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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Why the Arts Matter - Jerome Kagan

Why the Arts Matter - Jerome Kagan

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Jerome Kagan gave the keynote at a conference I attended last spring called "Learning, Arts and the Brain" sponsored by the Dana Foundation. The full speech may be found on the Dana Foundation website at http://www.dana.org/news/features/detail.aspx?id=21740. I offer up his reasons here for discussion. 1. The first advantage is that it boosts the self confidence among the children who are behind in mastery of reading and arithmetic. 2. A second reason for an arts/music curriculum, which has a more recent history, may help the middle-class children who have been infantilized by overprotective parents who were excessively concerned with the child’s grades and talent profile. 3. A third advantage to an arts/music program, which might help all children, is based on the fact that the mind uses three distinct forms, or tools, to acquire, store, and communicate knowledge. 4. A fourth advantage lies with the opportunity to provide all American youth with some values they feel warrant consistent loyalty. 5. The fifth advantage of an arts curriculum is that it allows a number of children to work as a cooperative unit when they compose a mural or play in the school band or orchestra. 6. Finally, art and music provide opportunities for all children to experience and to express feelings and conflicts that are not yet fully conscious and cannot be expressed coherently in words. Do you think this is a good list? Or, is it missing something. Dr. Kagan is a psychology professor. How do we respond as artists, art teachers and art enthusiasts? Biography from Dana Foundation Website: Jerome Kagan, Ph.D., emeritus professor of psychology at Harvard University, was co-director of the Harvard Mind/Brain/Behavior Interfaculty Initiative. He is a pioneer in the study of cognitive and emotional development during the first decade of life, focusing on the origins of temperament, and is the author or co-author of more than 20 books, including the classic Galen’s Prophecy: Temperament in Human Nature (Basic Books, 1994).

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Jim O apostrophe Donnell's picture

Thank you for reporting this list. However, several benefits of arts education are missed. For example, in Daniel Pink's book "A Whole New Mind", the author makes a convincing case for how the arts provide the skills and ways of thinking that will be required to thrive in the upcoming conceptual age (the natural progression from the information age and the industrial age prior). Additionally, I think Paul Duncum has a much more authoritative list, at least in regard to art education. In fact, music education is widely considered to benefit mathematical skills. Beyond that, I feel like these are not very convincing arguments for those in non-arts fields. For example, I disagree with point five. Every classroom should have opportunities for students to collaborate. Furthermore, points 2 and 3 seem more like intangible possibilities at best, not real world observations or assessments, especially with the 'mights' and 'maybes'. Some citations or anecdotal evidence might also be beneficial. Again, thank you for putting this together, but it needs a lot of improvement.

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