Why Arts Education Must Be Saved

Schools draw on the community to bring art and music to students.

Schools draw on the community to bring art and music to students.

Art and Soul

Almost every one of us can point back to a creative pursuit, in or out of school, that enhanced our skills, knowledge, or understanding. Yet the majority of secondary school students in the United States aren't required to enroll in arts courses, many elementary schools nationwide lack art classes or activities, and arts and music instruction is often the first thing to go when schools feel the pressure to improve test scores.

Happily, from this admittedly grim background spring many rays of hope. In our special report on arts education, Edutopia paints a bright picture of how schools are forging innovative community partnerships to bring rich, academically integrated arts curriculum to their students:

*   Read about a network of educators committed to offering essential activities based on Howard Gardner's eight intelligences, including integrated daily arts instruction.

*   Watch students sing opera through a program built on theories about brain-based learning and research into children's neurological development.

*   Discover how one school district grew a program to link children with the city's vast cultural resources by working with community professionals from orchestras, dance companies, theaters, and museums.

*   Follow the design and testing of an arts-integrated curriculum that includes theater arts, spoken word poetry, and hip-hop to make the arts more accessible to the most marginalized students.


And, in celebrating National Novel Writing Month, we discover a nationwide program that encourages would-be student novelists to write their hearts out -- not for glory or grades but just for the intrinsic reward of writing the story.

When you click on any of these links, you'll also find links to the rest of this special report about the advantages of arts education -- more articles, a video, and a slide show -- so read on, and we think you'll agree that all of us should support the arts in school with all our vigor.

This article originally published on 1/28/2009

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Comments (25)

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Creative Drama and Music Teacher Pre-K through 5th Grade

"Edutopia paints a bright

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"Edutopia paints a bright picture of how schools are forging innovative community partnerships to bring rich, academically integrated arts curriculum to their students"
I love this quote of yours and within it lies the key to not just maintaining but really strengthening arts programs in schools. After Forbes Magazine ranked our city as the 10th most violent in the country, we decided it was time for action, time to tear down some walls that fear had erected, and time to begin building some bridges of hope and understanding between neighbors. Please see "Stronger Together 1-5 and Culmination" at http://imaginationcollaborationteacher.blogspot.com.

Art and music is essential in

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Art and music is essential in the classroom and via Ed Tech, teachers are discovering new and invigorating methods of connecting with their students.

I conduct music workshops using the iPad in schools thought the City of Toronto and kids are loving it! Teachers are beginning to embrace new tech, especially when they discover how electronic music production can embrace cross curricular methodologies that in turn, make learning a collaborative and interactive experience.

Music and the arts stimulate a more active "mental presence" and participation in the classroom and the benefits are immediately noticeable!

Artist, Educator, Dog Lover

"What kind of example does

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"What kind of example does America want, my cousins or a soul who wanted forgiveness for my poor choices so I could become a meaningful contributor to society?"
Exactly- I have been teaching art for over 20 years and I can tell you students love art because they are in control- they make all of the "choices" Hector refers to. Children who live in bad neighborhoods have even less control over their lives- that's where art comes in.
Recently I was observed during an art lesson, and my administrator said, "I was surprised to hear you say that 'art is decision making'" Really? That's all it is- Working in the arts forces you to make constant decisions while practicing critical thinking skills. We need to get away from the 1950's idea that art is "a pretty painting on a wall". Art is design, technology, storytelling, and aesthetics. If students didn't take art in school we would have no fashion, interior design, architecture, furniture, cars, animation, children's books, movies, graphic design, product design, games, photography etc. All of these fields require people who can think critically and understand design principles.
Every invention in our society came from someone who is creative- that's what the arts teach. Creativity+Entrepreneurship=Prosperity. Art leads the way for many students.
You may read more about art and critical thinking on my blog: http://www.corndogart.com/

Business Director at Merge Education

Re Australia's film and family project (below)

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What strikes me most about your work is that not only do you enhance student learning, you deepen the family bond. Beautiful!

Education Officer at the Catholic Education Office Melbourne Australia

The Arts for student wellbeing and parent engagement in learning

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Hi I thought that you might be interested in hearing about the work I am doing at the Catholic Education Office Melbourne Australia.

I am an Education Officer ex- secondary school drama teacher, who has been working with primary schools to develop ways to use the arts across curriculum areas, inclusive of families and parents. A couple of weeks ago my Unit; Wellbeing and Community Partnerships, launched a DVD that showcase how three schools went about using the arts for social inclusion. They each strategically planned how they would integrate the arts into Inquiry units that included parent engagement. We know that when parents are involved in their child's learning, academic success is more likely.

Here is the link to the film, I hope you enjoy it. I would love to know what you think.

Creative Connections : Building learning communities through the arts, tells the story of how three schools used the arts for engagement and social inclusion within contemporary learning environments. The Community Arts initiative is supported by the CEOM Wellbeing & Community Partnerships Unit as a strategy for building collaborative engagement with families, teachers, students and community.

http://web.education.unimelb.edu.au/swap/wellbeing/teachers/partnerships...

Business Director at Merge Education

Evaluation of Arts Education Outcomes

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I recently wrote a post for Americans for the Arts (http://blog.artsusa.org/2011/12/15/are-you-worried-about-your-arts-educa...) detailing how to evaluate your arts program to demonstrate effectiveness. Perhaps it would be useful here.

Teaching and Learning Consultant in Southend, Essex, U.K.

Defending arts education

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I have just written a blog post in which I have stated just what the arts means to me and why I want to defend it in education... please see http://wp.me/pKfOP-rM

Yes but...

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While art is a blessing in many student's lives, most never discover the benefits of art as it could be taught. Art is optional in most curriculums and if a child can actually find a way into an art class, the next hurdle is the art teacher who seldom teaches all students. Most are artists first and teaching is a distant, annoying requirement or obligation for a paycheck.
Thus many students are not nurtured, they are expected to be artists from day one. If a child actually encounters one of the few gifted art teachers who actually teach to all students, then yes they are truly blessed.
Sadly it's rare to find a good art teacher. It's more common to find something else who shamelessly collect a paycheck for doing less than helping kids discover whatever talent they may have.
Awards and recognition for a few gifted students feeds the ego of the artist/teacher, while doing nothing for students except reduce the less developed students, an after thought. Striving for excellence is good until it overshadows the development of the rest of the students.
There's a difference between a gifted teacher and a disorganized, ethically confused, struggling artist who happens to be working as a teacher with no commitment to developing talent or an appreciation, understanding or love for art - until the cameras are turned on for awards and recognition.

Artist and Educator

Creative Thinking Happens

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Arts Education

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Arts Education is the best way to improve innovation in new and budding artist in my opinion. One major roadblock that historically has stood in the path of nation-wide arts education is the lack of studies proving that it raises achievement levels in all subjects, that it translates into a higher rate of college matriculation and better paying jobs. Today a child's access to arts education is largely a function of his or her parents' income. How do we explain to the larger society the benefits of this civic investment when they have been convinced that the purpose of arts education is mostly to produce more artists—hardly a compelling argument to either the average taxpayer or financially strapped school board. The real purpose of arts education is to create a community network complete with human beings capable of leading successful and productive lives in a free society. Learning by doing or experiencing Art is much more compelling, interesting, easier to understand and to remember whats been learned.

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