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Art Makes Students Smart

Soulskill posted about a year ago | from the too-bad-we-cut-it-for-football dept.

Education 187

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "For many education advocates, the arts supposedly increase test scores, generate social responsibility and turn around failing schools but research that demonstrates a causal relationship has been virtually nonexistent. Now the NY Times reports that with the opening of the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, a large-scale, random-assignment study (abstract) of school tours to the museum has determined that a strong causal relationship does in fact exist between arts education and a range of desirable outcomes. Students who, by lottery, were selected to visit the museum on a field trip demonstrated stronger critical thinking skills, displayed higher levels of social tolerance, exhibited greater historical empathy and developed a taste for art museums and cultural institutions. Moreover, most of the benefits are significantly larger for minority students, low-income students and students from rural schools — typically two to three times larger than for white, middle-class, suburban students — owing perhaps to the fact that the tour was the first time they had visited an art museum. Further research is needed to determine what exactly about the museum-going experience determines the strength of the outcomes. How important is the structure of the tour? The size of the group? The type of art presented? 'Clearly, however, we can conclude that visiting an art museum exposes students to a diversity of ideas that challenge them with different perspectives on the human condition,' write the authors. 'Expanding access to art, whether through programs in schools or through visits to area museums and galleries, should be a central part of any school's curriculum.'"

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Smart and Unemployed (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45535677)

But who cares in a welfare state!

Re:Smart and Unemployed (5, Interesting)

MR-808 (559751) | about a year ago | (#45536257)

People who aren't sociopaths, that's who!

I recommend that everyone read How To Be Rich [] by J. Paul Getty. He was the richest person in the world in his day, and yet he had some enlightened things to say. For instance, he advocated cooperating with labor unions (when have you ever heard a billionaire do that?). From this book, I received the best management advice ever - praise in public, punish in private. He also thought that spectator sports were a waste of time. But what Getty was most passionate about was art. He amassed an amazing collection, and then made it available to the public for free. If you're ever in Los Angeles, if at all possible, set aside a day or two to visit The Getty [] - it will make you smarter. And I encourage you to visit museums whenever and wherever you travel - you'll see some amazing things.

Holy Crap!!! (4, Funny)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#45535701)

THIS much difference from ONE field trip to a museum? Why, by all that is correlated, we MUST start opening up museums like 7-11s! There should be one on every streetcorner!

Re:Holy Crap!!! (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year ago | (#45535733)

I should add, all sarcasm aside: I really do love museums and I really do think they're valuable and educational.

But these claimed results are a little hard to swallow.

Re:Holy Crap!!! (3, Insightful)

jafiwam (310805) | about a year ago | (#45536901)

I should add, all sarcasm aside: I really do love museums and I really do think they're valuable and educational. But these claimed results are a little hard to swallow.

I have no doubt art is valuable. Just not to the folks who "win" something and then choose to not go to a field trip.

The kids who are smart, driven, and interested in stuff have.... wait for it... parents who are smart, driven, and interested in stuff. Those parents, are ALSO more likely to approve a field trip.

They need to be looking at the kids who "won" but didn't go. THOSE are going to be a pile of nigh-dregs of society, because their parents are, and the results of the study will be necessarily skewed the way they wanted, and found.

Re:Holy Crap!!! (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about a year ago | (#45537455)

The kids who are smart, driven, and interested in stuff have.... wait for it... parents who are smart, driven, and interested in stuff.

Not necessarily.

Re:Holy Crap!!! (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about a year ago | (#45536919)

But these claimed results are a little hard to swallow.

Perhaps because the study's funder had a vested interest in the outcome? I'll believe it when I see it replicated. If the results are real, then lots of kids should be going to museums, and there should be plenty of data.

Re:Holy Crap!!! (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#45538049)

Yes, always be aware of the corrupting influence of money. Short of outright fabricating the data(not impossible), how do you posit bias was injected into the study?

Re:Holy Crap!!! (4, Informative)

artor3 (1344997) | about a year ago | (#45535837)

The study doesn't claim a big difference. The results were only 5% to 10% of a standard deviation. But they were statistically significant. And since the students were picked at random and had the tests administered after the fact, you can't argue correlation-but-not-causation. (What, do you think that performing well on a test improves your ability to have your name picked out of a hat six months ago?)

Re:Holy Crap!!! (1)

zAPPzAPP (1207370) | about a year ago | (#45535869)

Was the tested subject time machines, or temporal magics?

Re:Holy Crap!!! (4, Insightful)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about a year ago | (#45536067)

I like to believe that this is true, but can we confirm that everyone who had their name picked out went, and everyone who didn't, didnt?

In a more general sense, it's clear around me that an appreciation of art develops thinking skills in unrelated fields. The dullest geeks I have the misfortune to associate with are those who think that nothing is important beyond their own tiny little corner of knowledge - it's not their ignorance which is grating, but their paucity of reasoning power.

Re:Holy Crap!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45536707)

In a more general sense, it's clear around me that an appreciation of art develops thinking skills in unrelated fields.

I don't see why or how that could be, but strangely enough, I've often found similar things to be true about people who like what I like. People who like the same things as me are usually intelligent, and people who don't simply... aren't. Very mysterious!

Re:Holy Crap!!! (1)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about a year ago | (#45536805)

Yes yes very clever.

Making the effort to appreciate things that you do NOT necessarily have much care for helps to focus/train/expand your mind. It's not about people liking things I like - it's about breaking out of your and my comfort zones.

Re:Holy Crap!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45537469)

You haven't given any sort of plausible explanation. Just more feel-good fluff.

Re:Holy Crap!!! (4, Insightful)

narcc (412956) | about a year ago | (#45536175)

you can't argue correlation-but-not-causation.

Sure you can. The fact that they went to an art museum may be completely irrelevant. It could be as simple as students being singled out for special, positive, attention. It puts me in mind of Mayo's Hawthorne experiments.

Causality is hard, particularly in social research. I haven't read the paper, though the abstract doesn't suggest any attempt to control for rather obvious confounders. Of course, the abstract doesn't mention a causal relationship at all, so this could just be another case of bad science reporting.

When I read "Further research is needed to determine what exactly about the museum-going experience determines the strength of the outcomes" in the summary, I cringe a bit -- it ought to read "Further research is needed to determine if it was the museum-going experience at all".

Re:Holy Crap!!! (1)

Talderas (1212466) | about a year ago | (#45536839)

This was my initial thought. Was it the museum visit or was the it the singling out and elevating of the students as special or different from their peers that had the effect.

Re:Holy Crap!!! (1)

semi-extrinsic (1997002) | about a year ago | (#45537009)

"Further research is needed to determine what exactly about the museum-going experience determines the strength of the outcomes"

Allow me to translate that into non-grant-proposal-writing-scientist-language:
"It was fun to study this, please give us more money so we can continue having fun."

Re:Holy Crap!!! (4, Interesting)

wisty (1335733) | about a year ago | (#45536179)

> Several weeks after the students in the treatment group visited the museum, we administered surveys to all of the students. The surveys included multiple items that assessed knowledge about art, as well as measures of tolerance, historical empathy and sustained interest in visiting art museums and other cultural institutions. We also asked them to write an essay in response to a work of art that was unfamiliar to them.

> These essays were then coded using a critical-thinking-skills assessment program developed by researchers working with the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

Then from the actual article (well ... the abstract):

> Students who participated in the School Visit Program demonstrated significantly stronger critical thinking skills when analyzing a new painting.

So basically, visiting a museum makes students a little more interested and knowable about art. I'm not sure that actually makes them better thinkers (unless they want to be art critics).

The tolerance thing is the only really interesting thing. I guess learning about history (especially in an engaging way, even if it's a little shallow) can put things in perspective. You would equally say that watching Carl Sagan's Cosmos could help students see the big picture.

Re:Holy Crap!!! (1)

u38cg (607297) | about a year ago | (#45537259)

It doesn't "make" them better, but it doesn't seem unreasonable that it makes them more motivated, which is really the main driver behind intellectual achievement.

Re:Holy Crap!!! (1)

apol (94049) | about a year ago | (#45536229)

Personally I believe in the stated causation. But if one wants to be skeptical, there is always a way:
  • The causation comes not from going to museums but from the feeling of being lucky.
  • The causation exists because of the negative effects induced by the alternative activity proposed to those who didn't go to the museums
  • In the museums the guide talked about tolerance and most of the students never had heard about this concept. So it was what was said not the contact with the art itself.

For me unfortunately a scientific claim made about humans is accepted if and only if it seems reasonable.

Re:Holy Crap!!! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45536671)

I doubt they can even prove that small of a difference. 'Studies' like these are a joke, as we have no idea what intelligence is. I know what it's not, though: Memorizing facts, patterns, or procedures, and then spewing them back on a test.

Now, if these students did something innovative (and we could prove it was because of the art nonsense), then I'd personally be more impressed. Unfortunately, they didn't do anything impressive or even important.

Yeah, but..... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45536759)

Does it make them smarter than playing violent video games?

Re:Holy Crap!!! (1)

Curunir_wolf (588405) | about a year ago | (#45537549)

I didn't read the NYT article, but I did read the abstract. It explains what the test was about:

Students who participated in the School Visit Program demonstrated significantly stronger critical thinking skills when analyzing a new painting .

In other words, the kids that visited the museum of art managed to learn something about art, somehow slightly more than kids that didn't ... learn about art at the museum. That's no surprise - the "study" was designed to succeed.

Re:Holy Crap!!! (1)

trongey (21550) | about a year ago | (#45537789)

Actually, you can make the correlation/causation argument, and the authors did so: "Further research is needed to determine what exactly about the museum-going experience determines the strength of the outcomes. How important is the structure of the tour? The size of the group? The type of art presented? "
But in this case the correlation is important on its own. Something about these visits was beneficial to the children, and having visited this museum I suspect that both the art and the way it's presented are factors.

Re:Holy Crap!!! (3, Interesting)

Joce640k (829181) | about a year ago | (#45536093)

THIS much difference from ONE field trip to a museum? Why, by all that is correlated, we MUST start opening up museums like 7-11s! There should be one on every streetcorner!

If you take a kid from the hood who's only ever seen turf wars, people fighting and other gang 'bidness' and show him something past the end of his street then it probably has an effect, yes.

Re:Holy Crap!!! (1)

demonlapin (527802) | about a year ago | (#45537285)

This is northwest Arkansas. It's lily-white and rural. Not that that doesn't have its own pathologies, but being the hood isn't one of them.

Re:Holy Crap!!! (1)

interkin3tic (1469267) | about a year ago | (#45538263)

You were sarcastic, but I'd argue that museums probably contribute more to society than 7-11s. I'd also hazard a guess that spending tax dollars on opening tons of museums would probably do more for our country than your average tax expenditure.

Well, yes ... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45535709)

... art makes ART students smart but that's only because they're coming off a low base. A frontal lobotomy would probably also make art students smart :-)

Re: Well, yes ... (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45535749)

I thought someone would say this, even though the story doesn't mention that these were art students. Looks like someone could use some art in their lives.

Amazing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45535713)

Students, picked by lottery, to experience alcohol for the first time also became more social, took strong interest cultural history and developed a taste for falling down flights of stairs.
lt;dr people enjoy free trips to new places, more if you ask them right after they get back

Re:Amazing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45535823)

The trip didn't just improve their mood (though that in itself seems like a perfectly reasonable goal), it also improved their performance in a number of areas. Even if all that is a result of improved mood it still seems like a win.

/ Or maybe just evidence that school is a terrible place and virtually anything else is better

Re:Amazing! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45536725)

it also improved their performance in a number of areas.

It "improved their performance" based on silly criteria that have nothing to do with intelligence. Memorizing facts, patterns, or procedures and then using them on a test or essay has extremely little to do with one's intellect. Where's the innovation? There is none here, and for that, no one should be impressed.

Art Smart (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45535715)

Cant spell smart without art!

Underwater Basket Weaving (-1, Offtopic)

hurwak-feg (2955853) | about a year ago | (#45535719)

//Lame attempt at sleep deprived humor
So if i put some paintings in that underwater basket i made in school Ill get smarter? I get it know. The more underwater baskets you can weave to hold art that you were taught to appreciate the more art you can store. The more art you can store the smarter you will probably be...

Because of Godwin (1)

Dunbal (464142) | about a year ago | (#45535817)

The Nazis were really, really smart, confiscating all that art from conquered territories.

This "study" has no scientific basis behind it (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45535739)

I'm confused to why this is even considered news since this doesn't have much science behind the data. There were no extensive studies, just random data that isn't verifiable. This is also a story from NYT so it's less reliable than a PC review from soulskill xD Anyhow, I didn't know many students when I was a kid that took going out to a museum seriously. We all treated it as a day off and just ignored education for the day. Perhaps if museums for kids were better tailored for interactive education instead of going through and being told to read each sign and label students would care. Maybe times have changed and that's how it generally is today, I hope that's true.

Re:This "study" has no scientific basis behind it (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45535873)

Perhaps if museums for kids were better tailored for interactive education instead of going through and being told to read each sign and label students would care. Maybe times have changed and that's how it generally is today, I hope that's true.

If you are in Munich, try the Deutsches Museum [] . No museum in Germany gets visited more. And it's darned educational. I spent a week in it as a child, and now I am Anonymous Coward, the most prolific poster on Slashdot.

Re:This "study" has no scientific basis behind it (1)

semi-extrinsic (1997002) | about a year ago | (#45537017)

Informative and funny! Not bad for an AC, not bad at all.

Re:This "study" has no scientific basis behind it (2)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about a year ago | (#45536083)

One statistically significant study is "science".

You say "random data" like it's a bad thing.

When you say "isn't verifiable" are you saying the study can't be duplicated? Or that you think the researchers could have made up the data? That's a fairly serious accusation.

The report is from NYT but the original study certainly wasn't.

And perhaps if you'd paid attention at museums, you'd have some critical thinking skills.

Re:This "study" has no scientific basis behind it (1)

Gadget_Guy (627405) | about a year ago | (#45536197)

Perhaps if museums for kids were better tailored for interactive education instead of going through and being told to read each sign and label students would care. Maybe times have changed and that's how it generally is today, I hope that's true.

You obviously haven't been in a museum in the last couple of decades. They have had interactive displays, personal spoken tours using portable audio devices (using an MP3 player, Discman or Minidisc player), and the better museums had tour guides. That is the new technology where a person takes a group of people around and tells them about the art. It's amazing what they can do these days!

But maybe if you are the kind of person who cannot read a small sign, then perhaps even a museum couldn't be much help for you. I wonder how you go with some of those lengthy dissertations on Twitter.

Confirmation bias???, nah... (5, Interesting)

devloop (983641) | about a year ago | (#45535753)

"Researchers" were contacted by.. uh.. well.. the Museum... developed a "methodology" for the "experiment" after the fact, then based their definitions and metrics on an assessment program developed in conjunction with ... another museum.

Solid!. No way this is just another case of confirmation bias.

Re:Confirmation bias???, nah... (1)

Joining Yet Again (2992179) | about a year ago | (#45536075)

But that argument, all researchers develop confirmation bias that makes their studies worthless.

Everybody wants their research to show positive results. It's much harder to publish a failure, let alone get cred for it.

Re:Confirmation bias???, nah... (2, Interesting)

fatphil (181876) | about a year ago | (#45536521)

What tosh - it's not as if one of the authors' "areas of research interest include the effects of culturally enriching field trips to art museums", and therefore none of them were inclined to bias the findings.


I'd also like to know where the 10 million of "private" funding come for that deparment came from, in case it provides even more nails...

New Slashdot (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45535767)

Slashdot: dubious parenting advice based on a single study I could get anywhere else. Used to something about nerds, do not remember anymore.

Not buying it. (2)

Belial6 (794905) | about a year ago | (#45535769)

This sounds like BS. One trip to a museum and the students have measurable increase in critical thinking, social tolerance, and historical empathy? I am just not buying it. The only part that sounds even measurable is that some of the kids might, after visiting a museum for the first time, say "Yeah, I would go again."

Re:Not buying it. (4, Insightful)

artor3 (1344997) | about a year ago | (#45535811)

A random sample of tens of thousands of students, controlling for education level, income level, gender, and other factors, showed a small but statistically significant increase in critical thinking, social tolerance, and historical empathy. What part sounds like BS to you? Is it the part where the conclusion doesn't fit your preconceived notions, and therefore must be false?

Re:Not buying it. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45535827)

its the part where the people running museums are doing the study

Re:Not buying it. (4, Informative)

artor3 (1344997) | about a year ago | (#45535855)

That's not true at all. The study was conducted by education policy researchers from the University of Arkansas. They posted their methods here [] . Did you read them?

It seems like you, any many others, just made a snap judgement based on a misinterpretation of the summary.

Re:Not buying it. (1)

fatphil (181876) | about a year ago | (#45536585)

Would a burning hate of art museums, and the scheming of intricate plans to vandalise them, count as "developing interest in art museums"? That being what they measured an increase in.

Not sure what to read into this: "The Cronbachâ€(TM)s Alpha for the tolerance scale, however, falls short of conventional standards for reliably measuring the same underlying construct". It sounds like an admission that their methods are unreliable.

Re:Not buying it. (2)

GrumpySteen (1250194) | about a year ago | (#45538015)

Eh... the problem is that "art" has nothing to do with the students' improvement and the title of the article makes it sound as if that were the claim. "Art" and "art education" are not the same thing and art education is what actually benefited the students.

One group of students was taken to an art museum and given a tour which, if you've ever been on a school trip to a museum, is basically a way of teaching critical thinking skills. The other group was not given that lesson.

What a surprise that the former group would then do better when evaluated on critical thinking skills.

Art, in and of itself, doesn't do much for students. The benefit comes from the teacher who teaches students the critical thinking skills involved in analyzing and interpreting art. The same skills can be taught in other ways, but interpreting art is a very convenient way to teach them since art interpretation doesn't require a lot of prerequisite skills (though you do need the cultural background, thus the emphasis on art from western cultures in the US).

Re:Not buying it. (1)

Trogre (513942) | about a year ago | (#45536195)

I don't think that's true. But even if it were, you have only succeeded in presenting a fine example of an ad hominem logical fallacy.

Re:Not buying it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45535867)

The part where the conclusion fits your self-serving expectations, and therefore must be true, isn't any less BS.

The answer is obvious (3, Funny)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | about a year ago | (#45536027)

Belial6 never visited a museum when attending school and his/her mind has not fully developed as a result.

Basically the study seems to claim that teaching kids makes them smarter. Who knew! Is going to a museum that unusual in the US?

Re:The answer is obvious (1)

Belial6 (794905) | about a year ago | (#45536173)

No, it claims that one trip to a museum increases their critical thinking skills. There study is making an extraordinary claim. Their methodology does not support that claim. Maybe if you didn't rely on that single visit to a museum to supply you with your critical thinking skills, you could look at their methodology and see why it is BS.

Re:The answer is obvious (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about a year ago | (#45536783)

I don't even think the things they used to 'measure' this supposed increase in critical thinking skills were valid in the least.

Somewhat unrelated, but it seems like certain people want this to be true.

Re:Not buying it. (1)

bluegutang (2814641) | about a year ago | (#45537371)

The part where they feed them green jelly beans. []

Re:Not buying it. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45537609)

The part where the students were all asked questions about art! Of course the students who went to the museum are going to do better. They had a full day more of studying than the other group. Had the test been a math or music test, it's results would be more meaningful.

Multi-Modal Education (4, Insightful)

holophrastic (221104) | about a year ago | (#45535781)

very simply: 99% of classroom education isn't actually visual, tactile, nor aural. Math is numbers, graphs are relationships, algebra is logic, english is literary, poetry is aural, and plays are visual but how many poetry readings and plays are in classrooms these days?

The museum is 90% visual and 80% tactile (even when you aren't permitted to touch it, you can still see the texture and infer the tactile). Welcome the part of the brain that's bored in the classroom.

More parts of the brain being engaged, more to knowledge to associate with other knowledge, less being bored and blinder-focussed, better learning.

Re:Multi-Modal Education (4, Insightful)

rtb61 (674572) | about a year ago | (#45535833)

Simply put, once the motivational trigger for the quest of knowledge has been trigged, it has been triggered. Providing the students with greater access to a wider range of educational interactions means that motivational trigger is far more likely to be triggered. So museums, zoos, high tech manufacturing plants, behind the scenes look at the infrastructure of major facilities, ports, major construction sites, airports, even visits to universities by primary school students basically any place the reflects the end use of the education they are participating in and the possible rewards they can expect. Most children have an motivational trigger for a desired range of knowledge, the more experiences the more likely it is to be triggered.

Re:Multi-Modal Education (1)

holophrastic (221104) | about a year ago | (#45535901)

Damn. Wish I could mod you up. Agreed.

Re:Multi-Modal Education (4, Informative)

psnyder (1326089) | about a year ago | (#45536451)

As an early education teacher, I am convinced that the quest for knowledge is innate, and is repressed by classrooms that ask preadolescent children to barely move or speak for 4 to 6 hours every day. I believe the "trigger" you mention could be areas of a stifled, developing brain finally getting what it desires, like a cold glass of water in hell.

I work in a school where most lessons are planned with sensory motor function in mind, where art, language, math, etc are shown to be intertwined, and where students often preform higher on standardized tests, despite me never giving them a single, formally graded test the rest of the year.

For more than half of the children that transfer into my school after spending 3 or 4 years in a public school (factory structured, lecture based model), I have to spend the initial months detoxifying the child, showing them that it's okay to be creative, unsuppressed, and use their interests to learn.

The developing brains of young children are extremely sensitive to visual, tactile experiences that the various arts provide. Their psychology is very different from an adult's, yet many adults often project their own learning styles onto them. This leads to continuously keeping subjects separate (such as art & math). While key concepts should initially be presented in isolation to avoid confusion, the follow up activities should combine multiple areas. In other words, expose the children to everything possible, show them how it all interconnects, and use what the child's mind is sensitive to, practicing multiple areas in conjunction and forming deep understanding.

I find it highly likely that the statistically significant increase in critical thinking, social tolerance, and historical empathy that this study found not only comes from the initial exposure, but also from teachers integrating the experience into follow-up lessons / activities.

Re:Multi-Modal Education (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | about a year ago | (#45538433)

Thank you for all that you do. We need more teachers like you.

Re:Multi-Modal Education (1)

wisty (1335733) | about a year ago | (#45536201)

"Learning styles" is mostly debunked (just google "learning styles debunked").

I'd imagine it's mostly just that art is an engaging way to show students what the "big picture" is. If you could force them to learn about history from a text book, it would be equally good ... it's just that reading about history isn't so engaging.

Different "learning styles" aren't useful because they "exercise different parts of the brain". Different mediums are good because some are more engaging, or easier to understand. (And no, it's not "different students like visual things more" ... most students would rather look at a painting than transcribe a lecture on Napoleon's march to Russia - individual variations are often less important that the fact that *most* students find pictures kind of interesting).

Re:Multi-Modal Education (1)

Nephandus (2953269) | about a year ago | (#45536209)

Seeing texture's not tactile. Tactile in terms of intellect or learning refers to manual manipulation anyway.

True or False (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45535793)

Deep Purple played the Zoom in Frankfurt with T-Rex.

Being smart is all about emergence... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45535857)

Its all about the environment.Pretentious activities make you want to be smart. duh

Field trip (4, Insightful)

SuricouRaven (1897204) | about a year ago | (#45535915)

How do we know it was a museum that produced the effect, and not field trips in general?

Could be the Hawthorne effect: The students who believe the school cares enough to send them on an 'intellectual' field trip will study harder. Those who believe the school views them as battery hens won't bother.

Re:Field trip (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45536567)

Even better, maybe the art in art museum was so boring that so it made students to think more critically.

Re:Field trip (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | about a year ago | (#45538495)

I used to be bored in art museums. Then one day we took a trip to the local museum and I saw a dyptich painting named 'The Dutch Wives.' It was shredded newspaper headlines with dull splashes of color. Everyone around me was puzzled trying to solve the mystery of what the heck was going on. Then I noticed that the newspaper headlines were mostly identical, but some were slightly different. I realized that the painting was saying that the two women, represented by each canvas, had nearly identical thoughts and none of them were original. It was just things they'd heard or read, all slightly colored by their individual minds.

Since then, I've viewed each painting as a puzzle and I try to reconcile what the artist was thinking when he put the work together. This is why nothing pisses me off more than "Untitled" works that are completely abstract. The artist was so absorbed in creating the meaning for himself that he or she forgot to clue in the eventual audience as well.

Re:Field trip (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45538419)

Museums, religious sites and similar cultural investments show appreciation to values other than the everything-to-me-now society around them. Perhaps the students realize the society is not all jungle and worth preserving and aspiring for when they look at these cultural artifacts. The additional perspective that there has been something before their birth and before the world as they know it helps too.

Exposure == Worldliness, who'd'a thunk (4, Insightful)

steelfood (895457) | about a year ago | (#45535923)

Who could imagine that increased exposure to different thought patterns (art is/was materialized thought) would increase their ability to think?

Who could imagine that Europeans, with vastly greater exposure to varying cultures than Americans, would be comparatively more tolerant and creative? Who would have guessed that Americans, with more exposure to other cultures than Asians (East and South, who are all fairly secluded for the most part), would exhibit the same trend? Who could imagine that being able to experience more ideas means being able to incorporate those ideas into everyday problems?

Studying art through a textbook is meaningless though. Who'd'a thunk?

Re:Exposure == Worldliness, who'd'a thunk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45536135)

Are you saying that there is one culture in Asia but multiple cultures in Europe? You may need to go to more arts museums.

Re:Exposure == Worldliness, who'd'a thunk (1)

Nephandus (2953269) | about a year ago | (#45536231)

More creative? You even pretending to count only post-US-existing, or are you referring to Native Americans? Most technological leaps since the ancient world weren't European. Most pretenses while accomplishing little to nothing were. French isn't remotely the language of science anymore for a reason. Europeans touting tolerance though's a laugh. They kissass certain special cultures, often while ignoring any unpleasant consequences of said cultures. Otherwise, they're smug and hypocritical as fuck all. And if you meant historically tolerant, that better be joke 'cause DAMN...

Re:Exposure == Worldliness, who'd'a thunk (2)

fazig (2909523) | about a year ago | (#45536651)

(beware of sarcasm)
Yes, I completely forgot. The internal combustion engine and therefore the automobile was invented in the USA, so was the liquid fuel rocket, that opened up space exploration and created the necessity to develop microelectronics. The metric system, also invented by the USA, while not practiced in the USA, also became the standard scale in science for a reason. The USA then again didn't invent the nuclear bomb, never used it against humans in any war, because that would be horrible.

Can we stop this pointless penis-weaving now? Comparing a multitude of cultures this way just doesn't work. There's a lot of history and art in all parts of the world, the difference here might be that it is preserved in a different way.
For the technological part, Europe played a vital role in technological advancement of the world, then Nazi Germany and the 2nd World War came, threw Europe a few decades into the past. It is a fact that the Old World, not only Europe, contributed a lot to our endeared western values. This doesn't man that it couldn't have happened on the Americas as well, it just happened this way.

But well, that's European history, and as a European who am I to criticize the superior historical knowledge of an apparently random american individual? Now I'm going back to kissass Islamic terrorists.

Re:Exposure == Worldliness, who'd'a thunk (2)

DNS-and-BIND (461968) | about a year ago | (#45536323)

As a man who has been around the periphery, I can assure you that artistic circles are entirely the opposite of open-minded and tolerant. In fact, if you don't agree with their politics you are quite quickly ostracized. Sad but true.

correlation without causation, but why? (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about a year ago | (#45536013)

Yes, I read the article.

If you list the 'positive' outcomes, you'll see that one aligns almost perfectly with left wing dogma terminology ('diversity', 'social tolerance', 'historical empathy'), another is circular reasoning (more likely to return to a museum, so what?), and 'critical thinking skills' (which, without context, means nothing). What did this program do? Count the number of times the student used 'diversity', 'social tolerance', 'historical empathy' and possibly others? How does that prove overall intellectual improvement? If anything it just shows how much the propaganda has been reenforced.

The article then goes on to claim a causal relationship, when, at best, it does no more than show the same set of correlations it says were made in the past. So which is it? Does going to art museums give people these attributes, or do people with these attributes end up going more often? Or are these people going just for the social kudos/'faux' sophistication because of the novel exclusivity? Really, all they proved was that exposing people to new experiences causes some of them to want to do it again. How is that interesting?

Since the value of art really depends on what the viewer makes of it, I think they have it backwards: potentially, more intelligent people get more out of it. It doesn't make people more intelligent by osmosis, and honestly, there are a lot of intelligent people out there who are not content with the simple mental masturbation that comes with viewing/talking about art.

Oh, it's the NYT, what a shock. They pull many of the same logical contortions as fox. The only difference is they're better at hiding it behind screeds of big words and compound complex sentences.

Re:correlation without causation, but why? (3, Informative)

horigath (649078) | about a year ago | (#45536113)

...and 'critical thinking skills' (which, without context, means nothing).

I'm not sure what kind of detail you read the article in then, because it describes the students being given an essay-question test. And if you read the links given [] you'll find out how the test was blindly scored looking for certain specific techniques as evidence of critical thinking: “observing, interpreting, evaluating, associating, problem finding, comparing, and flexible thinking”. They even built in a test for their system, having separate researchers score overlapping samples so that they could make sure they were producing consistent results.

And here's a little bonus:

A large amount of the gain in critical-thinking skills stems from an increase in the number of observations that students made in their essays. Students who went on a tour became more observant, noticing and describing more details in an image. Being observant and paying attention to detail is an important and highly useful skill that students learn when they study and discuss works of art. Additional research is required to determine if the gains in critical thinking when analyzing a work of art would transfer into improved critical thinking about other, non-art-related subjects.

I'm not sure why the summary doesn't include a direct link to the study, as is present in the NYT article, but there you go. There's more detail in there about what they mean by empathy and tolerance (specifically including a measurable decrease in the student's support for government censorship).

Re:correlation without causation, but why? (1)

cheekyjohnson (1873388) | about a year ago | (#45536823)

because it describes the students being given an essay-question test.

So, in other words, this whole thing was rather meaningless. What we need are more useless tests.

you'll find out how the test was blindly scored looking for certain specific techniques as evidence of critical thinking: “observing, interpreting, evaluating, associating, problem finding, comparing, and flexible thinking”.

That sounds utterly subjective.

Re:correlation without causation, but why? (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about a year ago | (#45538407)

It doesn't matter if it's subjective if the people doing the subjective grading don't know who did and didn't go to the museum as part of the study. Well, also if the essays were graded in random order, were otherwise identical, etc, etc, etc, There is nothing wrong with using a subjective measure as long as the person doing the measuring is blind to the parameters the study is looking at.

Re:correlation without causation, but why? (1)

Bongo (13261) | about a year ago | (#45536249)

I gather the real basis for "diversity" is the cognitive skill of finding fault with one's own thinking, beliefs, attitudes, etc. But too often it is merely used as a narrative to find fault with the opponent. Basically, honest diversity is about being able to deconstruct one's own view, "maybe we are treating gays unfairly". So it is an actual skill HOWEVER, unless one has that "bending over backwards to prove one's self wrong" skill, the teaching of diversity can merely encourage tribalism. Basically, you get good at deconstructing the other's views, "gee you must have some hidden neocolonialist power drive", but don't get round to deconstructing your OWN views, "gee I wonder if I am using the neocolonialist phallocentric racist narrative to bypass any need to look at whether my own views might also contain some errors which need examining." Which is where perhaps the "left" then fails to deliver, because in trying to promote diversity, it doesn't examine the key ingredients which are necessary for true diversity, namely developing the cognitive skills. So the kids who are already smart enough to get diversity, because they criticise their own views just as honestly as they criticise other's views, can thrive in these exercises. But the kids who don't already have the skill, will find it a bridge too bar, the curriculum is literally over their heads, and instead tend to interpret the lesson as a free pass to encourage tribalism. Of course, a left narrative is that everyone is equally smart, it is just life or society that is unfair, so the notion of a teaching about diversity being "over their heads" sounds nasty, but the consequence, if true, is that the left ends up ignoring the needs of those people whom it most desires to help. It is just a matter of adding some intermediary steps toward diversity. One book on cognitive development describes engaging kids in a boat building project, where they get to build their own boat, so that's the "selfish" motivation, but the work is arranged so that for some tasks, they need to help each other in a cooperative way, so it gradually introduces social bonding and social cooperative skills. But it doesn't make those the obvious goal. Anyway, IANA... etc.

Bad Science (1)

Dean Edmonds (189342) | about a year ago | (#45536117)

The "control" group didn't go on any kind of field trip. They just continued to attend class like normal. So there's no reason to believe that the art had any influence. It could just be that giving kids a day off from the usual school grind, getting them away from their usual neighbourhoods, and showing some kind of interest in them beyond the norm had a positive impact.

I do happen to believe that exposure to art can aid in personal development, but this study does little to prove that.

circular agrument (1)

johnwerneken (74428) | about a year ago | (#45536139)

To me the BENEFIT of something is my enjoyment of it. I see no great benefit in empathy tolerance and other 'artist" type attitudes in others. Helping others LEARN, WORK, PRODUCE now that might be useful to me. Making them nice people is as far as I am concerned up to them, I don't give a damn if others are tolerant or Nazis at heart.

Fails the "So what?" test (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45536235)

Apparently these students gained "...stronger critical thinking skills, ...higher levels of social tolerance, ...greater historical empathy and ...a taste for art museums and cultural institutions".

So. Basically, students with little or no arts background went on an arts trip and gained a degree of improvement in arts skills. And that was most strong in those with least previous exposure. A little broadening of a child's intellectual and cultural horizons is clearly, therefore, a good thing (gosh, who'da thunk it?). But it's a huge, unjustified leap from that to the conclusion that: 'Expanding access to art... ...should be a CENTRAL part of any school's curriculum.' (my emphasis). Apart from anything, the study itself shows that the effect is limited, with clear evidence of diminishing returns.

As to the broader proposition that "(T)he arts... ...increase test scores, generate social responsibility and turn around failing schools" (with the unstated but desperately wished subtext from the arts world that the arts somehow do this in a way that the sciences don't, and should therefore be given a much more prominent role in education) - this goes nowhere near having anything of value to say on that. Which, I have no doubt, won't stop the arts world trotting it out as (wholly anecdotal) "evidence" of the worth and importance of the arts for years to come.

Learning something, not staring at something (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45536247)

Pretty sure even museum goers has to be told what they are looking at in order to even begin to appreciate something.
Better result with literature and philosophy than simply looking at museum pieces I am sure.

Not buying it either (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45536283)

Did all the students invited on the field trip eventually come? Of course not.

Alternate possible explanation:
1) Let's assume that 20% of the students invited did not come, and
2) Let's assume that the most desocialized students are the most likely not to come, because they think that it's not interesting / because they're not with their friends / because they just jump the field trip / because they are afraid it could cost money / whatever, and
3) Let's assume that eing desocialized is highly correlated with having bad grades & bad empathy

At "whole foods" there are only good looking apples, but the only reason is that they were selected like that to begin with.

Try Band (1)

Jim Sadler (3430529) | about a year ago | (#45536445)

A strong concert and marching band program reaching down into the elementary grades will uplift students quite measurably. This has been known for many decades yet politicians have ruined many school band programs. My high school band program produced numerous band directors and life long musicians of professional caliber and our band members did well in college as well. Frankly every parent needs to make certain that their kid plays in the school band and fight like crazy to get proper funding for the band.

And so it goes.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45536559)

First refering to anything in the NY Times to be factual or logical is an instant FAIL.

Second - an 'experience' 'tour' is what led to this great measurable turn around of all these students ??? (that is in some real statistically provable way beside the usual method of using 'wishful thinking' and 'predetermined study outcomes' usually used by this newspaper. Fortune reading via configuration of cat feces in a litter box is likely to be far more accurate a reporting.

Actually it could eaily be proven that systematiclly arming properly trained instructors with cattle prods could virtually overnight DOUBLE the measurable intelligence of most public school students.

BTW was not there already in place (as in endemic) all those special programs and projects and teaching methods in use recommended by the usual crowd that operate big city public schools to improve 'learning' resulting in the existing piss poor performance???

Not a new idea (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | about a year ago | (#45536849)

In Plato's Republic, the essential education of the ruling class required musical and artistic study. Plato thought that arts were a good way to cultivate creativity, and music was good for making people balance out emotional and logical thinking. It turns out he was absolutely right, at least about music: Centuries later, they've determined that musicians have a larger corpus collosum connecting the right and left brains, which enables them to better connect different kinds of thinking into a coherent whole.

Of course, teaching both art and music costs money for cash-scrapped school systems, and many states do not require that either be offered. So guess what is first to fall by the wayside when budgets are tight?

Re:Not a new idea (1)

Sentrion (964745) | about a year ago | (#45538375)

I'm not sure if referencing Plato's Republic is really helping your cause here. Look at Greece today. Even if we just look at ancient Athens, the city-state didn't fall because its citizens abandoned art or cut back on concert attendance.

correlation is not causation! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#45536917)

the "scientists" who created this study probably took too many art classes because they are idiots. a more likely explanation of the correlation is that the kids got to ride the bus and that helped their scores.

Re:correlation is not causation! (1)

Sentrion (964745) | about a year ago | (#45538313)

According to the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation, peanuts make us smarter, not art. Which is it? How do I know who is right?

As for those of us who are smart anyway, in spite of avoiding both art and nuts (typically the later creates the first), shouldn't we be recognized for our great triumph in overcoming adversity? Or maybe for just overcoming absurdity?

No it doesn't (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about a year ago | (#45536953)

Art is mostly a joke, in what other "field" can a single white vertical line sell for 44 Million? What about the two circles that sold for 10 Million? What about the paintings that are paint just thrown onto canvas? I can keep going but I don't think I need to. Art will not help with test scores, it won't help with knowledge and it won't help you in your life unless your the one selling these pieces of junk. With the exception of realism, art is just random crap on a medium. Once a line or a circle gets defined as art then the entire definition of art has to fall apart. I can't just put a hub on my desk, not plug it in and call my self a networking expert. I can't just open a terminal and let it sit there and call my self a linux expert. Basically art is the only field where nothing is still defined at greatness.

Re:No it doesn't (1)

u38cg (607297) | about a year ago | (#45537281)

OK, oh great art critic. Fuck off and sell your "random crap on a medium" to the highest bidder. Best of luck.

Re:No it doesn't (1)

Murdoch5 (1563847) | about a year ago | (#45537499)

I'm not going to sell art, I hate art, if it's not realism it's worthless. Random paint on a surface that doesn't look like anything or doesn't have a meaning or is just a simple shape does not constitute value in my books. I can paint my own line and not spend 44 million doing it.

Re:No it doesn't (1)

Sentrion (964745) | about a year ago | (#45538099)

The trick to selling art is in salesmanship. It's all in how you spin it. And people who really want to impress their friends are more likely to buy "art" that is so "complex" that they don't even "get it" themselves. So if the "art" is so advanced that the buyer can't truly comprehend it, then surely their friends are going to be blown away.

The "intellectuals" bought into the sales pitch over 100 years ago. Now they are stuck because that can't risk losing credibility by admitting that they were fooled. But the "intellectuals" are today the gatekeepers of the high-end, high-society, and ivy-league academic art world. It is a position of power they cannot afford to let go of, but for those who want to be "in", those poor fools have to put on the same show and nod their heads and pretend that they agree and understand why a contemporary sculpture of a woman picking her nose is "great art", on the same level as Venus de Milo.

and PE makes kids thinner. (1)

csumpi (2258986) | about a year ago | (#45537031)

Yet our government keeps cutting both physical education and art, to save money. At the same time the school superintendant in my city makes $500k / year, plus benefits.

Re:and PE makes kids thinner. (1)

Sentrion (964745) | about a year ago | (#45538121)

But cutting budgets is hard. Really, really hard. They deserve $500k. It's like they say "it costs money to save money". Right?

"Positive" outcomes? (2)

Fringe (6096) | about a year ago | (#45537969)

We don't have a liberal arts shortage. We have a STEM shortage. We don't lack educators. We lack programmers. Is it possible that by increasing empathy in these students, we're reducing the traits that nudge kids towards computers, math and science? Since we can't dedicate resources to compensating for that reduction, is it really profitable to do it at all?

Nice thing about my computers is, they don't have need for me to be empathetic.

Where's the Control Group? (1)

Sentrion (964745) | about a year ago | (#45538451)

OK, so some went to the art museum and others didn't. So that makes art the answer to our problems? What about sending a bus load of kids to a museum of science and nature? When advocating for art, the studies tend to compare students engaged in art activities against kids spending the same amount of time staring at a blank wall. Surprise! Art makes you smarter!

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