An Arts Education Symposium

RICHARD KESSLER: Maxine, I have always seen you as one of the true leaders behind the idea of creativity in the classroom, the imagination, the power of the imagination. One of the first to really flesh it out in writing and thinking, and asking people to think about it, and demanding that people think about it. What got you there? What led you to that point? What was it, teaching…

MAXINE GREENE: That got me interested?

RICHARD KESSLER: Yeah, all of a sudden to be heading towards the place where you wanted to talk with people about this and wanted to develop and expand this and bring people into this discussion. I’d love to hear about what existed before that time.

MAXINE GREENE: I guess it’s hard to go back from now, but I think, one of the things that struck me in all the philosophy I studied, you know, was the containment, the tightness of it, and the, people binding themselves to what was empirically verifiable, nothing else had meaning. And my view of imagination is in many ways like [John] Dewey‘s. Dewey says that facts themselves are nothing unless imagination opens intellectual possibilities, or it is imagination that opens up not only alternatives, but you go beyond the little box. As you were talking before, you know, you were all kept from imagining when they taught about Mozart, you know. And one of the hopeful things about these kids is they can see possibility. Their teachers may not like it. Then I found something that contradicted all of this in such a funny way. I was listening to [Phillippe] de Montebello the other night. And you know, he’s Mr. Elitist. I was once on a tour with him, on a Red Sea tour for the Metropolitan. He was talking the other night about the Egyptian show at the Metropolitan. He was talking to the curator about what it was to discover the Middle Kingdom, and the joy, and the pleasure of opening up to things you never imagined before. He can do that. You know, I don’t want to shut that kind of mouth either. I was hoping kids would hear that. Sometimes Isaac Stern does that, makes you think, what fun, what a wonderful thing to look through these windows, you know, and not stay in your own place. And that’s part of what imagination does, all these new possibilities… and education, I notice in the education reports, in Linda Darling-Hammond‘s, they never mention it. They don’t mention it as a human capacity and I don’t know why.

RICHARD KESSLER: They can’t measure it.

MAXINE GREENE: I know. That’s the trouble. ‘Cause I give papers from the predictable to the possible. If you were going to remake education, you’d have to allow for that, and you’d have to laugh away the measurable.

RICHARD KESSLER: When I was working as a consultant for the Cleveland Orchestra I had a discussion with Pierre Boulez about orchestra education programs. And Boulez said to me that one of the difficulties with orchestras and education was that symphonic music was about memory and respect, and that children’s lives and worlds were about spontaneity and creativity, and that in order for education to be effective, somehow or another you had to find a way to bridge those two worlds.

POLLY KAHN: Very interesting. I can’t disagree. I think the challenge is to develop kids and teachers that are so invested in the excitement of making music, listening to music, that we can overcome, in a way, some of the unnatural distance of the concert hall.