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What the arts can teach kids

September 17, 2008

Re "Education and the arts," editorial, Sept. 11

Why is California so backward in so many ways? During the worst years of the Depression, we children from Pittsburgh's South Side were treated to a tour of the Carnegie Museum.

We marveled at prehistoric animals, snickered at naked Greek and Roman statues, wondered who would ever read all those books in a library that had so many floors and then went to the concert hall, where we were entranced by the majestic tones thundering from a huge, magnificent pipe organ. The entire structure shuddered as we were introduced to a Bach cantata.

The South Side was home to steelworkers. The children I played with were first-generation Americans whose uneducated fathers were coaxed here from Poland, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia, Russia and Ukraine to do backbreaking labor in the mills. Still, every year, Pittsburgh officials financed that trip to expose us to -- yes -- the better things in life.

Albert V. Weaver

Newbury Park

Your editorial sets up a straw man and knocks it down. The purpose of arts education is not to create a greater audience for the arts. The purpose of arts education is -- or should be -- to teach students how to think creatively. The key to this goal is not "exposing students to the arts," as in art appreciation, in the hope that creativity will happen as a result. The key is -- or should be -- to teach the arts directly to students and at the same time teach students how to transfer those largely right-brain skills to thinking skills.

The future of our country does not depend on ever-greater audiences for the arts, though that might be desirable. The future of our nation depends on whether our citizens can compete and contribute to creatively solving our problems and the problems of the world.

Betty Edwards

La Jolla

The writer is the author of "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain."

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