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Lesson Plans


Re: value of art in academics (long -henry post)

[ Thread ][ Subject ][ Author ][ Date ]
henry taylor (taylorh)
Thu, 1 Jul 1999 13:43:20 -0700


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Hi,

Demonstrate the value of art in academics, eh?

Having begun there I suppose one must go back and understand what is =
prior to that quest. We assume that art has value and that this can be =
demonstrated. Prior to that is the assumed connection between art and =
academics. What is it based upon? What is shared by art and the various =
academic disciplines?

MPBC90 cites K.C. Cole and thereby directs out attention, wisely enough, =
towards perception. (Physicists, it should be added also are notable for =
some truly excellent personal collections of art.) The nineteenth =
century British biologist William Bateson was of the opinion that art =
was a higher calling than science; more rigorous intellectiually, and =
the source of the deeper questions which science must pursue.

Cole is right on the money:

"Scientists and engineers, like Root-Bernstein, 'must learn
to observe as acutely as artists and to visualize things in
their minds as concretely. They must learn to recognize
and invent patterns like composers or poets--and play
their high-tech instruments with the same virtuosity as
musical performers.'"

That the tool shapes the mind, and indeed the body, has also been noted =
by W. Bateson's son Gregory; himself a biologist, anthropoligist, and =
epistemologist as well aas James Burke and Robert Orenstein.

But if perception is the crucial link why teach art? Why not just =
institute a perceptual discipline and by-pass the middleman? One of the =
treasures of the NAEA, the late Vincent Lanier raged against using art =
as a modality for fostering skill in other disciplines and I think he =
did so with the most excellent of reasons.

This is not at all to say that art (THE Arts) is not the path we are =
seeking.It has been noted in education that some learning is very =
contextual. If you learn to perceive, to distinguish and to =
value\evaluate in the general classroom it seems quite likely you will =
continue to perceive and differentiate at your best IN the general =
classroom. It's a straight-line process and as such, a difficult =
learning to transfer into a work context outside the classroom.

One might attempt to integrate perceptuational training into individual =
disciplines with better success. But increasingly, in this postmodern =
dawn, we are confronted but the necessary interconectedness of all =
disciplines and how much our recent advances owe to interdisciplianary =
collusion. Perception into 2, or more, disciplines! Do we then reframe =
the interdisciplinary as the new discipline and begin the same pattern =
anew?

And then there is another thing; we, every creature in fact, grow up =
perceiving and distinguishing differende, evaluating and acquiring =
preferences in the aesthetic fashion. We do it intuitively from the very =
beginning of life. Why even teach this skill and why go against the =
intuitional current?

The easy answer to this is that there are finer degrees of perception, =
discrimination and value than are arrived at intuitively and casually.

How is such learning best acquired? Despite Lanier's deep concern... =
(and I think in agreement with it as well...we shall see) ...through =
art. Lanier's base concern was that art be the center and the purpose =
behind studying art and I agree. We live in a era of vitamin =
supplements. We all know how vitamins have been isolated and =
synthesized. We also are familiar with the recommendation that vitamins =
DO NOT replace, in any way, a well balanced diet. In the same way, I, =
argue, synthetically isolating perceptual lessons and exercises in art =
does not replace all the "micronutrients" in a well balanced art =
curriculum--whatever that might be.. In other words if you go after =
art--for art's sake you will get all the benefits you seek in a better =
balanced and in a more widely accessible fashion.

So far this is only rhetoric; a possibly appealing argument. To get =
beyond that we need a means of testing our theories. Craig Roland =
pointed this out to me at tha NAEA in D.C. Here I think we need to go =
back to some work done by Fechner and Weber in Leipzig about 1840. which =
culminated in the Weber-Fechner Law:

This law "asserts, on the whole correctly, that the particular =
differences upon which perception depends are not subtractive or =
additive differences, but ratios." - Gregory Bateson

Further, "the ability to perceive the difference betwen two weights is =
based on the ratio between them and not upon the subtractive difference. =
So if you can descriminate two ounces and three, you will also =
descriminate six ounces from four, and indeed three pounds from two =
pounds." - Gregory Bateson

So if we could show that this perceptual ratio could be improved through =
some regimine of art education we m,ight then have an argument for the =
process by which we had made that improvement. We would have a =
measurement process.

Weber -Fechner is over a century-and-a-half old. It needs to be =
re-validated and most probably reworked in some degree to reflect recent =
developments.

If we are seriously interested in pursuing this line of thought we have =
to get used to the idea that most of the available data will still be =
found outside of our own discipline in perceptual studies in psychology =
and physiology, the biology of aesthetics (bioaesthetics), the =
anthropology of aesthetic education and visual arts, epistemology and =
ontology. Some pretty heavy-duty reading, I can promise you! A lot of it =
will be found in little "nuggets" within much larger bodies of text. It =
will not be laid out neat and tudy for the picking.

Some starting book might be:
A Sacred Unity: Further Steps to an Ecology of Mind
Gregory Bateson --edited by Rodney E. Donaldson
This is the most concise resource from Bateson but his other books =
shouldn't be missed. A very useful understanding of aesthetics can also =
be gained here.

Bateson is probably the richest starting point because there are so many =
little bits to find. Most of the other books in my collection each might =
yield a chapter of valuable data at best, more often than not, only a =
paragraph or two. After half a dozen years those little paragraphs seem =
to pop up everywhere but they are still so disconnected nd disparate as =
to defy collation.
;-)

Search on the web and in indexes for:
perception, difference, discrimination of difference, distinction of =
difference. aesthetics, bioaesthetics, Gregory Bateson, context, =
education and epistmology, epistemology, ontology, play, the sacred, =
systems theory, Weber, Fechner, Weber-Fechner, Douglas Hofstadter.

Finally, the thing art has to offer than makes a significant difference =
in learnig perception lies in art's roots in PLAY. Playfulness is the =
modality throughj which the learning of perception ext4ends beyond a =
single discipline or context and throughout all phases of an =
individual's life. Work and study are linear, focal, like having =
blinders on to keep the eyes on the road ahead. Play, in contrast to =
work involves extention, the testing of limits and of borders. Play is =
also its own reward and motivation.

Mary Poppins had the thing right: "In every job which must be doen there =
is an element of fun...." Art offers the possibility of leading with =
that fun aspect.
In the end, in terms of learning perception content makes no different =
whatsoever but the things which draw our individual attention can make =
all the difference. If we can't find the thing that demands to be =
perceived and distinguished by our student she may never progress beyond =
the formal outer aspect. --For every person who must learn there is a =
thing which must be learned.... You find that thing and SNAP the task =
becomes play.... An artist finds for herself unique personal issues =
which drive her work. Through that she grows and gains access to new =
worlds. This is what art offers too.

-henry

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Hi,
 

Demonstrate the = value of art in=20 academics, eh?

Having begun there I suppose one must = go back and=20 understand what is prior to that quest. We assume that art has value and = that=20 this can be demonstrated. Prior to that is the assumed connection = between art=20 and academics. What is it based upon? What is shared by art and the = various=20 academic disciplines?

MPBC90 cites K.C. Cole and thereby = directs out=20 attention, wisely enough, towards perception. (Physicists,=20 it should be added also are notable for some truly excellent personal=20 collections of art.)  The nineteenth century British = biologist=20 William Bateson was of the opinion that art was a higher calling than = science;=20 more rigorous intellectiually, and the source of the deeper questions = which=20 science must pursue.

Cole is right on the money:

 "Scientists and engineers, like = Root-Bernstein,=20 'must learn
to observe as acutely as artists and to visualize = things=20 in
their minds as concretely.  They must learn to = recognize
and=20 invent patterns like composers or poets--and play
their high-tech = instruments=20 with the same virtuosity as
musical=20 performers
.'"

That = the tool shapes=20 the mind, and indeed the body, has also been noted by W. Bateson's son = Gregory;=20 himself a biologist, anthropoligist, and epistemologist as well aas = James Burke=20 and Robert Orenstein.

But if = perception is the=20 crucial link why teach art? Why not just institute a perceptual = discipline and=20 by-pass the middleman? One of the treasures of the NAEA, the late = Vincent Lanier=20 raged against using art as a modality for fostering skill in other = disciplines=20 and I think he did so with the most excellent of reasons.

This is not at = all to say that=20 art (THE Arts) is not the path we are seeking.It has been noted in = education=20 that some learning is very contextual. If you learn to perceive, to = distinguish=20 and to value\evaluate in the general classroom it seems quite = likely=20 you will continue to perceive and differentiate at your best IN the = general=20 classroom. It's a straight-line process and as such, a difficult = learning=20 to transfer into a work context outside the classroom.

One might = attempt to integrate=20 perceptuational training into individual disciplines with better = success. But=20 increasingly, in this postmodern dawn, we are confronted but the = necessary=20 interconectedness of all disciplines and how much our recent advances = owe to=20 interdisciplianary collusion. Perception into 2, or more, disciplines! = Do we=20 then reframe the interdisciplinary as the new discipline and begin the = same=20 pattern anew?

And then there is another thing; we, every creature in = fact,=20 grow up perceiving and distinguishing differende, evaluating and = acquiring=20 preferences in the aesthetic fashion. We do it intuitively from the very = beginning of life. Why even teach this skill and why go against the = intuitional=20 current?

The easy answer to this is that there are finer = degrees of=20 perception, discrimination and value than are arrived at intuitively and = casually.

How is such = learning best=20 acquired? Despite Lanier's deep concern... (and I think in agreement = with it as=20 well...we shall see) ...through art. Lanier's base concern was that art = be the=20 center and the purpose behind studying art and I agree. We live in a era = of=20 vitamin supplements. We all know how vitamins have been isolated and=20 synthesized. We also are familiar with the recommendation that vitamins = DO=20 NOT replace, in any way, a well balanced diet. In the same way, I, = argue,=20 synthetically isolating perceptual lessons and exercises in art does not = replace=20 all the "micronutrients" in a well balanced art = curriculum--whatever=20 that might be.. In other words if you go after art--for art's = sake=20 you will get all the benefits you seek in a better balanced and in a = more=20 widely accessible fashion.

So far this is = only rhetoric;=20 a possibly appealing argument. To get beyond that we need a means of = testing our=20 theories. Craig Roland pointed this out to me at tha NAEA in D.C. Here I = think=20 we need to go back to some work done by Fechner and Weber in Leipzig = about 1840.=20 which culminated in the Weber-Fechner = Law:

This law "asserts, on the whole correctly, that = the=20 particular differences upon which perception depends are not subtractive = or=20 additive differences, but ratios." - = Gregory=20 Bateson

Further, "the ability to perceive the = difference=20 betwen two weights is based on the ratio between them and not upon the=20 subtractive difference. So if you can descriminate two ounces and three, = you=20 will also descriminate six ounces from four, and indeed three pounds = from two=20 pounds." - Gregory Bateson

So if we could show that this perceptual ratio = could be=20 improved through some regimine of art education we m,ight then have an = argument=20 for the process by which we had made that improvement. We would have a=20 measurement process.

Weber -Fechner is over a = century-and-a-half old.=20 It needs to be re-validated and most probably reworked in some degree to = reflect=20 recent developments.

If we are seriously interested in = pursuing this=20 line of thought we have to get used to the idea that most of the = available data=20 will still be found outside of our own discipline in perceptual studies = in=20 psychology and physiology, the biology of aesthetics (bioaesthetics), = the=20 anthropology of aesthetic education and visual arts, epistemology and = ontology.=20 Some pretty heavy-duty reading, I can promise you! A lot of it will be = found in=20 little "nuggets" within much larger bodies of text. It will = not be=20 laid out neat and tudy for the picking.

Some starting = book might=20 be:
A Sacred Unity: Further Steps to an Ecology of=20 Mind
Gregory Bateson = --edited by Rodney=20 E. Donaldson
This is the most concise resource from Bateson but = his other=20 books shouldn't be missed. A very useful understanding of aesthetics can = also be=20 gained here.
 
Bateson is probably the richest = starting point=20 because there are so many little bits to find. Most of the other books = in my=20 collection each might yield a chapter of valuable data at best, more = often than=20 not, only a paragraph or two. After half a dozen years those little = paragraphs=20 seem to pop up everywhere but they are still so disconnected nd = disparate as to=20 defy collation.
 ;-)
 
Search on the web and in indexes for:
 perception, difference, discrimination of = difference,=20 distinction of difference. aesthetics, bioaesthetics, Gregory Bateson, = context,=20 education and epistmology, epistemology, ontology,  play, the = sacred,=20 systems theory, Weber, Fechner, Weber-Fechner, Douglas = Hofstadter.
 
Finally, the thing art has to offer than makes a = significant=20 difference in learnig perception lies in art's roots in PLAY.=20 Playfulness is the modality throughj which the learning of perception = ext4ends=20 beyond a single discipline or context and throughout all phases of an=20 individual's life. Work and study are linear, focal, like having = blinders on to=20 keep the eyes on the road ahead. Play, in contrast to work involves = extention,=20 the testing of limits and of borders. Play is also its own reward and=20 motivation.
 
Mary Poppins had the thing right: "In every job = which=20 must be doen there is an element of fun...." Art offers the = possibility of=20 leading with that fun aspect.
In the end, in terms of learning perception content = makes no=20 different whatsoever but the things which draw our individual attention = can make=20 all the difference. If we can't find the thing that demands to be = perceived and=20 distinguished by our student she may never progress beyond the formal = outer=20 aspect. --For every person who must learn there is a thing which = must be=20 learned.... You find that thing and SNAP the task becomes play.... = An=20 artist finds for herself  unique personal issues which drive her = work.=20 Through that she grows and gains access to new worlds. This is what art = offers=20 too.
 
-henry
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