Rescuing individuals from generality

By Bennett Reimer

This is a rich discussion indeed. Fascinating yet frustrating in its many threads yearning for a discernable pattern into which to be woven. At the general end is the desire to "teach creativity." But as Gardner has so clearly explained, there is no "general" creativity -- each role humans play entails its genuine ways to be creative, and transfer from one to another is unlikely except with more massive attempts to cause it than we know how to make. (Same with "critical thinking," etc.). Nothing substitutes for real encounters with art in all its ways of being, each role in each art its world of meanings/doings.

SO: Sam's mind game of "what would you do with x number of interactions with kids" leads me to an answer. I would identify the major roles each art enables to be played (not difficult) and introduce each of them to that imagined class by having them play each role under the guidance of an encouraging teacher, assisted, as often as possible, by  community members who actually live that role, whether as aficionado, amateur, or professional, giving each experience as much time as can be devised within the limits of time available. I would encourage each child to "try on" each role, and the many kinds of art entailed in the many roles, to see which of them fit comfortably and delightfully. A good general education in the arts would do this, year by year in developmental fashion. Then (isn't it nice to dream?) electives in all those roles would be available at appropriate grade levels for the individuals who have discovered a delight in any of them and the desire to pursue it (them) further with specialized teachers. The result? An arts educated young person, equipped to enjoy the arts in whatever way(s) appropriate for his/her individuality, both now and in the future. This is doable, not just pie in the sky. It rescues the diversity of each individual student as being the point and purpose of education, in the arts and every other domain. And gives us a tangible goal in consonance with our larger hopes for the security of the arts in education, supported deeply because it addresses individual needs for fulfillment in all their multiplicity.   Yes? No? Maybe?

December 2, 2008 2:18 PM | | Comments (2) |


Is this dream doable today? I don’t know but this was exactly how it was done when I was in elementary, junior high and high school back in the Sixties. We were exposed to vocal music, folk dance, instrumental music, and visual arts. You are also right in that some individuals gravitated towards one or two of these arts through the years. Others simply pursued other areas of interest outside the arts by the time they got into high school but at least they had the opportunities of participation at some point. The students who truly excelled were supported by community organizations such as youth symphonies and visual arts groups. Key to all of this was the devoted teacher who not only taught and encouraged but had the astuteness in identifying the gifted. This happened in the public school system in Wichita, Kansas. It was not a dream.

Bennett, ah, so you too were seduced by Sam's mind game...I am working with arts, classroom teachers, artists and parents tomorrow and plan to introduce it there in an abbreviated form -
I am captivated by your "dream" - thank you for it; I shall sleep well this evening.

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This Conversation For decades, as teaching of the arts has been cut back in our public schools, alarms have been raised about the dire consequences for American culture. Artists and arts organizations stepped in to try to... more

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Jack Lew commented on Rescuing individuals from generality: Bennett, Is this dream doable today? I don’t know but this was exactly how ...

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