The importance of teaching the arts

Published: 07 April 2014 | by Wendy Earle
The importance of teaching the arts
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Wendy Earle believes that we shouldn't value arts education on the basis that it has social or economic benefits, but because it expands the mind and soul.

She says that EB Feldman, defending arts education in the US during the 1980s, argued that it should not be about creating artists but about something broader.

He suggests arts education can imbue in young people a sense of the satisfaction that comes from working to create something, the ability to use and understand language effectively, and a profound sense of 'the values that permit civilised life to go on'.

According to Earle, the arts are central to the idea of education being about inculcating a love of learning, of acquiring knowledge.

A good education provides young people with an appreciation of the importance of the arts: a sense of why they matter, where they come from, how they fit together, why they can be sources of such greater pleasure and insight, and what additional insights they can yield if you do study them.

The importance of arts education in the school curriculum is that it can begin to introduce students to another way of understanding themselves and the world, and different ways of expressing thoughts, experiences and feelings that are not easily expressed in everyday symbols and signs.

A good arts education is built on and reflects recognition of the specific and unique way that the arts shape our thinking and our lives.

Perhaps the greatest failure of contemporary arts education, Earle writes, is its inability to equip young people with knowledge, understanding and knowhow to enable them to engage fully in critical public debate about the arts.

Democratisation of the arts – making them accessible to everyone, engendering real public engagement – requires an arts education that properly introduces young people to a range of art forms.

Most students who study the arts will not become artists; those who do will specialise in one artform. So the purpose of a good arts education must primarily be to develop the ability to judge, ideally within a range of forms.

Art, once it leaves the studio or the rehearsal room, no longer belongs to the artist and becomes subject to the judgement of others.
- Spiked
Tags: arts, art, education,

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