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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Art and ELA

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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.

Elementary Art Instructor in Altamonte Springs, Florida

I concur. Art is essential in

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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

Arts in education

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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.

Kristie Martin Montana Teacher

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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.

I found a program that

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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

Director of Programming and Innovation @Edutopia

Arts group on Edutopia

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Just wanted to mention that we've got a new group brewing on Edutopia.org that's devoted to discussion of the arts, music and drama.

Hope you'll join us!
http://www.edutopia.org/groups/artsmusicdrama

Donna (not verified)

Hector - you have a truly

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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.

Dr. Marge Tye Zuba (not verified)

What you have written speaks

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What you have written speaks volumes about the power of teachers and the arts.
I wish that so many of the early "latin Kings" I worked with had this opportunity in Pilsen and Little Village years ago.
Thanks for your motivating story. I admire your srength.
Marge

Kimberly Waldin, NY (not verified)

Arts in Education

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As a Performing Arts/Education Consultant, I would encourage all classroom teachers to remember that true "arts in education" does not mean a special class that is separate from everyday routine. Specials certainly have their place, and are important in teaching and fine-tuning the skills of the performing artist; however, the performing arts are an amazing vehicle for everyday, standardized education.

Human beings are hardwired to learn best through experience, and as early as the second year of life, children engage in role-playing to explore and understand the world around them. It is only natural that role-playing and the arts find their way into the everyday classroom, even in the secondary grades.

Literature is just a heartbeat away from drama, and in many cases, is an umbrella term for a simplified variation of the performing arts that are relegated to exist only in English class. The best way to understand the themes and elements behind what we read is to explore and study them through the empathetic nature of the performing arts. Open them up to the imagination by relating and reliving those themes to the students reading them, drawing "living analogies," as it were, through dramatic, musical or physical interpretation.

More than just journal writing from a character's stand point or performing a selection from Shakespeare, what is it to assume the role of historical figures, standing in their shoes, and engaging in political and social debate, or to observe the elements of known science and social beliefs at a given point in time, and design social and scientific experiments while making the case for why they are important?

The performing arts have the amazing ability to move cross-curriculum to cover a lot of ground, and should never be easily dismissed as extra-curricular. As more educators make use of the performing (and visual) art as a teaching tool, the more ground can be achieved in making the case for their place as tangible, testable, and viable subject-matter in standardized education.

Artwork for Education

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Worldwise Education's Artwork for Education program allows kids to create art that is showcased on high-quality greeting cards, featuring the student's name, age and school printed on the back of the card. The cards are sold through retail partners, such as Whole Foods, school fundraisers and online with a portion of the proceeds going back to the artist's school. WE has already provided over $1.5M to schools!

Through our program, art is celebrated in the schools not only because the kids’ work is highlighted in a special way, but it also provides schools much needed revenue. This helps schools see a tangible value in the near-term and promotes the long-term benefits of providing art instruction to students.

It is unfortunate that so many schools are cutting art programs because it is not formally tested through standardized testing. In reality, art programs are critical in helping children to think creatively in all subject - science, math, history.. to create our future leaders and inventors of the world. Just imagine where we would be if we didn't have creative thinkers in science who didn't imagine new possibilities!

Art inspires inventiveness and helps children to understand other subject more clearly, from visualizing chemical bonds to building vocabulary. We want to encourage creative thinkers who think outside the box.

Please check out our website at www.WorldwiseEducation.com or www.ArtworkForEducation.com.

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