Fine Arts & Performing Arts & Education

I see too many advertising public services – today-exhorting us to support performing arts and fine arts in public education. We, as a nation, have apparently become so little or so unsophisticated that we no longer see the need for artistic education in our schools. So now we have our children who beg us in TV commercials to keep art education alive. This is a sad state of affairs for us and our children, because art is what really separates us from the beast and allows us to rise above everyday life. Like many others, I believe that art should be at the centre of education, not just because it is good for us. Art stimulates the child’s cognitive and affective fields, as well as his or her motor skills, which leads to learning, discovery, creativity and motivation.

Scientists are of course very important, but too often they stimulate only a very small part of the student’s mind and heart. There are three basic areas of learning: Cognitive (mind), Effective (emotions or feelings) and Motional skills (hands-on). These three areas are key to our thought/cause, learning, problem-solving and creation. A healthy (cognitive) mind is able to receive, store and process information that can then be used, if retained and used, in the life of an individual. Emotions and feelings (Effective) are closely related to the individual’s learning, as they help in the retention and application of information, as well as stimulating the desire to learn more. Seeing, listening, speaking, writing, walking and running are part of individual motor skills. Without these three areas of learning, there is no need to speak, it would not be possible. Reading, writing, mathematics and science stimulate the fields of cognitive and motor skills quite effectively, but the affective is too often changed too briefly.

If we think back to our school days, we should be able to remember that remembering the facts and spitting them back out effectively was our main concern as students. This is a very important part of the learning process and I do not deny it, but where does effective domain play an important role in this learning process? Much of this way of learning about feelings is not affective and that is why many of the educational materials we have just learned do not have a real application in the life of the individual and are forgotten. I do not remember much about higher-level mathematics, the periodic table and scientific jargon. Why is that? This did not apply to my life, nor did it affect me deeply. This does not mean that neither I nor anyone else should have attended mathematics and science, but what I say is that researchers are less effective than they can be because they tend to ignore the Affective domain.

I argue that art is effective in all three fields and can therefore stimulate students to apply as well as to preserve what they have learned. Creativity is crucial in this process. Performing arts and Fine Arts have a clear educational advantage in their ability to enable students to create as they learn. In painting, students are in the process of creating at the same time mixing colours and learning brush techniques. The same applies to students of sculpture and photography. Many music school principals now use computer programs to encourage students to compose while learning to play and sing. Dance and theatre programmes are also examples of how to apply the skills their pupils are learning. This artistic, educational process uses areas of cognitive and motor skills, but also stimulates affectivity. The student experiences the sense of joy and satisfaction that comes from successful learning and is then able to immediately apply this knowledge in a very personal way. Art can increase a student’s ability to express their emotions in a very positive way. These students have ownership of what they have learned and are able to express this ownership through creativity. A student of Performing or Fine Arts is motivated – educationally – apart from memorizing facts and passing tests, because he or she uses the newly acquired knowledge to express what lies deep in his or her heart and mind.

Surprisingly, art and sport have much in common, educationally. A basketball player or football player, as well as a long-distance runner, learn their skills when using them. Learning physical techniques and immediate application strengthens the athlete’s willingness to learn and perform even more. In team sports such as football, baseball and basketball, the student learns to cooperate with others in order to produce a product or team. A young athlete learns that the whole or a team is larger than the sum of its parts or players.

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