Deirdre Moore | October 2014

Educating for Kinder, Gentler, More Humane Beings

Sometimes, the world exhausts me – intellectually, emotionally, spiritually exhausting.

It is in this state I write these thoughts.  I don’t intend to get political, just human.  I heard a radio news story about an esteemed Muslim academic talking about how a “war” against a group like ISIS will not be won with guns.  It is a war of ideologies. In order to win the war, you must change people’s minds. And, I would venture to say their hearts as well.  This intellectual asserted that many of the people fighting for organizations such as ISIS are simply not fully educated around the issue for which they fight. And, although it will take time, the war could be won by educating for kinder and for people.  What a lovely idea.

Isn’t that a major reason many of us were drawn to education?

Changing the world in some small way (or some big way)?  So much education and understanding of issues comes via media in today’s world.  Recently, I attended a series of workshops for arts educators taking a look at the new National Core Arts Standards.  They so nicely align with the Common Core State Standards. They use similar vocabulary, and stress academic rigor, and utilize higher level thinking skills.  The final “Enduring Understanding” for Media Arts reads, “Media Arts synthesize meaning and form cultural experience.”

By creating meaning using media arts, our students become more savvy consumers of media.  They understand how content editing and music choices, design and color schemes, all influence an audience and inform meaning making.

Empathy of the Arts and the Media

By not only studying media and the media arts and learning to think critically about them, but also by creating media arts, our students gain a deeper understanding of the process. Thus, become better equipped to critically experience media and the media arts.  If we educators do our job well, our students will not simply be digesting and accepting others’ opinions. They will truly form educated ideas of their own.

Combine this ability to critically encounter our increasingly media driven learning with the empathy of the arts and you start to create a world population who, perhaps, will not follow so blindly the ideas of others. Thus, not easily swayed by propaganda.  You have individuals feeling empowered because they have critically and intentionally created their own meaning through art.

By becoming creators, these individuals start to understand they do have power to affect change. By constantly looking at things from another’s perspective, they have that ability to truly see an issue from many points of view. In addition to, understanding the world does not need to remain as it is.  The world changes, and we all view it differently. Also, it forces them to confront ambiguity, and learn to live with peacefully coexisting ideas. Ideas and conflicts that remain unresolved.

I understand that while people walk this earth, conflict will exist.

It is in our nature.  In fact, it is part of the learning process to have an understanding. Encounter new information conflicting with understanding, and by resolving that conflict create new understanding.  However, if we educate our children to think for themselves, to feel empowered to affect change, and to make choices informed by empathy, perhaps we can keep the guns out of that learning process. And in turn, learn to live more peacefully with a little bit of ambiguity.

About the Author

Deirdre is a teaching artist and AI coach in the San Diego public schools dedicated to helping classroom teachers make arts an integral part of their teaching. Deirdre has an MEd in Arts Integration and over twenty years of classroom and performing arts teaching experience. Email Deirdre.