Sunday, April 27, 2008

Art, Education, and the Body

Amazing: scientific studies recently published in “Scientific American” are just beginning to acknowledge the importance of the body, in particular, body memory that prompts cognition. DUH. CRINGE. Obviously, these brain researchers have no background in the arts and never bothered to give any credence to either child development studies or to the amount of literature and art research concerning the role of movement in therapy, education, articulation, etc. I’m sure any artist still working in 3 dimensions could have instructed them on the role between body memory and the mind.

  • As children, our primary mode of learning is to touch, crawl, stick objects in our mouths, and—in other words—use our bodies to learn about our world. Nor did it stop when we learned language. Play, movement in space, trying postures, movement, expression, and so on, simply continued the education. Many a parent, observer of children, artist, educator, thinker, etc., has already make this deduction—supported by evidence from biology, brain development, education studies, studies of dancers and athletes, and on and on.

Only those trained in disregarding any evidence other than that gathered in strict trials or sanctioned by “hard science” would have to wait for these studies to acknowledge this and not have given credence sooner. Not that I am against the scientific method—not at all.

  • What I am against is the insular arrogance that keeps many scientists from seeing what is right in front of them. Having pursued a degree in curriculum development and instruction, researched how humans learn, having been a dancer for many years and taught for over 30 years, including at-risk students, I can clearly see the consequences from denying the kinesthetic component in our education of “sit quietly and shut up”; “Don’t move.”

We are breaking the crucial bond between mind and body working together in absorbing information, storing concepts, and retrieving them. In other words, we have been retarding the minds and bodies of our children and ourselves. Unfortunately, given how often research is either ignored or how long it takes to be heeded by bureaucratic institutions and ignorant legislators determined to “teacher proof” classrooms and promulgate ideology as opposed to logic and research, I doubt we will see any changes in education that will reflect this knowledge.

  • No, the prevailing morality is that the body and flesh are evil, the arts are a waste, and we must exercise control over any need to move. What a pity: our potential will continue to be deliberately enslaved—along with untold damage contracted emotionally and psychologically. Working with students who cannot conform, who cannot give up their kinesthetic knowledge no matter the punishment, I’ve seen the damage—to them and society in general. Those of us from the ‘60s had wisdom in song to “teach our children well.”

As far as I can see, for the most part, that knowledge has been lost, and, yes, suppressed. Don’t believe me? Take a look at some of the latest parenting books written by ministers and self-proclaimed Christian preachers; they advocate beating the child, for we are born evil and must have obedience beaten into us since to tame our animalistic, irrational natures marked by original sin. Disregard the evidence that beating a child creates an adult that abuses. Ignore the studies that demonstrate the psychological damage. Throw it all out and follow—what—pre-Christian customs from a brutal time that no longer exists and didn’t work.

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