Tuesday, April 8, 2008
List your statewide event in the Community Calendar
The Dana Foundation is to be commended for sustaining its arts education program and connecting it with its brain research activities. The long-awaited findings of their investigation since 2004 on the relationship between study of the arts and the brain is now available. You can read or download Learning, Arts and the Brain from www.dana.org. Here, from the press release, is a summary of what the group of scientists has learned:
I, for one, take heart in the hope that I can improve my dance moves by watching others. However, Dr. Michael Gazzaniga, who led the research team, warns that these findings are only a first round of the "neuroscientific attack on the question of whether arts training changes the brain to enhance general cognitive capacities." Correlations, he reminds us, do not prove causality and, in any case, the questions of what brain processes or stages in brain development we could take advantage of in teaching the arts are still completely open. As we have learned to expect, these preliminary findings "offer the validity essential for the future studies" and the press release includes numerous suggestions for subsequent neuroscientific research.
"In my judgment," says Dr. Gazzaniga, "this project has identified candidate genes involved in the predisposition to the arts and has also shown that cognitive improvements can be made to specific mental capacities such as geometric reasoning; that specific pathways in the brain can be identified and potentially changed during training; that sometimes it is not structural brain changes but rather changes in cognitive strategy that help solve a problem; and that early targeted music training may lead to better cognition through an as yet unknown neural mechanism. That is all rather remarkable and challenging."
It is also remarkable and challenging that, despite
the known and perceived value of arts learning is often ignored in the policy decisions and resource allocations of public education decision makers.
And so, I offer some questions for the reader, as a shaper of public policy related to arts learning, to consider:
I find that the more information revealing the value of arts learning is available, the more useful is the Arts Education Partnership's brochure and publication entitled Gaining the Arts Advantage: Lessons from School Districts that Value Arts Education. They remind us that, while having people who understand the value of arts learning in key decision making positions and having a well-designed, reflective arts learning delivery system in place are essential to "gaining the arts advantage," community engagement (translation: advocacy) is critical to sustaining all the other factors.
I'm pleased to see widespread, favorable and growing response to the Arts Education Partnership's research and poll findings on the ImagineNation (see ImagineNation.net). In February, I keynoted the Alabama Arts Education Summit on this topic. In mid-March, one of the highlights of the California Arts Council's "The Future—What's Next?" conference was AEP Executive Director Dick Deasy's presentation on the same topic. And, on March 26, NASAA's ImagineNation Web Seminar attracted record participation. The slides for that very successful event are available in the Members Only section of the NASAA web site and you can hyperlink directly from there to more information on the AEP web site. Within a few days, the AEP web site will also feature talking points for each slide, so you, your staff and others who speak on behalf of the value of arts education will find it easy to make a fully informed and compelling presentation.
Now is a good time to plan for Assembly 2008 in Chattanooga, Tennessee, September 11-14. I promise you the more you learn about the agenda, the city and the experiences our hosts are designing for us, the more excited you will be about participating. See you there!