The Muses Go to School: Conversations about the Necessity of Arts in Education


What do Whoopi Goldberg, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Rosie Perez, and Phylicia Rashad have in common? A transformative encounter with the arts during their school years. Whether attending a play for the first time, playing in the school orchestra, painting a mural under the direction of an art teacher, or writing a poem, these famous performers each credit an experience with the arts at school with helping them discover their inner humanity and putting them on the road to fully ...
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The Muses Go to School: Inspiring Stories About the Importance of Arts in Education

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What do Whoopi Goldberg, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Rosie Perez, and Phylicia Rashad have in common? A transformative encounter with the arts during their school years. Whether attending a play for the first time, playing in the school orchestra, painting a mural under the direction of an art teacher, or writing a poem, these famous performers each credit an experience with the arts at school with helping them discover their inner humanity and putting them on the road to fully realized creative lives.

In The Muses Go to School, autobiographical pieces with well-known artists and performers are paired with interpretive essays by distinguished educators to produce a powerful case for positioning the arts at the center of primary and secondary school curriculums. Spanning a range of genres from acting and music to literary and visual arts, these smart and entertaining voices make surprising connections between the arts and the development of intellect, imagination, spirit, emotional intelligence, self-esteem, and self-discipline of young people.

With support from a star-studded cast, editors Herbert Kohl and Tom Oppenheim present a memorable critique of the growing national trend to eliminate the arts in public education. Going well beyond the traditional rationales, The Muses Go to School shows that creative arts, as a means of academic and personal development, are a critical element of any education. It is essential reading for teachers, parents, and anyone who really cares about education.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Inspired by the work of the Stella Adler Outreach Division, one of whose goals is “to bring free actor training to low-income inner-city youth,” this collection of interviews with 10 artists connected with the theater and the responses of 10 educators, all of whom might well be described as reformers and activists involved in “issues of education, justice, and the arts,” is a broad summons to recognize the arts as “central to a good education.” Through recollections of their own discoveries and of students whose lives they saw transformed, they offer diverse experiences except for one thing—that the arts opened new worlds. For Bill T. Jones, it was a drama teacher; for Rosie Perez, a performance of “The Wiz changed my life”; for Frances Lucerna, it was a parish church summer program. Nevertheless, as Oppenheim reports, “the arts have been virtually eliminated from public education throughout the United States.” While Whoopi Goldberg speaks of growing up “in a world with music and art and going to museums,” Diane Ravitch’s response takes note of “the precipitous... decline in spending for arts education services.... in Whoopi’s hometown, the mayor decided to stake his legacy on raising test scores in reading and math.” Into the current debates about the means and ends of public education, these conversations form a softly spoken but urgent argument that as Kohl says, “The arts are not just for people who become artists.” (Mar.)
Library Journal
Kohl (36 Children) and Oppenheim (artistic director, Stella Adler Studio of Acting) have collected essays from artists and educators in support of arts education. They argue that the arts are not simply "frills or embellishments" to a complete education but rather are necessary to students' development of discipline, critical thinking, teamwork, social engagement, empathy, and more. They also demonstrate that arts education carries over to "serious" academic subjects: dance teaches anatomy; music, fractions; visual arts, concepts related to physics. The book consists of paired essays, one by a well-known artist (e.g., Philip Seymour Hoffman, Rosie Perez, Moisés Kaufman) and one by a teacher or administrator. The essays by the artists appeal to the emotions; the educators' essays speak more to the academic, behavioral, and psychological well-being of students in arts education. Together they make compelling arguments for keeping arts education in the schools. VERDICT Although the arguments would be strengthened by cited sources, the book provides a useful starting point for debate. Recommended for parents, educators, politicians, school boards, and supporters of the arts.—Rachel Owens, Daytona State Coll. Lib., FL
Kirkus Reviews
Incensed by recent trends to eliminate arts education from public-school curriculums, co-editors Kohl and Oppenheim present 20 insightful essays in a bid to draw attention to the cultural and developmental significance of the cause. National Book Award winner Kohl (The Herb Kohl Reader, 2011, etc.) is angered by the myth that the arts "are merely frills or embellishments to a meaningful education," while Oppenheim, artistic director of New York City's Stella Adler Studio of Acting (and Adler's grandson) reiterates the social functionality of teaching the arts to less-fortunate youth, "no matter how difficult their circumstances." A live panel discussion in 2008 inspired these insightful essays from a variety of artists in many mediums. Recollecting her dyslexic childhood enlivened by theater, Whoopi Goldberg believes in the nurturing of the "artistic voice." Rosie Perez comments that her current work on the board of a nonprofit arts organization allows her to promote creativity to children in inner-city NYC. Phylicia Rashad testifies to the good fortune of a high-school experience rich in artistic programs and creative encouragement; she pleads for a continuation of arts cultivation in schools, thwarting what she calls a "nation of robots." Heartfelt thoughts from collegiate scholars like Bill Ayers and Deborah Meier lend a necessary urgency to the cause, as does education professor and MacArthur recipient Lisa Delpit, who remarks that "the arts allow us a lens to see gifts that may not be immediately evident." The dedicated work of former professional dancer and artist Frances Lucerna and linguistic anthropologist Shirley Brice Heath offer prime examples of how the arts can be successfully integrated into school curriculums. Uniformly written and passionately considered, the collection brims with ideas, memories and hope for creatively inspired students.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595585394
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 2/7/2012
  • Pages: 214
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Herbert Kohl is a celebrated writer, teacher, and advocate. He is the author of more than forty books, including the bestselling classic 36 Children. A recipient of a National Book Award and a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, he was the founder and first director of the Teachers and Writers Collaborative in New York City, has served as a Senior Fellow at the Open Society Institute, and established the PEN West Center in San Francisco. In 2010, Kohl was named a Guggenheim Fellow in education. He lives in Point Arena, California. Tom Oppenheim is the artistic director of the Stella Adler Studio of Acting. A lifelong New Yorker, he studied acting at the National Shakespeare Conservatory and, with his grandmother, Stella Adler. He has numerous theatre, film, and television credits, including the title role in Macbeth with the Harold Clurman Laboratory Theater company where he has directed nine productions. He is the recipient of the 2009 Laurette Taylor award from Theatre East. Grounded by a belief in the potential for theatre to influence society, he devotes much of his time to expanding the social outreach of the Stella Adler Studio.
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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Introduction by Tom Oppenheim

Preface by Herbert Kohl

I. The Arts as a Vehicle for the Discovery of the Self
Rosie Perez
Michelle Fine

II. The Arts and the Development of Self-discipline
Phylicia Rashad
Lisa Delpit

III. The Arts and the Role of Culture and Gender Identity in
Frances Lucerna
Bill Ayers

IV. The Arts and Lifelong Commitments, Pleasures, and Pains
Bill T. Jones
Kevin Truitt

V. The Arts Short-circuiting Hyperactivity & Attention Deficit Disorder
David Amram
Gary Sager

VI. The Arts as an Integrative Force in Learning
Phillip Seymour Hoffman
Debby Meier

VII. The Arts as a Children’s Rights and Human Rights Issue
Whoopi Goldberg
Diane Ravitch

VIII. The Arts, Social Engagement, and Social Transformation
Moises Kaufman
Steve Seidel

IX. A Parent and Elected Official on the Importance of the Arts
Robert Jackson

X. The Arts and the Abiding Importance of the Development of Imagination
Maxine Greene
Shirley Brice Heath

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