Harvard Educational Review
  1. Spring 2013 Issue »

    Why the Arts Don’t Do Anything

    Toward a New Vision for Cultural Production in Education

    In this essay Rubén A. Gaztambide-Fernández uses a discursive approach to argue that mainstream arts in education scholarship and advocacy construes “the arts” as a definable naturalistic phenomenon that exists in the world and is available to be observed and measured. In the course of his analysis, he examines how this construction is employed through what he calls the rhetoric of effects as part of the mainstream discourses used in arts in education research today. He describes how this positivistic rhetoric masks the complexity of those practices and processes associated with the arts, limiting the possibilities for productively employing such practices in education. In addition, he explores how discourses of the arts both arise out of and continually reify hierarchical conceptions of artistic practices in education and broader society. He concludes by proposing an alternative rhetoric of cultural production, arguing that moving toward this new way of understanding practices and processes of symbolic creativity is critical for expanding our vision for the arts in education.

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    Rubén A. Gaztambide-Fernández is an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. His ethnographic research examines the role of social and cultural context on the educational experiences of high school students, most recently focusing on students attending specialized arts high schools in the United States and Canada. He also writes extensively about theoretical and conceptual issues in curriculum and cultural production, with a particular focus on the arts and most recently on the concept of solidarity. He has also conducted research on the experiences of Latino/a immigrants in Toronto schools. His work has appeared in education journals such as Curriculum Inquiry, Review of Education/Pedagogy/Cultural Studies, and Journal of Curriculum and Pedagogy, and he has coedited a number of collections. His book The Best of the Best: Becoming Elite at an American Boarding School (Harvard University Press, 2009) is based on two years of ethnographic research at an elite U.S. boarding school.
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    Spring 2013 Issue


    Foreword: Exploding Parameters and an Expanded Embrace
    A Proposal for the Arts in Education in the Twenty-First Century
    Editors’ Introduction
    Expanding Our Vision for the Arts in Education
    Edward P. Clapp and Laura A. Edwards
    Expanding Our “Frames” of Mind for Education and the Arts
    Expanding Our Vision of Museum Education and Perception
    An Analysis of Three Case Studies of Independent Blind Arts Learners
    Universal Design for Learning and the Arts
    Don Glass, Anne Meyer, and David H. Rose
    Comics Arts-Based Educational Research
    Why the Arts Don’t Do Anything
    Toward a New Vision for Cultural Production in Education
    Afterword: The Turning of the Leaves
    Expanding Our Vision for the Arts in Education

    Book Notes

    The Learner-Directed Classroom
    Diane B. Jaquith and Nan E. Hathaway (Editors)

    Critical Aesthetic Pedagogy
    Yolanda Medina

    Hip Hop Genius
    Sam Seidel

    Design and Thinking
    Mu-Ming Tsai (Director)

    Changing Lives
    Tricia Tunstall

    Art Education Beyond the Classroom
    Alice Wexler (Editor)

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