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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Why Arts Education Must Be Saved

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

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.

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Holly's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

Art education is so important. With statewide budget cuts in California (and elsewhere), it's now up to parents to fund it. If it would be of help to other school districts, take a look at http://DelMarCares.com as an example of how to make your own appeal to parents to help fund art, music, science and physical education.

Hector Tapia Perez's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I just saw a special on the prison system. It reminded me of how I could have easily ended up there. Many of my cousins did, causing a burden on society. But somehow a very sensitive creative portion of their brain didn't have the proper stimulation. Of course they became Chicago gangsters. One chose folk nation,the other brother chose people nation. Brother against brother. Sound familiar in your community?
Art saved me. I had a great art teacher and artist mentor. I dropped out due to experimental use of heroin. My mentor stepped in. All any at risk student wants is love and acceptance, much like an artist or any human for that matter.
Art is the vitamin for many lost students who might not fit simply because they have creative impulses, and if it isn't fed, they get curious about negative activities.
Because Mrs. Linda Hooker, my art teacher on(Facebook), Martin Moreno (Cuervo Studios in Phoenix), and Mr. Arthur Marquardt spent so much energy on me, I take every opportunity to thank them publicly and offer proof that art saved a Chicano from Sunnyside barrio in Adrian, MI.
I became, only through the grace of my student angels in Detroit, the inner city art teacher whose students had a 7 year run on Michigan's highest paying art contest. My students met persons like former President Clinton and Edward James Olmos; at risk students can't help but be inspired.
My RA arthritis shaped my decision to bring my family to Kauai to live. My daughter, Angelica, just graduated as an artist from Wayne State University, and my son Steve Martinez, is about to graduate from College for Creative Studies in Detroit.
If one needs proof that students from inner city Detroit all the way to the westernmost school in the nation Waimea High in Kauai, the invitation is there for you to see the Peace murals and happy students.
When you come to Kauai, visit out new Peace Murals. John Lennon was right. There's nothing you can do that can't be done, all you need is love.
Gotta go now. My wife, Susan Marie Magdalene Ryan Tapia Perez took a chance and offered me love with one condition,don't even think about putting that tecate in the spoon or I am gone. That was 30 years ago.
When the arts save one person, it multiplies at an exponential rate.
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? If accepted, please focus on how art saved me from a criminal career. Thank you and Aloha, Hector Tapia Perez

verno's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I think art finds a way. and in some instances repressing a persons or childs ability to have art can build the desire to create. for me growing up i had the intense passion to create all the time, doodeling, sculpting in playdoh, i wasnt going to be stopped or suppressed.

Valerie Miller's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I believe that the arts should be saved. Not only just Art class but Music, Dancing, Acting and etc. I work at a charter school that is arts infused. Arts- infusion brings learning to life. In the urban community our children need to feel sucessful and art gives them a finished product to share in success with.

susan's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

I teach music in an intermediate elementary school where the high stakes testing is the main emphasis. Often times the "Arts" classes are canceled to practice for the tests. The students love coming to the specials because it is where they can find an outlet from the tests to express themselves and truly be creative. You are exactly right that when they finish a product or in music a performance, they feel successful. For some students the Arts classes are the only place they excel. How lucky for you to be in a school that is art-infused. Is this on all grade levels?

Sehnita Joshua Mattison's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

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.

Kimberly Waldin, NY's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

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.

Dr. Marge Tye Zuba's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

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.

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