John P. Cleary
Adjunct Faculty, Raritan Valley Community College


Art and Education     
                   Art has been seen as a representation of high culture, as the expression of individual interpretation of experience, or as a reflection of human thought. Whatever conception is chosen the salient characteristic of art is that it is an indirect mode and manner of expressing life. Art asks the participant to step out of conventional understandings of ourselves and the environments we exist in; to go from the familiar into the unfamiliar, from the conventional to the unconventional, from the predictable to the unpredictable, and from the known to the unknown. Art asks us to forget ourselves; to live in the unrestrained world of imagination, to empathize with people or ideas that are contrary to our world view, and to stretch the limits of what we consider tolerable and safe. Finally, art is everywhere: it surrounds our daily lives in shapes, sounds, sights, and smells; it is present even in each one of us as we seek expression and communication with content and form.

Many have argued that art focuses our attention in such as way that it teaches us something. For example, Plato argued that poetry has the power to influence the young negatively, given that the irrational nature of figurative language may create a disharmony in the soul. However, his student, Aristotle argued for the positive effects of art. He believed tragedy engenders catharsis or purging of the emotions, which are the natural outcome of participating, vicariously, in a play. The Russian author Leo Tolstoy argued that art unifies, as in the case of religious art, which, he claimed, united the illiterate European masses of the Middle Ages.

In the modern context, we see that art has not always been used for positive purposes.  Some critical theorists have pointed out that the techniques of mass media control employed by Hitler were similar to the methods now used by Madison Avenue executives. For example, Max Horkheimer (1974) noticed the similarity between Hitler’s techniques of staging mythology and the propagation of consumer culture in the United States that followed the Second World War. On the other hand, other members of the Frankfurt School, such as Herbert Marcuse (1966), made us aware of the liberating power of art. The social function of art, he believed, can enable what he called “transcendence.”  By this he meant a leap beyond the world as we know it to a new social order where libidinal energies are freed for the purposes of attaining full and complete identity.

I propose that art is also educational because, among other things, it beautifies and helps us appreciate our historical context, both of which are functions of education. Moreover, from the alternative perspectives presented above, it is also arguable that art, much like education, has strong ethical and political components. As such, one of the central purposes of art is to “speak truth to power.” Hence, one important role of art is to disturb, to question, to unsettle the ethical-political justifications of dominant political and social systems. As Augusto Boal (1974), long considered an outspoken critic of abusive political authority, argues: “theatre is a form of knowledge. It should and can be a means of transforming society”(p. 6) Central to this kind of transformation is the experience of revelation that art offers, which according to Dewey (1934/1980) is “. . .  the quickened expansion of experience. Art departs from what has been understood and ends in wonder.” (p. 270)

                   The educational implications of these views of art are far reaching. The teaching of art, traditionally treated as the historical study of human artistic expression, human artistic expression, or as an opportunity for those artistically talented to develop and demonstrate their skills, gains thereby a new educational, political, and ethical purpose. For example, the prospect of changing curricula through the arts so as to allow students to investigate the nature of power represents a new challenge to the socio-political hegemony of the classroom curriculum, and the school at large. Maxine Greene, (1996), a vigorous public spokesperson for art in education, argues for the use of art this way:     

We may be able to empower people to rediscover their own memories and articulate them in the
 presence of   others, whose space they can share. Such a project demands the capacity to unveil
 and disclose. It demands the exercise of imagination, enlivened by works of art, by situations of
speaking and making. (p. 111)

      Indeed, what art may provide is a reconstruction of the nature of how we speak to children, how we relate to each other in a broader context as human beings, and how we can construct visions of the future based on the basic principles of integrity, fairness, and respect for the dignity of every person in the world regardless of racial, ethnic, age, and gender traits. Therefore, for the purposes of this paper, I want to ask: how can art bring about a better world, through four basic themes: democracy and education, stewardship of best practice, nurturing pedagogy, and access to knowledge. That is, how can we better educate the citizens of the world in and through dialogue with art so as to foster dignity and happiness for all?

     In the following four sections I will attempt to explain how art relates to each of the four themes. Of each theme, I will try to answer the following questions: what is it, how can art foster it, how can it foster art, and how can it bring about a better world- a place where the interaction between art and people liberates the mind and body.

I. Democracy and Education

     The schooling system in industrialized countries has been characterized by non-democratic practices since the time of the industrial revolution. It is the organization of schooling as a rehearsal for the workplace that has defined education. Paulo Freire (1971) addresses this problem in his seminal work Pedagogy of the Oppressed, where he describes the “banking” model of teaching and learning. This autocratic educational model seeks to enshrine authority by viewing students as empty vessels that are filled up with information. The result of this is the departure of democratic practices from the classroom (Goodlad, 1997) and the disintegration of classrooms that respect the intellectual autonomy of the learner. As a way of answering this problem, some have argued for the cultivation of schools as learning communities where students can develop a “critical consciousness” (Dewey, 1938/1977).

 Are democracy and education opposing terms, or do they share something in common?
 What may define  democratic education is an ideal of democracy itself. Benjamin Barber (2000)
 describes this relationship this way,I mean to suggest much more than that democracy and education
 are parallel activities; or that civic training and the cultivation of knowledge and judgment possess a
 parallel structure. I am arguing that they are the same thing: we have to free all persons to make
 them educable. Educated men and women make good citizens of free communities; but without
 a free learning community you cannot educate. (p. 28, emphasis in the original)

     While it is apparent that Barber agrees that democracy and education can be conjoined, it is not clear as to what kind of practices characterize teaching and learning as democratic. Dewey (1916/1997) argues that teachers must avoid the “drill and repetition” model of instruction. That is, teachers should consider the personal experiences and meaning-making processes of their students, rather than teaching methods that enforce drills and uncritical rote approaches to knowledge, in order to help them develop the necessary skills and dispositions for an active and contributory life in a democratic system. From another standpoint, Henry Giroux (2003) argues that we must first take a closer look at the politics of schooling. He states,

We must analyze how power shapes, how teaching broader social values provides safeguards against turning citizenship skills into workplace-training skills, and how schooling can help students reconcile the seemingly opposing needs of freedom and solidarity. As educators, we need to examine alternative models of education that challenge the corporatization of public schools. (p. 122)

     Giroux’s argument has a clear message: democratic education is needed to provide a better (i.e., more just and dignified) world for all. This includes the re-organization of schools so that they don’t merely function as institutions of social control (McClaren, 1991) but, instead, as places where democratic values are practiced, student voices are spoken and listened to respectfully (Stauwaert, 1993), and their potential for a type of living that is creative, ethical and political is encouraged.

How can art foster democratic education?

     Art can facilitate democratic values and dispositions (beliefs and actions), but as I mentioned above it can also do the exact opposite. The difference between one result and the other resides in the way art is conceived, taught, and learned. Needless to say, I believe that art should do the former, but for that to happen it must be taught from a socially critical perspective. There are a number of authors who argue for this point of view. I present a few examples below.

     Art and Experience, by John Dewey (1934/1980) stands as one of the great treatises on art as an ethical and political means. Dewey, in presenting his views on the unifying power of art, describes its communicative value,

Art is more a universal mode of language than is the speech that exists in a multitude of mutually intelligible forms. The language of art has to be acquired. But the language of art is not affected by the accidents of history that mark off different modes of human speech. The power of music in particular merges different individualities in a common surrender, loyalty and inspiration, a power utilized in religion and warfare alike, testifies to the universality of the language of art. The differences between English, French and German speech create barriers that are submerged when art speaks. (p. 335)

     In another effort at using art to bring about social consciousness, Augusto Boal (1974) has effectively used the power of theatre to bring to light the meaning of democracy. In his work Theater of the Oppressed (1974), he explains how the theater can be a space (as well as a way) in which we can become aware of oppression as “spec-actors.” By having spectators participate in the theatre as actors, instead of as passive viewers, he emphasizes the transformational value of dialogue in a participatory democracy. Hence, an audience member participates in democratic and cooperative forms of knowledge and action by acting as an agent of change within a scene.

Eliot Eisner (1991) argues a similar point in his article “What the Arts Taught Me about Education”- that art can be seen as a way of bringing about democratic inquiry. He argues that the purpose of art is to

Go beyond the art itself—to prod the intellect, stir the emotions, or excite the
imagination. In the fine arts, particularly, the artist seeks declaration—a
commentary on human travail, a warning about the societal plight, a plea for
ethical values, or perhaps a protest against the decline of humanitarian impulse.
(p. 6)

How can democratic education foster art?  

     In as much as art can foster democratic education, democratic education can (and ought to) foster art. As such, the creation and appreciation of art is dependent on the educational environment in which it exists. Some may argue that artists are born, not made; yet, if one looks close enough, one will find plentiful examples of artists whose work is the result of being carefully taught. Again, the way art is taught can either promote democratic ideals, develop a critical consciousness, and advocate justice and dignity, or do the complete opposite—espouse dictatorial and harsh capitalist agendas, narcotize people, and serve the interests of the privileged few. Here is where education (democratic education, that is) can make a noticeable difference. It is therefore important to note the strong relationship that democratic education shares with the purveyance of art. If an artist does not have a free and open environment in which to express objections to misuse of power, then his/her conceptions of ethical and political thought may never come about. For this reason, democratic education, in its emphasis on socio-critical thinking skills and democratic citizenship (Goodlad, & Oakes, 1988) ; Lipman, 2002) can create a vision of art as a vehicle for social transformation. As part of this vision, the practices inherent in democracy-such as dialogue, debate, and inquiry-become critical practices that can invigorate artistic expression. Hannah Arendt (1952) made this point clearly. She believed that “any discussion of culture must take as its starting point the phenomenon of art” (p. 8). She criticized the consumer culture and the business of entertainment as detractors of people’s self- and social-political awareness.  A robust society, Arendt reminded us, is one in which art helps us transcend a consumer ethos to engender civic, as well as ethical and political, understanding and action.

     With this in mind, I want to turn the reader’s attention to the next theme, and reflect about the value and importance of maintaining what we can consider to be the “best practices” in teaching and learning (of and through art) to make a better world- an environment where teachers and students work through and with art to grow as citizens and co-inquirers.
II. Stewardship of Best Practice

     American schools have yielded little change in the way children are taught, and some of this is largely due to the fact that schools were created as culturally and socially conservative, not liberal, institutions. They were also designed to meet the needs of a capitalist market economy.  As such, some argue, schools are partly responsible for the ”savage inequalities” that exist in today’s society (Kozol, 1991). Not only overt curricula, but also the hidden curricula-including particular teaching practices-contribute to this. One can visit nearly any school and observe entrenched teaching styles that promulgate authoritarian, transmission models of teaching. Henry Giroux (1979) calls this “micro teaching” (p.410), where the emphasis is placed on memorization of contents, rather than on the development of the meta-cognitive. In contrast, what he calls “macro teaching” (p. 412) requires the teacher to connect information to much broader frames of reference so that students understand how content relates to larger ethical, political, and social perspectives. Unfortunately, the prevalence of “poisonous pedagogies” (Miller, 2002) continually limits students' ability to reach their potential as fulfilled human beings and contributing citizens. In recognition {plain that this is a problem, it is therefore necessary to practice stewardship of “better (more socially, ethically, and politically oriented) practices” to make the world better for children everywhere. Examples of this would be (a) to employ humanitarian principles to treat students as people first and as "students" second; (b) to create environments (classrooms, schools) in which listening and learning occurs reciprocally; and (c) to transform traditional teaching practices so as to encourage student autonomy, self-knowledge, and creativity (Lipman, Sharp, Oscanyan, 1980).

How can art foster stewardship of best practice?

     Art can assist teachers in becoming better teachers, and it can also help children be better students. As Louis Rubin (1991) explains,

If artists achieve their goals by exploiting the expressive dimensions of their media, teachers perhaps can similarly use their talents to guard against excessive insularity of isolated subject matter, to resolve the clamoring assertions of the disciplines through areas of central significance, and to embellish their teaching with the kind of originality, flair, and panache that artists bring to their projects. If curriculum serves the teacher, as clay, metal, wood, serve the sculptor, the importance of the creative impulse and inspired vision are hard to exaggerate. (p. 56)

     Thus understood, Jane Roland Martin (1993), in her description of Matthew Lipman’s novels, provides a good example of this use of art,  

One promising approach to thinking as a goal of education has been taken by Matthew Lipman and his associates. Lipman has written two philosophical novels, Harry Stottlemeier’s Discovery, and a sequel, Lisa. Harry and Lisa are about children who discuss “heavy” issues, among them: lying and truth telling, what is right, what is fair, the nature of mind, and the nature of death. These children also discover for themselves general principles of reasoning which they then apply in their own conversations. (p. 223)

     Whether it is a narrative, a poem, a song, or a painting, the artist asks us to consider the psychological and physical basis of our interpretations. Sometimes, he/she even asks us to do so beyond the aesthetic, that is, in ethical and political terms. Those things we hold dearly to our heart;- ethnicity, our culture, and how we conceive ourselves in time and space are extemporaneously “on stage” in the world of art.  Art provides legs to those emotions that are ever present, but rarely have the opportunity to walk freely. In this sense, teaching with art can be more than relaying content; it can be an expression of deep empathy for others (Rorty, 1979), and a realization that the inward and outward self are in continuous conversation. Understood in this way, art can be a means of better practices—practices that emancipate both student and teacher and help them see new ways of achieving a more just and dignified community. Nelson L. Haggerson (1991) describes how this happens in regard to poetry and curriculum,

Poetry is a form of spiritual nourishment which brings to expression other wellsprings of the life in which we move (Palmer 1969). It is a means of self-expression and self revelation, a way to express our mythic lives in figurative language, to maintain the richness of our sensual experiences and at the same time to provide a heuristic for others’ and our own future inquiries. Poetry is, for us, both substantive and syntactical as we thoughtfully approach curriculum inquiry. (p. 256)

How can stewardship of best practice foster art?

     If students are to understand the complexities of life, it is necessary to expose them to the larger questions that art poses.  What we claim are best practices can advance the purpose of art because effective teachers recognize the educational power of art. They understand, for example, the benefits of “tension and release” in experiencing art. Phillip Jackson (1998) explains this concept when writing about Dewey:

The way Dewey treats the benefits of tension within art-centered experience also helps to clarify the relation between experiences that are principally intellectual and those that are principally aesthetic. Both kinds of experience make use of intelligence as a guide to action. (p.50)

     It is this use of intelligence as a guide for (social, civil, ethical, political, aesthetic) action that constitutes the ground for stewardship of best practices. When we consider what best practices are applied to art, we create the possibility of placing art and the artist in a position of interpreting and re-presenting life in alternative, creative ways.  In this respect, these practices can help the artist render reality in ways that suggest other views, as well as shared views, of truth (Hagaman, 1991). For example, a poem is a piece of writing and, as such, it is not owned by anybody because we share, communally, in its beauty and truth. That is why it may be possible to view art as a way of sharing truth; we share in the meaning of art (whatever it may be) because of its powerful ability to disclose the truth. Therefore, the best teaching practices are those that complement the best qualities of the artist and the manner in which they convey messages through their art.  

III. Nurturing Pedagogy

To “nurture” means to provide loving care and attention. If our intention, through education, is to bring about a better world, it follows that a nurturing pedagogy must be implemented (Noddings, 1984, 2002). On the other hand, a non-nurturing or poisonous pedagogy will render the opposite, i.e., terrifying effects (Miller, 1990, 1998). But the question remains, can we do this?  Perhaps a good place to start is to review some examples of what might be considered nurturing teaching.

     Effective teaching practices have been the subject of debate for some time, but regardless of what strategies are hailed as good or bad, it is fair to say that one’s ability to know the learner, in addition to the content to be taught, is essential. Tony Johnson (1993) claims that, among other things, teaching is akin to the art of “translating.” He explains it this way,

As an artist, the teacher constructs bridges connecting the larger world of ideas with each individual’s private world. So no one bridge works for all, the teacher needs to know the background and previous experiences of his/her students and be well versed in the content or the subject that is to be taught. In this way, the teacher as artist serves as a kind of translator, representing the major concepts of the subjects to be taught in terms that connect students’ previous ways of viewing things. (p. 250)

     Another important aspect of nurturing pedagogy is personal, direct, honest and positive communication which enables and enhances caring. For example, a caring teacher may use interactive, dialogical inquiry with her students. As a consequence, the dialogue can allow students to express their views to and with the teacher and other members of the class. This constitutes a type of caring practice because it cultivates their ability to interpret the world for themselves. As Jerome Bruner (1971) puts it:

One of the most crucial ways in which a culture provides aid in intellectual growth is through a dialogue between the more experienced and the less experienced, providing a means for the internalization of dialogue in thought. The courtesy of conversation may be the major ingredient in the courtesy of teaching. (p. 528)

     Aside from the value of learning to dialogue, fostering an individual’s ability to employ his/her imagination and creativity can offer new ways of looking at the world. A pedagogy that cultivates a student’s creativity is also a caring pedagogy, especially when it helps students develop a sense of “problematicity” -a way of framing problems to entertain perspectives of what the world can and ought to be rather than what it is, - that is to say, a more just and dignified one.

How can art foster nurturing pedagogy?

     The use of art in the classroom is an example of caring teaching because it allows students to use their creative powers to think of learning as an imaginative process. As Mary Warnock (1978) reminds us in discussing art in the classroom,

In my opinion it is the main purpose of education to give people the opportunity of not ever being, in this sense, bored; of not ever succumbing to a feeling of futility, or to the belief that they have come to an end of what is worth having. (p.203)

     For this reason, conventional classroom teachers often use art as a way of enhancing students' artistic expression and their recognition of the role of emotions. Our emotions are, according to Martha Nussbaum (1990), an untapped resource ready to find its place in how we interact with art and each other. She uses the example of tragic drama to explain that there is a very strong relationship between the emotions conveyed through the story line of the play, and how we learn the ethical truths from characters who, like us, are vulnerable people. George Santayana, (1967), in describing the elements of poetry, offers a similar analysis. One of his arguments defends poetry as reflecting the truth of personal emotion, and its value in relation to the rational. The poet, he claims,

Dips into the chaos that underlies the rational shell of the world and brings up some superfluous image, some emotion dropped by the way, and reattaches it to the present object; he reinstates things unnecessary, he emphasizes things ignored, he paints in again into the landscape the tints which the intellect has allowed to fade from it. (p.146)

     And yet the imagination has other qualities to it that cultivate a critical consciousness of the world. According to Kieran Egan, (2005) the imagination should not be relegated to the fanciful and obscure, because knowledge is deeply connected to it. He observes that,

All knowledge is human knowledge and all knowledge is a product of human hopes, fears, and passions. To bring knowledge to life in students’ minds we must introduce it to students in the context of the human hopes, fears, and passions in which it finds its fullest meaning. The best tool for doing this is the imagination. (p.12)

     And so while the imagination makes teaching more engaging for Egan, creativity is the one aspect of art that fosters a deeper understanding of it. The ability to create suggests ways of seeing knowledge beyond its instrumental, pragmatic use to learning about truth as disclosed through the representative interpretations of life contained in art.

How can nurturing pedagogy foster art?

Good teaching also promotes art. In other words, effective teaching exposes students to the value of understanding and expressing thought through art forms. Students learn that the vehicle for explaining the subject can be (among many) media images, paintings, drawings, or even theater to frame the knowledge of the subject or inquiry the teacher is attempting carry out. This accomplishes two things: students learn about a subject, and they learn about art. In this way, when teachers facilitate critical thinking through art, they teach passionately and effectively while promoting art in general. Delese Wear (1991) explains that when teachers use poetry in the classroom,

They evoke thought and press one to action: theory building scholarship, perhaps; inquiry into the previously unexamined; or the new examination of the taken-for-granted. Action, in this sense, encompasses all the previous three poetic themes of wonder, seeing, and ambiguity and is a reflective outgrowth of those perspectives. (p.262)

     Similarly, nurturing teaching promotes the relevance of the body and movement and its various outlets in the performing arts. In this sense, there is an undeniable relationship between feelings, artistic expression and effective teaching. Susan Stinson (1991) explains this well when she describes how improvisational dancing helped her establish the strong connection between dancing and curriculum:

When I thought of improvisation as a metaphor for education, I did not just think in words. It was all that I knew of improvisation on a body level that generated the connection for me: recollections of joyous times in improvisation groups with my peers, for the pleasure of dancing together; alone times in the studio trying to generate moving material for choreography; threatening times, taking the risk necessary to improvise in front of critical teachers and peers. It was such visual and kinesthetic images which allowed me to find the connection between dancing and education, and which allowed my metaphor to appear. (p.192)

     This kind of experience with art and education is a model for how teachers can connect art with teaching. Students yearn for an opportunity to improve the way they know themselves and the world they live in, but in order to bring about a better world-a place where art and schooling work together, they will need to access knowledge that will assist them in their search for truth.  How might this come about? I will attempt to answer this question in the next and last section of this essay.
                    IV. Access to Knowledge

     Ideally, school is a place where knowledge is understood not just as  “school knowledge,” but knowledge about life. Curriculums can reflect the value of preparing students for higher education or the workplace. In this type of setting, no information is withheld from classroom discourse, and all students are given equal access to information. A closer look at the context of schooling, however, reveals that in the current system of public and private education, knowledge is accessible for some and not for others (Kozol, 1985, 1991). The content of what is called knowledge is often undermined by political power structures and socio-economic conditions in which children learn (Anyon, 1981). As a consequence, school knowledge resides in spaces of privileged position of power, and those who do not possess this power are, more often than not, denied access to it. This, of course, affects not only the particular type of “education” some people will receive, but also the possibilities of achieving success (be it political, economic, ethical, or some other) in life. The obstacles that deny access to knowledge might include particular teaching practices, curricula, or even assumptions about what and when people are capable of learning.

Accordingly, the concept of “access to knowledge” also implies the ability to identify what kind of knowledge one needs to get and how to go about getting it. For example, I may have some knowledge, or lack it, and wonder how this affects my ability to think freely or, in contrast, to think in such a way that I am unable to access the nature of what I think about, and why I think the way I do. For example, I may have political or religious views that I believe in, but I may not know why I feel so strongly about them, why I insist that others are wrong when they disagree with me, and what prohibits me from engaging in substantive dialogue about my views with others.  That is why it is critical, I believe, to look at practices that promote open access to knowledge, and understand how they make for better teaching, which, in turn, will contribute to a better world. My assumption here is that with improved acquisition of knowledge, I increase my ability to understand myself and my place and role in society. In this way, over time, as I enhance the degree to which I comprehend life I can also increase the possibility of making worlds come about that are an improvement both for myself and others.

How can art foster access to knowledge?

     Our natural instinct to interpret each experience we undergo is part of our desire to bring clarity and focus to our lives. Art, whether it be representing, challenging, or celebrating, can assist us in this effort by its power to uncover meaning. As such, art fosters access to knowledge. In this sense, I would like to argue that human beings can understand the world better when art speaks directly and without apology. Robert Mapplethorpe’s photographs of homosexuals, for instance, may show a world one might be unfamiliar with by recording and “telling the truth” about particular segments of the history of the gay community in a way that had not been previously considered. Similarly, it is no wonder that popular forms of visual representation such as novels, paintings, film, and television images can improve the way in which people convey and interpret ideas. Matthew Lipman (2003), with his novels for Philosophy for Children has achieved this, to a degree, by fostering children’s ability to think critically about philosophical problems. Lipman explains,

As the novels unfold, the characters in them are shown using the very thinking skills that one would hope the live children in the classroom through a process of identification would likewise utilize. Perhaps “identification” does not suitably convey what occurs, for in fact, the students in the classroom tend to reenact the intellectual processes of their young heroes and heroines, much as, in reading romantic fiction, they go through, live again, and reenact the emotional processes of their heroes and heroines. (p. 85)

     To unfold these truths the students seek to discover, Lipman’s “community of philosophical inquiry” reconstitutes the meaning of the novels through discussing them. A facilitator (often the teacher) leads the participants in a careful, democratic practice of learning to contribute, offer counterarguments, and advance the inquiry so that all participate in the creation of meaning. As such, this art form (i.e., the novels) in conjunction with a certain form of collaborative discourse (CPI) helps students access particular types of knowledge that otherwise would be inaccessible. As Kieran Egan (2005) puts it:

When we first develop the control of varied material by fitting it into some meta-narrative, it gives us a new kind of understanding and sense of power of the material. We see its meaning in a new and powerful way. For some people, the development of meta-narratives grows relatively slowly, and this sense of exciting intellectual power is muted. But for others it comes quickly and can be intoxicating. (166)

     Art also invokes a transcendental world above and beyond the ordinary. It has often been viewed as a means of “seeing” that has previously been kept from us by conventional models of interpretation and appreciation. In other words, art may be a means of accessing ways of understanding the world that ought to be (ethically and politically speaking) as opposed to the one that is. Sometimes this is accomplished through a kind of meditation, or what Christopher Dustin and Joanna Ziegler (2005) call “contemplative seeing.” They argue that the “inner life” of art and philosophy should be part of daily life and an integral part of our ourselves, not something merely discussed. As they put it,
For us, the vital connection between art, philosophy and life lies not in the application of a set of ideas but in the very act of seeing.  Contemplative seeing has wide ranging implications for the development of pedagogical method in many disciplines. Focus, concentration, and awareness are vital to education itself, as well as to living fully. (p. 2)

     Therefore, art has instrumental value as it relates to the expression of insight. The previously unseen ways of looking at the world are accessed through art, and that is why a commitment to transformative teaching will require art to continue to show us ways of making this come about. The opening of consciousness by way of art is the key to transformation of the individual, and the widening of access to knowledge for the benefit of the collective whole. That is why education needs art, and art requires good teaching to make its truths known to all.

How can access to knowledge foster art?

     When students have access to meaningful information they can utilize such information in the understanding and creating of art. Knowledge of how information is expressed brings about awareness of vehicles of expression (used by the artist) to direct the participant’s attention to the mode and manner in which it is presented. As a consequence, students may learn the seductive qualities that art possesses and its power to influence action and/or control opinion. Fascist art, for instance, allows students to know the power of oratory and the theatrical presentation of a patriarchal and oppressive state. Needless to say, this is knowledge put to the wrong use, because the intentions of the producers of this type of mass media and filmed images is to produce subject matter to control, culturally entrench, discriminate, and murder.

To prevent this bleak utilization of art, Maxine Greene (2003) calls for a social and political awareness through the development of aesthetic and literary imagination, and that requires having access to knowledge. Art can be a viable and valuable way of helping students pose questions about what they believe is true and why. This is an emancipative approach to art, and an approach that is likely to bring greater awareness (knowledge) of a world where art can take its place in the personal and private lives of all. This is one reason why teachers ought to understand that they have a moral-ethical obligation to improve their student’s critical consciousness, and direct them to imaginative ways of seeing the world. As Mark Johnson (1994) explains,

Imagination is no longer banished to the realm of allegedly subjective experiences. Instead, it is precisely that capacity which allows us both to experience present situations as significant and to transform them in light of our quest for well being. Imagination is the means for going beyond our selves as presently formed, moving transformatively towards imagined ideals of what we might become, how we might relate to others, and how we might address problematic situations. (p. 209).


     The legacy of art and its relationship to the four core themes in the doctoral program in pedagogy—democracy in education, stewardship of best practice, nurturing pedagogy, and access to knowledge—is one that deeply informs effective teaching and learning. These themes rest on the assumption that when implemented in the classroom, students improve as learners, communicators, and citizens. In this paper, I have argued that a constructive use of art can cultivate a critical consciousness toward life and how it acts as a means of bringing about meaningful change in teaching and learning. A better world may be possible, I argue, if we can dream of a world that might be possible; a world in which we find creative solutions to problems through insight and imagination, to improve ourselves and others. It is a realm of meaning found through symbols, sounds, actions, and words that engage the self beyond the immediate world with a landscape of ideas previously unknown. Therefore, I believe that when given the opportunity, the arts, in conjunction with the pedagogical dimensions mentioned above, can lead to meaningful progress in education for individuals and for their communities at large. The task remains for educational programs (be it Philosophy for Children or any other teaching practice) to allow a greater role for the arts in its curriculum, so as to foster a new way of transforming the world in ethical and dignifying ways.

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