Valuing the Arts, Literature, and History. . . .

On February 11, 2014, I responded to words quoted in an article written by a college professor on Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Maureen Downey’s blog.  Below are, first, the words quoted in the article, and, then, my words of response to that quote. 

“Absences are absences; there is no need to understand why children in poverty are undernourished, have transportation problems, are not socialized from birth to view school as a vehicle for upward mobility, or otherwise might not make it to school or class. They are simply absent, and that absence has meaning on the spreadsheet, if not in the real life of the child.”

That statement, above, represents an entire worldview. On a surface level, it is about students’ absences, but the statement is actually symbolic of how we should view humanity, in the eyes of the person who is quoted. A a former teacher, I believe that teachers must insist that the instructional process of delving deeper into forces which affect human beings, both internal and external, should never be disregarded from the curriculum. In the present evolving technological age, valuing looking deeply into the forces which shape the lives of individuals is going to become harder to sustain as a necessity. As teachers, we must continue to insist that there is great value in teaching students to perceive all human beings with depth and not simply as convenient generic labels. Human beings can easily fall into hating others whom they perceive as labels (such as “the enemy”), but when a student is taught to see another human being with a depth that transcends generic labels, then rarely will that student’s newly refined sensibility allow him or her to hate another. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood this. Educational leaders must always value the arts, literature, and history as much as they presently value science, mathematics, and data (which are aligned with the technological age) because those more introspective academic disciplines teach humanity how to love – not with sentimentality but with genuine compassion and empathy. If we, as a human race, cannot experience compassion for one another, then what is the point of existence, itself?

ADDENDUM added November 17, 2015 from comments I made to another poster on the AJC blog, “Get Schooled”:

“I must point out to you that – regarding your son’s literature and history assignments online – the retention of facts and information is only the first step of knowledge and understanding.  Answering the higher level questions such as ‘why’ and ‘what’ (not simply the lower level questions such as ‘who,’ ‘when,’ ‘where’), and seeing the interrelationships between ideas which manifest themselves in people and events, are the instructional gifts of the exceptional teacher who knows how to have all students interact within his/her classroom to foster intellectual growth of higher level thinking skills in his/her students, which they will be able to apply to situations in their own lives and in the world’s improvement.”

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