Thursday, September 30, 2010

Arts Make You Smarter?

The Urbanite has a highly recommended article on a pilot program to test the integration of arts in teaching other subjects. The project is having good results.

At Roland Park, Hardiman created an approach in which students were enrolled in music, theater, visual arts, and dance programs—and encouraged to incorporate those arts into their core classes to reinforce the learning of key concepts. Faculty involve the arts in their lessons as well. Fractions might be taught using rhythm and beat to illustrate the concept of 3/4 time, the rotation of the planets around the sun via dance. While studying the novel Hatchet, students at Roland Park created a tableau to depict through their bodies what it would be like to be stranded alone in the wilderness, the theme of the book.

It may sound a little hippy-dippy, but arts evoke emotion, Hardiman points out, and the role that emotions play in laying down long-term memory (and thus learning) is well-established. Our brains take in enormous amounts of information each day and prioritize data to be stored in both short- and long-term memory. First priority is information related to survival, such as perceived threats. Second priority is emotionally-tinged data. Most new information is lost within twenty-four hours—unless the brain has a strong motive for converting it to long-term memory and rehearses or repeats the data to effect an actual change in the physical structure of neurons, a process called long-term potentiation. Arts integration, with its emphasis on repetition of information through both cognitive and emotional brain circuitry, theoretically helps facilitate that process.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Because the Performing Arts Matter



Thought provoking, but I disagree with the statement that “the means of artistic production have been democratized for the first time in all of human history.” In fact, I would argue that the non-democratization of artistic production is a modern phenomenon, mostly dating back to recording of artistic works and mechanical means of recording and distribution.

For most of human history artistic production consisted of telling stories or dancing or singing songs within a community, around the fire, at church gatherings. Anyone who wished to participate could. That amateurs can be involved in arts-- that arts are not defined by consumerism but participation-- is actually a return to our roots, not something new and unprecedented.