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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Why Arts Education Must Be Saved

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 -- so read on, and we think you'll agree that all of us should support the arts in school with all our vigor.

Comments (28)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

Donna's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Hector - you have a truly remarkable story. What struck me most throughout was the way you look at life and the viewpoint of your past. I have heard stories of many people who grew up in tough neighborhoods and experienced troubling times. I was impressed with the way you spoke of your past - explaining what happened without making excuses. You seem to have made some great choices that will live on in your students as serve as inspiration. You have made an impact on me as a way to move forward and not dwell in the past.

Elliot Johnson's picture

I found a program that combines Literacy with arts in a way I had never seen before. Phonics Fantasy Dance combines letter sounds with African and Caribbean dance moves. Students actually learn to read while dancing. I found this to be a great and effective way to utilize the arts in the classroom. I use their DVD as a transitional activity to help me teach but I am sure it can be used in lots of ways. Their site has a ton of information and research: www.phonicsfantasytheater.com

Kristie Martin's picture

I agree with you in that Art needs to be an important part of education and not a special class that students go to during the day. Especially art forms such as dance and theater. I believe that those things enhance the brain and help students of all ages become involved in something they may know that they like. I currently teach dance at a ballet school and also teach school and am constantly trying to figure out ways to incorporate both movement and learning together. I think the thing we need to focus on in most in schools right now are things that will consistently enhance learning, by not just looking at tests, but by looking at creativity through many aspects.

Kristie Martin's picture

I agree with you that arts in education should not be a special class that students go to outside their classroom each day. Especially things such as dance and theater. I currently teach at a ballet school and teach elementary school and am constantly looking for ways to incorporate movement into learning. I think that what schools need to be focusing on most is creativity in the classroom and not just looking at tests and test scores. Students who are involved in art in some way may find something that they didn't know they liked and also may find that they can be good at something other than sports. It is also important to foster creativity because it will help lead to a good well-rounded education, and just as said above, may also save someone's life.

Joyce Price's picture
Joyce Price
Elementary Art Instructor in Altamonte Springs, Florida

I concur. Art is essential in the educative community. Art classes serve so many functions; self-esteem to those without academic success, a bridge to foster rapport over cultural diversities, socialization for special ed students as well as others, and yet, art may be in jeopardy in my state. Budget cuts are encroaching too closely for comfort. SB6 is calling for a 9% salary cut for teachers and no tenure for future teachers. Teachers may be cut with no justification. It is alarming and disenchanting to those of us who are passionate about our careers to face such blatant insults to our character and our careers.
Maybe it's time for, NO Teacher Left Behind

judith anderson's picture

I have been criticized by my principal for connecting art to English Language Arts. I have made strong connections between the stories we read and specific artists or a genera of art. Over the years I have received many thank you letters from students for having the opportunity to create art in the classroom. I feel that students who see the world through a different lens often need this connection to relate to the content of a story. It gives them a hook. I wish that parents would become more vocal so teachers like me who value art education would not be marked down on evaluations for doing so.

Tom Denner's picture

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.

Bonjovi's picture

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.

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