These are very good and legitimate questions. The answer is very complex
and would probably take a very large volume to try to answer. The answer
also changes depending upon the culture, location, people you are talking
about. Finally, the answer changes depending on who you are talking to
because you must adjust your response so that the people you are talking to
can understand what you mean. That is not to say that people are stupid,
but people really only understand something if you present it to them in
the way that makes sense to them. I would talk to a businessman
differently than I would talk to a scientist or factory worker.
The general population is not a "bunch of idiots", but at times I believe
we (arts educators) make them feel as if this is what we think about them.
In general I believe art encourages children to develop the many different
skills that enable them to become problem solvers. Specifically, it helps
students identify a problem to be solved in the first place. Art helps
them to generate possible solutions to problems, analyze and evaluate
possible solutions, carry them out and revise them. In addition, Art
teaches people to start and finish a project; to carry it out on their own
and to push for innovative, efficient and elegant solutions. Children need
to become problem solvers because from the day they are born until they day
they die they will encounter problems all of their lives. How successfully
people solve problems is the extent to which a civilization achieves
I also believe art encourages children to adapt to change. As I have
become older, I have seen how important this trait really is. Children and
adults need to develop mental and emotional flexibility in order to adapt
to changes within their lives and within society. People will not survive
for long very effectively if they are not able to adapt to change.
What we as art educators need to do is to help people see a relationship
between what we do in the classroom with the above stated outcomes. We
have not done a good job at this because we often think it is self-evident.
However, I do not believe it is. We must daily advocate our position in
the classroom constantly, so that we can help students understand and value
what an education in the arts has to offer.
The way to do this is very different for each child and that is the
challenge. The way to do this with taxpayers and politicians is very
different depending upon the values, cultures, previous experience, etc of
various groups and that is the challenge.
We have always tried to make people come to our way of thinking, ie. think
and work like an artist and you will get it. This has not worked. We need
to develop strategies and develop an understanding of how others think and
perceive so that we can develop an argument that can be understood through
The add in Business Week last fall, was a good way to explain the value of
arts education to the Business Community. We need to develop other ways to
talk to others.
Well that is all for now. Hope this helps.
Diane C. Gregory, Ph.D.