schools today, from getting and maintaining students' attention to incorporating motion into learning to understanding how to relate to your moodiest teenagers.

Getting Students' Attention
Anyone who has ever stood in front of a classroom knows that trying to teach a student who isn't paying attention can be tougher and less rewarding than a union negotiating session. Teachers from Maria Montessori to your typical substitute who's simply trying to make it through the day have strived to create classes that connect with students, engage them, and link learning to prior knowledge. Now new information about the brain and learning is helping teachers move beyond the basics to create an environment that maximizes learning.

At Lone Tree Elementary in Lone Tree, Colorado, the entire school environment has been designed with the brain in mind. When students walk into the building, they are met with calming, darker colors, which prepare the brain for learning. Materials posted on the hallway walls reinforce the curriculum and expectations. In the classroom, everything on display has to do with what's currently being taught.

"We've enriched the physical environment because the brain is a pattern seeker and [visual] learner," says Suzan Crary-Hoover, the school's principal, who retired this year. "The brain is asking, What do I do? What is the process?"

Diane Gilbert, a teacher at Kelly Mill Middle School in Blythewood, South Carolina, used to cover her classroom walls with posters and lots of color. Redecorating with blues and blacks to make the room brain-friendly seemed "stark" to her at first, but it helped students focus. Blues can cause the brain to release 11 neurotransmitters that relax the body, while black and other dark colors can lower stress. "One of my students said, ‘I love your room. Before, I couldn't concentrate because I wanted to read and look around,' " says Gilbert.

In Indiana's Huntington County schools, agenda boards are posted in every room so students can anticipate what will happen next, says Tracey Shafer, the district's superintendent. Plants, lamps, and curtains filter natural light, and there's an absence of clutter. "It creates a learning environment that feels more like a well-kept living room," Shafer explains.

Each classroom has "immersion" areas with supplemental resources that allow students to dig deeper into a subject, and materials rotate with the units. Classrooms are set up so kids can easily collaborate in small groups.

Teachers in the 6,000-student district received professional development training on brain-based teaching, which led to changes in curriculum, such as more collaborative learning and increased integration of subjects, says Shafer. The district set up model classrooms so teachers could observe brain-friendly lesson styles and strategies like using an "adult voice," which is supportive and nurturing, rather than a "parent voice," which is loud and directive and can cause resistance. They also learned the strategy of body mapping, in which the teacher touches a part of his body when introducing a concept verbally, providing the brain with another reference point to help it remember-and recall-the concept.

Eager to find a way to help struggling reading students in St. Mary Parish Schools in southern Louisiana, superintendent Don Aguillard turned to Fast ForWord from Scientific Learning, a reading intervention software package based on brain research. Like other software programs, Fast ForWord adapts to each learner, using answers to previous questions to make sure students pro gress effectively, without getting frustrated by a string of wrong answers or questions that are too easy.

In 2006, third, fourth, and fifth graders in the district's lowest-performing elementary school spent 50 minutes a day at computers doing exercises to build their brains' fitness in memory, attention, processing, and sequencing. While such training doesn't replace basal reading, it does improve cognition, making it an effective supplement, Aguillard says.

Gains in comprehension and attention were evident in just 10 weeks, so the program was rolled out to more schools. From 2006 to 2009, schools with the new technology saw double-digit increases on Louisiana's accountability test. Now, nearly 87 percent of the parish's fourth graders are passing high-stakes testing, up from 65 percent, and the number who have to attend summer school has dropped from 240 to fewer than 90.

The technology "has been a game changer," says Aguillard. The exercises help kids become more literate, he says, and "when they can read effectively, it can unleash enormous potential."

Adding Motion to Learning
The brain works best when the body is active. More and more schools are incorporating physical movement into classrooms. Exercise can benefit the brain in two ways. Aerobic activity increases oxygen flow to the brain, making students mentally sharper than their sedentary peers, according to John Medina, author of Brain Rules and a developmental molecular biologist. Exercise also changes the molecular structure of the brain, increasing neurons' creation, survival, and resistance to stress, Medina adds.

After the author led a professional development session at Bonneville Joint School District in Idaho Falls, Idaho, some staffers tried out his first rule, "Exercise boosts brain power." One middle school teacher put stationary bikes in a classroom so students could exercise while they read. That school has the highest reading score in the district, says Superintendent Charles Shackett.

A similar experiment is under way in Miami-Dade County Public Schools, where iPrep Academy, a new magnet high school, has incorporated treadmills into its classrooms, giving students the freedom to jump on when they need a break or to walk as they read. The school recently attained top scores on the state's tests and every ninth grader passed the end-of-year biology and geometry exams.

Exercise isn't the only way to tie motion to learning, though. At Lone Tree Elementary, each class chooses a real-world problem to explore, says Crary-Hoover. In a project that focused on water conservation, students learned about communities in Haiti where people had to carry their water home. To feel what that was like, the students carried large water jugs themselves. The mix of mental and physical work drove the lesson home to different parts of their brains, making it easier to remember. "Understanding how children learn is the key to making it a joyful experience," says Crary-Hoover.

Dealing With Teens
You don't have to be a brain expert to know that trying to teach teenagers can be an especially difficult task. But understanding why teens think and act as they do can help you move past problems and adopt more effective strategies.

While the brain continues to grow and learn at every age, teenagers' brains go through a specific set of circumstances that literally change the way they think. "In many ways, it's the most tumultuous time of brain development since coming out of the womb," said Jay Giedd of the National Institute of Mental Health on Frontline's "Inside the Teenage Brain." As teens grow new neural pathways, it can be hard for them to process so much information, and an overloaded brain can lead to irrational decisions. Also, brain scans of teens have shown that they read emotions differently than adults, misreading anger and sadness in other people's faces. This can lead to nonsensical responses that are easily chalked up to moodiness.

The brain responds to frustration by shutting down, says Judy Willis, a neurologist and teacher in Santa Barbara, California. It's a natural survival mechanism. "No kid wants to get in trouble and be yelled at," says Willis. "No one chooses to act out. That's not a good feeling." Often, the trouble with a problem student is not laziness but rather that the person's defenses are up and information can't get through, she says. While teens are capable of great intellectual and artistic achievements, the prefrontal cortex-the section that governs organization-is still underdeveloped.

"When you know what the brain is doing, the bizarre behavior that kids engage in begins to make sense," says Richard Marshall, cofounder of the University of South Florida Polytechnic's Applied Neuroscience and Cognitive Electrophysiology Lab and coauthor of The Middle School Mind. When teens misbehave, it's important to remember that they are doing so for a reason: They are trying get their needs met. "Our job is to step back, be calm, and figure out what they are trying to do," Marshall says.

Sharon Neuman, principal of Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Lakeland, Florida, and Marshall's coauthor, says research has given her a better understanding of why teens do what they do. If adolescents encounter a challenge, they might go into a fight-or-flight state and take an action they later regret. Her message to teachers when kids act out: Stay calm, take a break, and then get to the bottom of the situation.

"That doesn't mean there isn't a consequence," says Neuman. "But if they get upset and you yell back, you lose that relationship and they tend to shut down and don't want to talk."

Sandy Nobles, director of education at the J. Erik Jonsson Community School in Dallas, agrees. Jonsson has focused on brain-compatible classrooms since 1997, and in the past two years, the school has begun to teach kids about their brains.

"We are learning so much about brains and research in the neuro-education field as teachers, but kids need to know it," Nobles says. "It gives them control of their emotions." The school's MindUp curriculum focuses on how the brain works and why people react the way they do to emotions.

Barriers to Change
If the research is so compelling, why aren't more schools embracing brain-based teaching practices? "There's not a lot of pressure to do it," says Willard Daggett, chief executive officer of the International Center for Leadership in Education in Rexford, New York. Most educators, he says, are not interested in change or taking risks. He hopes the arrival of the Common Core will spur more brain-based instruction, since its assessments focus on application of knowledge. It will also force many schools to do more with less-which could make them more amenable to effective teaching methods that go beyond rote memorization.

Marshall suggests that teachers don't have time to integrate a lot of new information. "Everyone is interested in high-stakes tests and who is reading," he says. "It's not that there is resistance; it's that the focus has shifted to teacher accountability."

The emphasis on standards and testing has narrowed the curriculum. As a result, schools can't support activities that can engage students, such as music, says Kurt Fischer, of Harvard. "If we can engage kids in what really captures their interest, they can learn more effectively," he says.

Sarah Armstrong, author of Teaching Smarter With the Brain in Focus, contends that the problem is funding. While there are grants for STEM or reading specialists, not enough money is dedicated to translating brain research into classroom practices. "Schooling as it exists today is not going away," she says. "We have to take the existing infrastructure and think about how we can be smarter about what [educators] do. The brain piece is an essential piece of that. If we really want to have it infused into our practice, it has to be intentional. Things that are intentional are funded. The brain-based approach needs a source of funds that awaken people to the idea."

But even with all these real pressures, sometimes the best way to go forward is to take a small step back and observe your classrooms in action, à la Montessori, says Nobles. "If you are looking for academic growth, you have to first look at the culture of the classroom. You are not going to get the scores up until the kids are ready to learn."




  The New York Times:
EDITORIAL: "When the System Works"
The Education Department has vowed to fix failing schools. It will need comprehensive, districtwide programs, like an innovative one that is working in North Carolina.


The New York Times:
The Examined Life, Age 8
Philosophical reasoning taught in the second grade.



The New York Times
Alternate Path for Teachers Gains Ground
In New York, alternative teacher programs may soon offer a master’s degree, delivering a blow to education schools.



The New York Times:
How Christian Were the Founders?
Conservative activists on the Texas Board of Education say that the authors of the Constitution intended the United States to be a Christian nation. And they want America’s history textbooks to say



The New York Times:
MIND: When a Parent’s ‘I Love You’ Means ‘Do as I Say’
Evidence is now available about the mainstream thinking on the disciplining of children....



The New York Times:
Gender Gap for the Gifted in City Schools



The New York Times:
Teaching Work Values to Children of Wealth
In a tight job market, affluent parents worry as much about how to teach their children the value of work and money as they do short-term swings in their portfolios.



The New York Times:
Can an Enemy Be a Child’s Friend?
New research suggests that as threatening as they may feel,
antagonistic relationships can often enhance social and emotional development more than they impede it.



The New York Times:
Teaching Candidates Aplenty, but the Jobs Are Few In a profession long seen as recession-proof, applications far
outnumber the jobs available for educators.


The New York Times:
Plan B: Skip College
A group of economists argue that it’s time to develop alternatives for students unlikely to succeed in pursuing a higher degree, or who may not be ready to do so.


The New York Times:
YOUR MONEY: The Subprime Crisis of Student Debt
Is it really worth $100,000 in debt to graduate from a top school? And is it responsible?



The New York Times:
MAGAZINE PREVIEW: The Teachers’ Unions’ Last Stand
How Obama’s Race to the Top could revolutionize public education.


The New York Times:
FINDINGS: Doomsayers Beware, a Bright Future Beckons
While schools of despair await the end of modern civilization, the
writer Matt Ridley expects less poverty and disease, and greater
freedom and happiness.


The New York Times:
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Can they really tell right from wrong? What researchers are cooing


The New York Times:
Charting Creativity: Signposts of a Hazy Territory
Researchers are making new inroads into the neurology of inspiration.




The New York Times:

The Web Means the End of Forgetting: The digital age is facing its first existential crisis: the impossibility of erasing your posted past and moving on.





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