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Expression: The Arts Intellectual

The Arts are an essential element of culture that give life vibrancy and depth of meaning. They are essential to our identity. There is, it seems to me, a general cultural decline in Art. Music, visual arts, drama and other artistic pursuits are in decline not only in education, but across society in general. It seems as though artistic endeavour, whether it be in education or entertainment, are becoming increasing marginalized.

For example, the music industry has become so dominated by corporate interests that creativity has become formula. In education systems, the arts have been dominated by technique over substance. In The Advancement of Learning four qualities of an Arts Intellectual are introduced...

The Arts intellectual are four in number; divided according to the ends whereunto they are referred: for [person's] labour is to invent that which is sought or propounded; or to judge that which is invented; or to retain that which is judged; or to deliver over that which is retained. So as the arts must be four: Art of Inquiry or Invention: Art of Examination or Judgment: Art of Custody or Memory: and Art of Elocution or Tradition.

I was a music teacher for a number of years and always found it odd that the music curriculum was more focused on technique and theory than it was creativity and personal/collective expression. Musical composition and improvisation were nearly non-existent, while rote learning and practice were the norm. While everyone needs to develop technique to some extent, it should not be the focus. What has happened, to my thinking, is that the arts have become technified. By this I mean that arts programs are often not as much focused on art as creative experience than they are the acquisition of a common scope and sequence of knowledge, skills and attitudes. In other words, the gap between what artists do and the experience of the arts curriculum is wide.

Of course, there are educators out there who invite students into a deeper artistic experience, but the underlying foundation of the arts curriculum remains more oriented toward delivering a scope and sequence of technique. What is taught is the techniques and methods of music, visual arts, drama, etc., rather than the experience of being an Artist.

In the quote above, it seems the idea of the arts is quite different from our current conception of them. Perhaps rather than foolishly ejecting the arts from the educational system, we should be looking at ways to revise them so that they can assume their much needed role in helping people to develop to explore their creative capacities and, indeed, their lives.

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