Schools are political institutions, and politicians can be unclear about their intentions and their messages. Former Washington, DC, schools chief, Michelle Rhee, and Sacramento, CA, Mayor, Kevin Johnson, are currently promoting education reform that calls for even tougher standards. Rhee says of her own children, “They suck at soccer.” She says this to support her argument that, even though they play soccer, they are not good and they will not play soccer as a career; why would we promote students in the education setting if, in fact, they are not achieving those academic standards. Her associate, Johnson, suggests that there are collaborative ways to address reform options, including collaborating with other community agencies to provide services (Harrington, 2011).
The message of Rhee and Johnson appear conflicted, though. On the one hand, the children are having an experience – soccer – at which they are not proficient, according to Rhee. She acknowledges that they will not play as a career, yet she allows them to have the experience of playing soccer. Does this mean that she values the experience of soccer, even though there is not, in her estimation, a direct link to future employment? If so, then it seems that she does place some value on experience. Dewey supported the experience of art education in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Participation in art, in this perspective, was to allow the child to do what he or she wanted without teacher intervention or direct instruction. He believed this lent to the development of a creative intelligence, whereby an art education fostered other creative abilities. It was a concept of the wholeness of one’s experience: humans’ feelings and thoughts worked together to help a child learn both values and facts (Eisner, 1972).
Eisner, E. (1972). Educating artistic vision. New York: MacMillan.
Harrington, T. (2011). Notable pair push education reform. Contra Costa Times. April 24, 2011, p. A19.