Date of Award

Spring 5-7-2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Educational Policy Studies

First Advisor

Deron Boyles, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Philo Hutcheson, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Janice Fournillier, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Patrick K. Freer, Ed.D.

Fifth Advisor

Donna Adair Breault, Ph.D.


Arts education must continually provide justification for its inclusion in the K-12 curriculum. This dissertation utilizes philosophical and conceptual analysis to probe the tensions, ironies, and contradictions that permeate the arts education advocacy discourse. Using evidence from advocacy materials published online, scholarly critiques of themes in the advocacy discourse, and research reports describing school-based arts programs, I construct an argument that posits generative consequences for student learning when arts-centered inquiry is reimagined as pragmatic instrumentalism. Such a reimagining of arts-centered inquiry seeks to draw a distinction between utilitarian justifications for the arts and instrumental benefits the arts provide individual students in mediating complex and connected learning. In reclaiming the term “instrumental” for arts-centered inquiry, I offer a way to restore the notion of generativity to arts learning and a means to promote greater understanding among practitioners, researchers, policymakers, and advocates.