In the spring of 2013, the Harvard Educational Review (HER) published a special issue entitled Expanding Our Vision for the Arts in Education (Vol. 83, No. 1). Following a variety of forward-looking essays and arts learner reflections concerning the potential of the arts in education, the issue concluded with a provocative scholarly article, “Why the Arts Don't Do Anything: Toward a New Vision for Cultural Production in Education,” written by Rubén A. Gaztambide-Fernández, an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education at the University of Toronto. In this piece, Gaztambide-Fernández makes the case that advocacy for arts education is trapped within a “rhetoric of effects” because the arts, as we conceive of them in educational environments today, rely too heavily on instrumental and intrinsic outcomes while only shallowly embodying a commitment to, or a consideration of, cultural practice. Gaztambide-Fernández further argues that what counts as “the arts” is based on traditional, Eurocentric, hierarchical notions of aesthetic experience. According to him, this discursive positioning of the arts within traditional Eurocentric power structures complicates arts teaching and learning for arts educators, especially those committed to issues of social justice. As an alternative, he suggests discursively repositioning the arts within a “rhetoric of cultural production,” positing that such a discursive shift would reconceptualize arts education as experiences that produce culture.

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