A couple months back, Arts Professional had an article by Jonathan Vaughan, Principal of Guildhall School of Music & Drama, asking if “artistic citizenship” could be taught.
Defining artistic citizenship, the academic David Elliott takes Aristotle’s concept of Praxis (‘to do’ or ‘to make’) and expands it to mean active reflection and action “dedicated to human well-being… the ethical care of others, and the positive empowerment and transformation of people and their everyday lives”.
Vaughan cites things like activism, critical thinking, disruption, civic responsibility, social value. Just as he comes around to mentioning a parallel with liberal arts education, I had a similar thought about liberal arts education having many of these same goals. The fact that I have been reading about the shrinking of liberal arts degree programs in colleges across the country made me question if these were qualities that were actually valued any more. There is certainly the ability to teach these skills, but does the will to instill these qualities still exist?
Vaughan asks an additional question about whether people would pursue an artistic curriculum focused on cultivating better citizenship over artistic excellence.
“Questions remain about how to include this training in an already busy, arguably overcrowded, curriculum. Where does it fit when the primary imperative of performance training must always be the production of outstanding performers who excel in their craft and artistry?
How can institutions avoid indoctrinating their students when introducing political or ideological concepts? Can the development of students’ independent critical thinking avoid that? And is the very concept of citizenship problematic or limiting to those it excludes?
To be clear, I don’t doubt for a moment that there are people who do want to acquire these skillsets in order to improve civil society. I just wonder if they will look to these institutions to provide this training as well as if the institutions, embroiled as they are in various levels of politics and internal inertia, would be prepared to provide the training students seek.