May 11, 2008

resolved: that secondary education in America should value the fine arts over athletics

By popular request, here are some crucial questions to get folks thinking more deeply about the NCFL resolution, "Resolved: That secondary education in America should value the fine arts over athletics."

According to the American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, 3rd Edition, fine arts are...
Art that is produced more for beauty or spiritual significance than for physical utility. Painting, sculpture, and music are fine arts.
There are other definitions out there, so be careful.

Key Questions
  • Should we consider an individual or a societal framework when considering the advantages or disadvantages of either side? In other words, should we ask how this will benefit students, or how it will benefit society?
  • How narrowly should we define "fine arts" and "athletics?" What about the intersection, such as synchronized swimming or figure skating?
  • Is a "balance neg" possible? Can we value them equally?
  • How much do statistics or other empirical arguments matter in this debate? In other words, should we aim for measurable success, or will abstract concepts carry the day?
Potential Values
Intellectual Growth
If the overall purpose of education is to promote intellectual growth, which better accomplishes that? Fine arts, which might be empirically connected to higher test scores? (Secondary debate: do test scores matter?) Athletics, which provide motivation for many students to study hard, to pass their classes in order to play?

Societal Welfare
If the overall purpose of education is socialization--gearing students to be productive members of society--which better accomplishes this goal? The arts, which promote creativity, critical thinking, and engagement? Sports, which promote collaboration (and competitiveness), hard work, and exercise?

Perhaps Maslow's highest priority is the true purpose of education. Which better gets us there?

Shouldn't education make us better people? Which is more likely to make us empathetic, selfless, reflective, well-mannered?

Maybe all those sports just raise testosterone and adrenaline levels and make us more aggressive and surly. Music, on the other hand, breaks down cultural barriers and promotes global harmony. (Pun intended, sorry.)

Potential Criteria
Which stands to benefit more students? Which costs more or less? Which has the greatest overall impact on academic achievement?

Virtue Ethics
Which leads to the formation of good moral habits?

Other thoughts or directions for research? Suggest them in the comments, or ask questions. I'll do my best to answer.


Emmett said...

In the academic world, why is dancing different than kicking a soccer ball?

Jim Anderson said...

To be technical, dancing isn't included in my definition.

I'd also use a def. of "athletics" that would include a competitive aspect, so dancing for competition (like in Drill Team) would be a sport.

To be nontechnical: find me a competitive paint-throwing league. I want a splash at fame!

Emmett said...

True, I was thinking of a college setting where one could get college credit for dancing but not kicking.

Jen said...

Hey, thanks for this. I've got to use this as my audition topic for the school forensics team, and this jump-started my brain.

Anonymous said...

Is there any type of philosophy out there that says that everything should be valued/stressed upon equally? Something non-utilitarian I guess.

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous, I'm not sure. Most philosophical approaches--like Utilitarianism--can be used to advocate for equality, if it leads to the outcome desired in that philosophical framework. For example, if equally valuing arts and athletics leads to the greatest good for the greatest number, then Utilitarianism supports a balance neg.

I'd suggest looking into the educational theorizing of Howard Gardner, whose discussion of "multiple intelligences" might lead you to a negative that talks about providing a well-rounded education that addresses all of them.

Anonymous said...

Do you think there's any way I could come up with an observation avoiding the financial/policy ideal? I was thinking doing this with the word "should" but I don't know how to word it.

Thank you!

Jim Anderson said...

anonymous, maybe you mean something like this: "Because the resolution asks us to consider what we should do, we can set aside discussions of what's practical or politically tenable, and concern ourselves entirely with what's ideal for students (and/or society). "

Then, if someone raises the cost issue, you have language to call back to when explaining why other values outweigh financial costs.

Is that what you're asking, or did I miss the boat?

punkkat said...

but if you say something like "we can put aside what it practical" or something, then can't the opponent easily say "well, if we can imagine that, we could imagine anything and then back you into a corner? (i.e., how/where do you draw the brightline between saying something can be done even though it's impractical and something that is totally wacky?)

LD n00b said...

So many people are dying from obesity and diabetes, this seems like a no-brainer. Yes, thinking intelectually is nice, but if your life is shorter you have less time to enjoy the fine arts. By teaching athletics first, we give people more time (in thier lives) to learn the fine arts themselves, if we so choose.

EMMA said...

i am wondering what the cons of valuing fine arts of athletics would be. any input would be appreciated.

Anonymous said...

What would be a good value in favor of athletics?