Justifying the arts: Drama and intercultural education

Journal of Aesthetic Education 40 (1):115-120 (2006)
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In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:Justifying the Arts:Drama and Intercultural EducationMike Fleming (bio)IntroductionFor teachers of arts subjects, questions about justification can be tiresome in the same way that contemporary aestheticians may feel fatigue about defining art.1 Providing justification can feel more like an exercise in rhetoric than theoretical enquiry, induced more by political necessity than intellectual challenge. If the value of the arts is not self-evident, it is difficult to advance arguments to convince those who have no knowledge or affinity with them. Not that many educationists admit to falling into the latter category. As Eisner has said, nobody wants to be seen as a philistine.2 Yet to those with a deep commitment to the value of the arts in education and wider society, the arts are rarely thought to be taken as seriously as they should be.3 This paper will describe five approaches to the question of justifying the arts before examining the specific case of drama and intercultural education.Approaches to Justifying the Teaching of the ArtsFaced with questions of justification, providing a list of reasons for teaching the arts is one approach but not the only one. Instead, looking for broader categories of justification within possible lists (e.g., between art and entertainment, feeling and cognition) exposes differences of emphasis more easily. Exploration of the tension between such concepts as "creating" and "responding" may help get behind bland claims of the kind that the arts can "develop creativity." In this way, the relevance of aesthetic theory, which often centers on the tension between competing concepts, can be demonstrated more readily. Another approach to the question of justification is to reject the idea that the arts should serve instrumental goals at all by advancing an argument in favor of their intrinsic rewards. A fourth approach is to [End Page 54] question whether it is appropriate to seek justification for the arts as a generic concept, rather than looking instead at individual art forms; the benefits of dance may be different in certain respects from those of visual arts. Finally, a priori enquiry could be abandoned altogether in favor of seeing what teachers actually say about their reasons for teaching the arts. Each of these positions will be examined briefly.Mortimer includes physical education and personal and social education among the areas of benefit he attributes to the arts.4 Within five broad categories, he describes further subcategories, amounting to more than seventeen reasons for teaching the arts. He also claims that the arts are a way of developing life skills and attitudes that are transferable across the curriculum and are a way of contextualizing other learning. It is easy to sympathize with someone who is passionate about the arts and concerned that they should be seen as a "fundamental" not as a "frill," but such general claims do not always bring clarity or insight. It is difficult for example to see how poetry "encourages physical confidence in balance." A visit to a children's home may be more fruitful in "developing sensitivity to others." The benefit of "using imagination and creativity" (a catchall phrase that on its own says very little) may in practice find tension with other stated benefits such as "discriminating, selecting, editing." The latter concepts suggest a more constrained, skills-oriented form of teaching rather than an approach that encourages free flow of imagination. Long lists of justifications can obscure theoretical differences and from a tactical point of view in the political arena can appear overblown. They are well meant but not always helpful. Nor do they go far in explaining the deep importance of the arts in so many people's lives.The influential Gulbenkian report in the United Kingdom was wide-ranging in its claims but reinforced the idea of the arts as being an alternative to academic study and what it termed "logico-deductive thought."5 "Society," it argued, "needs and values more than academic abilities." In the 1980s, many writers were keen to free themselves from the influence of narrow theories of self-expression to embrace a wider discipline-based approach but continued to underplay the cognitive dimensions of work in art.6 Of course an emphasis...

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Justifying the Arts: The Value of Illuminating Failures.Michelle Forrest - 2011 - Journal of Philosophy of Education 45 (1):59-73.

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Art as Language: Wittgenstein, Meaning, and Aesthetic Theory.G. L. Hagberg - 1995 - Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 54 (4):388-389.
Aesthetics.Colin Lyas - 1997 - Mind 109 (435):624-627.

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