To the Editor,

I found much to agree with in Prof. Hugh Curtler's article "Education for Citizenship" (The Montana Professor 12.3, Fall 2002: 17-20). The nuturing and education of good citizens should be a critical component of all conversations regarding general education. I take issue, however with Prof. Curtler's assertion that the Fine Arts are "more problematical" as part of the required core curriculum. To suggest that a well-educated person could somehow assimilate the benefits of an artstic education from going to museums, plays and concerts is akin to stating that reading polls in the newspaper would give one a deep understanding of sociology or political science, or that witnessing an eclipse would render one knowledgeable about astronomy. Prof. Curtler is certainly right that there is a cause and effect relationship between liberal education and the ability to appreciate great works of art, but I believe he has that relationship backward. I could submit volumes of data and academic studies that support the value of an arts education from the womb to the grave. I believe, however, that the best argument for the arts' teaching qualities important to citizenship has been put forward by a fellow from Prof. Curtler's own discipline. Socrates outlines in Plato's Republic why education in music and poetry is fundamental to good citizenship:

First, because rhythm and harmony permeate the inner part of the soul more than anything else, affecting it most strongly and bringing it grace, so that if someone is properly educated in music and poetry, it makes him graceful, but if not, then the opposite. Second, because anyone who has been educated in music and poetry will sense it acutely when something has been omitted from a thing and when it has not been finely crafted or finely made by nature. And since he has the right distastes, he'll praise fine things, be pleased by them, receive them into his soul, and, being nurtured by them, become fine and good. He'll rightly object to what is shameful, hating it while he's still young and unable to grasp the reason, but having been educated in this way, he will welcome the reason when it comes and recognize it easily because of his kinship with himself. (Bk. III, 401d-402a, trans. G.M.A. Grube and C.D.C. Reeve.)


Stephen Kalm, Assoc. Prof. and Chair
Department of Music
University of Montana
Missoula, MT 59812-7992
(406) 243-6880

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