Philosophy of Education Research Colloquia


Spring 2006

WHAT'S SO HARD ABOUT BEING AN HISTORIAN? ON THE ALLEGED UNNATURALNESS OF HISTORICAL THINKING
Jon A. Levisohn, (March 30, 2006)

Abstract: Some people seem to think that the only reason to study history is to accumulate knowledge of historical facts. But if one believes that students of history ought to participate in the discipline of  history, then the title of this paper poses an important pedagogical question, because only if we can articulate the expertise of   practicing historians can we conceptualize the goals of studying history. Sam Wineburg's influential article, "Historical Thinking and Other Unnatural Acts" tried to do just that. I will argue, however, that Wineburg's thesis needs to be refined. Rather than operating at a general level of an "openness to difference", we ought to attend to the specific disciplinary contexts of our epistemic judgments -- and of our educational goals.
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THE ROLE OF ARTS TRAINING IN CHILDREN'S COGNITIVE AND BRAIN DEVELOPMENT
Ellen Winner, (April 5, 2006)

Abstract: Does studying the arts improve cognition? Does listening to music make you smarter? I will review the empirical evidence for such claims and assess their reliability and purported rationales. A recent study of my own (with Hetland, Veenema and Sheridan) leads to testable hypotheses about which kinds of skills learned in the study of the visual arts might transfer outside of the arts. Another of my studies (with Schlaug) examines potential effects of instrumental music training on children's spatial reasoning and brain development.
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FOLK ART AND RITUAL DRAMA IN SOUTHERN INDIA
David W. Rudner, (April 26, 2006)

Abstract: Indian folk arts have lately become an important site for inculcating values central to environmentalism and identity formation. These folk arts also contribute to a reorganization of tradition drastically different from the locality, caste, and temple complex that remains a bulwark for traditional folk arts. I will give a historical context for understanding these processes and outline two case studies from Tamil Nadu, South  India, one a vernacular art museum, the other a performance by a folk theater troupe in an agricultural village. Both cases show how folk arts traditionalize a modern environmental movement global in scope and help the community to redefine itself in the modern world.
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