Thursday, January 09, 2014

Democracy In American Education: Who is Focusing The Focused Instruction?

I wrote a comment in a recent article expressing concerns about focused instruction. The idea of subordinating self-directed, democratically initiated educational experiences based on children's interests and passions replaced with non-consensual activities devoid of student input is anathema to democratic education.

Choice based art teachers are positioned to facilitate democratically initiated forms of education through a pedagogy that values individual ideas, dialogue, collaboration. Choice based art teachers carefully design learning environments that support autonomous learners and student initiated learning. Human beings, from an evolutionary perspective, are naturally predisposed to democratic forms of education. This is a fact. 

In "Art as Experience," John Dewey explains that art making goes beyond the handling of materials and construction of an object, but has deeper ramifications as personally meaningful experience. Once amplified through aesthetic sensibilities and psycho-emotional realms, independently mediated art experience can transform lives at a profound level. 

From my perspective, education through art, is a civil rights issue. Eisner writes in "The Arts and the Creation of Mind, " and I am paraphrasing here: "There are two types of education in this World. The first is to educate children so they will have a chance to unfold, unhindered by forces that would divert them from their natural progression of development. The second form of education can be seen in totalitarian nations where the state imprints onto children's minds what the state values."

According to Noam Chomsky, "Teaching is common sense. Ninety-nine percent of good teaching is getting people interested in the task or problem and providing them with a rich enough environment in which they can begin to pursue what they find interesting in a constructive way." Chomsky's insight into the teaching and learning process is echoed similarly by Dewey and Clara Belle Baker.

The question for educators and citizens is this: What are educators saying to students when, in the context of compulsory schooling experience, we reject children's time sensitive ideas and interests?


Chomsky, N. "Democracy and Education," 2002 Edited by C.P. Ortero, Routledge Falmer, N.Y., N.Y.

Dewey, J. "Art As Experience," 1934,

Eisner, E. "The Arts and the Creation of Mind," 2002,

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