Elliot Eisner Obituary

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Following up from our recent farewell to Elliot Eisner, here is his obituary just released from the Stanford School of Education.

The most pertinent tributes taken from this piece, also for readers of this blog, follow:

“Eisner eschewed the more popular argument for the arts — that some research showed music, dance, and painting actually boosted test scores in math and science. Eisner, rather, talked about art for art’s sake.”

“He figured out that there was something missing from mainstream educational theory and method,” said his friend and Stanford colleague Professor Raymond McDermott. “He wanted to address matters of the heart, whereas most of the discipline was pushing a more mechanical view of the child and the act of teaching or researching.”

“Eisner’s unrelenting advocacy of the arts continued during periods in which arts programs were cut in schools, and a chorus of administrators and policymakers, faced with budget constraints, focused on test scores, worried that spending time painting or drawing  was not academic enough…One of the casualties of our preoccupation with test scores is the presence — or should I say the absence — of arts in our schools,” he wrote in the Los Angeles Times in 2005. “When they do appear they are usually treated as ornamental rather than substantive aspects of our children’s school experience. The arts are considered nice but not necessary.” Eisner advocated a strict, more sophisticated and rigorous arts curriculum that would put arts instruction on par with lessons in reading, science and math.

“His work with the Getty Center advanced what is called Discipline-Based Art Education.  The curriculum structure advocated in DBAE stresses four aspects of the arts: making it, appreciating it, understanding it and making judgments about it.”

“His voice for evaluating teaching and student learning through many means, not just standardized testing, continued to be heard during the past three decades of standards-based school reform, testing and accountability,” said Larry Cuban, professor emeritus of education at Stanford. “Eisner’s eloquence in writing and speech gave heart to and bolstered many educators who felt that the humanities, qualitative approaches to evaluation and artistic criticism had been hijacked by those who wanted only numbers as a sign of effectiveness.”

*In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the National Art Education Association’s Elliot Eisner Lifetime Achievement Award, established by the Eisners to recognize individuals in art education whose career contributions have benefited the field.  The address for the NAEA is: 1806 Robert Fulton Drive, Suite 300, Reston, Virginia 20191.

1 thought on “Elliot Eisner Obituary

  1. Check out the work of David Elliott who wrote Music Matters, a philosophy that details the importance of making music as a basic human activity, and Edwin Gordon whose research points to a kind of brain-training connected to music where music aptitude can actually increase from birth to approximately age nine.

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