Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Conundrum of Art as Evidence

I know that yesterday's post—an image and a song about 21st century kids—are not really evidence, in the usual sense, that the arts should play a central role in developing 21st century skills. I've done enough writing about research-based reading programs to know what it takes to make causal connections. And I know there is a growing research base on arts education and arts integration I could cite. (If you're interested, start at the Arts Education Partnership. )

But I'd like to suggest that developing creative, innovative thinkers requires that the education community and those who set policy need to adopt an innovation agenda for themselves. If you have decided to act based on scientific research, then fund basic and applied research to test promising approaches like arts integration in a systematic way. If you view education as a science, you must do more than look at the existing literature for answers. It is not scientific to ignore possibilities because no one has yet proved them.

At the same time, think about a broader approach to collecting evidence. I still concede that the two artists I mentioned yesterday have not provided a basis for action, but qualitative studies and meta-analyses, as well as looking at the culture, have a place in the quest for innovation. Think about it: While the theories of Einstein and Freud were taking shape, artists like Picasso and Kandinsky were investigating space, time, and consciousness in parallel.

Or did the poet Ezra Pound get it right:
"Artists are the antennae of the race, but the bullet- headed many will never learn to trust their great artists."

No comments: