Friday, October 16, 2009

Our Ambivalence With the Arts Makes Bad Education and Economic Policy

Arts education is, I would argue, critical to a peaceful society, and its absence in the school curriculum creates a serious social problem. Math and science train minds in logical and critical thinking. What is missed by policymakers is the importance of developing emotional awareness. Arts and the aesthetics do just that-develop a rich awareness of our emotional world. If children are not trained in the arts, their emotional awareness and intelligence develops ad hoc. Some will grow into healthy emotional beings; many others will be stunted, unhappy beings. The purpose of arts training is not to create artists, musicians, and poets. It is to open up children to the feelings and emotions they experience when observing, creating, and interacting with expressions of emotion created by others. We know that mirror neurons in our brains are the substrate for empathy and need to be exposed to emotions. Arts training is therefore just as important for the developing brain as is problem-solving for we cannot solve social and personal problems just with critical thinking skills. So what is the payoff. As a lawyer turned peacemaker, I think the benefit is less crime, less conflict, fewer lawsuits as people learn to navigate and express their emotional experiences in healthy, robust ways. What better way to learn how to do that than through the arts? The way to peace must include a path through the arts.
Read the Article at HuffingtonPost


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