Art history works to provide us with a greater understanding of our civilization, who we are and where we are going. Generally works of art are a reflection of the culture; therefore, in order to better understand our society it is vital to study works of art.

Art production leads to the opportunity of experiencing the work of art firsthand, to encounter the expression of visual communication for oneself. It challenges one’s decision making and problem-solving skills. It forces the “artist” to chose the proper medium, tool or symbol in order to justly communicate the intended content.

Art criticism also works to develop creative thinking by teaching one to make and justify judgments about a work of art and ultimately about his world. It forces him to look actively at life.

Aesthetics allows us to fully experience our world. Aesthetics is a branch of philosophy and is concerned with understanding what qualities in art contribute to aesthetic responses. By teaching someone to aesthetically experience their world they learn to appreciate and discern the whole concept of
beauty.

Today most Americans generally view school as preparation for the work force. This philosophy has lead to the focus on the practical in education. Humans are complex beings and need development in many different areas. To only focus on the obvious skills such as math, reading and writing is to ignore and rob other parts of our human development. When fully developing the intellect, we must work to challenge all areas of human intelligence. The teaching of art cannot be ignored.

At Westminster we strive to address all areas of the intellect weaving them together with the focus being to bring God glory. The study of the arts in education not only leads to a more in-depth learning experience, it also helps us to better understand the character and sovereignty of God as our Savior and His love for beauty.

Where does art find itself in today’s average American parent’s list of goals for their child’s education? Many educators, parents, and children see math, science, history, and English as the basic needs for education. Generally speaking, art is seen as an extracurricular activity, however, art education has the ability to take other subjects to a deeper level of learning and understanding.

Why Art Education?
The purpose of an overall general education is to develop the human intellect in a wide variety of ways. The task of spurring human growth and development is as intricate as the human body. Students grow at different rates and learn in different ways. In education we must strive to develop the whole person, not just part. In light of a research study done in the 1980’s on arts education entitled Towards Civilization, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, there are four reasons why art education is so vital.

Civilization
In order to understand American civilization we must look at other cultures. The examination of other cultures creates cultural literacy. Cultural literacy gives understanding to the past in order to rightly perceive the present, thus providing insight into our humanity. Without studies of such great works as the Parthenon we would have very little knowledge of the Greek society. Ignorance of past societies’ aesthetic achievements leaves a large void in understanding civilizations and their contributions to the world thus leaving a large void in our understanding of our own culture.

Creativity
Developing creativity involves cultivating reasoning and problem-solving skills that are essential to functioning productively in society. In order to teach creativity students must be taught the skills and vocabulary involved in creating a work of art. Without this knowledge it is like trying to do math problems without knowing how to add and subtract. Creating art allows the freedom, motivation, and initiative to develop one’s own thoughts and perspective. It breeds individuality yet unites hearts.

Communication
Art has a language all its own. It gives understanding to nonverbal communication. In a world full of verbal and nonverbal statements, young people must be given the opportunity to know how to effectively communicate and express themselves. Art allows the student to learn how to communicate visually and rightly perceive visual relationships.

CRITICAL THINKING
In the United States, young people are bombarded with artful communication from the time they are born, but they are seldom educated about how to aesthetically appreciate or judge a work of art. The study and understanding of art bleeds over into so many different areas. For example, the comprehension of the art of design can lead to better industrial products. Methods for learning how to critically judge a work of art are also applicable in making and justifying judgments for almost any subject. Art teaches one how to think for himself, to make sound, logical and justified decisions.

WHY DISCIPLINE-BASED ART EDUCATION?
In order to address the important areas to which art contributes, the art program must be taught in a manner that provides opportunity for learning in different ways. Discipline-based art education does just that. It yields focus to four areas of art: art history, art production, art criticism, and aesthetics. With attention given to these four areas, the art students’ perspectives are deepened and stretched to a greater appreciation of the world around them. Each of these disciplines contributes to a richer and fuller understanding of art and helps to promote learning for life.