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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Why Art Education Must be Saved

Why Art Education Must be Saved

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There was a recent article by Lynda Resnik in The Huffington Post on the arts in education.

Here's an excerpt:

"Studies show that art-centered schools outscore non-art-centered schools in academic achievement scores. Art education can actually help the brain to rewire itself, to make stronger and more plentiful neural connections, and can help build memory skills. Self-discipline, intuition, reasoning, imagination, and dexterity are just a few of the other benefits of an art-filled education, especially for primary school students. According to First Lady Michelle Obama, "Learning through the arts reinforces critical academic skills in reading, language arts, and math, and provides students with the skills to creatively solve problems."

So, how is it that, when it comes to art education, California comes in dead last out of all 50 states - even below Guam? According to State Councilman Bobby Shriver, California's public schools no longer even offer arts education.

Edutopia also has a detailed package on saving the arts, which includes resources, articles, and videos.

How do you make the case for arts education to be saved in your school? Please share your resources here.
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Maggie's picture
4th grade art teacher (950 students)

My principal asked us to inform him of the 21st Century skills we are teaching in our classrooms, especially technology. I teach 4th grade art, and am appalled at how few of my students can cut with scissors or know how much glue to apply, so my program is very much hands-on. However, I avoid giving my students my opinion ("teacher, how's this?" "What do YOU think?") because I am trying to develop their ability to discern and make independent decisions. I think this is a VERY important skill, and one that doesn't apply in subjects where getting the one "right" answer is the goal.

Here is my website: www.msmosartroom.org

I put this together, maybe it will help some of you, if your school needs some justification for funding an art program. I printed this out, and added photos of my students creating art plus a long list of art-related careers, and put it in my front window. My program is not in jeopardy, but I feel the need to inform my parents and the administrators exactly what makes my program part of a well-rounded education for every child.
The following are excerpts from
A Whole New Mind: Why RightBrainers Will Rule the Future
by Daniel H. Pink
A survey of 431 human resource officials in 2006 found that
the incoming generation of workers sorely lacked in
workplace skills, both basic academic and "applied" skills,
according to the consortium which was comprised of The
Conference Board, Corporate Voices for Working Families,
the Partnership for 21st Century Sills, and the Society for
Human Resource Management.
Nearly three-quarters of survey participants (70 percent)
cite deficiencies among incoming high school graduates in
"applied" skills, such as professionalism and work ethic,
defined as "demonstrating personal accountability, effective
work habits, e.g. punctuality, working productively with
others, time and workload management." More than 40
percent of surveyed employers say incoming high school
graduates hired are deficiently prepared for the entry-level
jobs they fill. The report finds that recent high school
graduates lack the basic skills in reading comprehension;
writing and math, which many respondents say were needed
for successful job performance.
Looking toward the future, nearly three-fourths of the
survey participants ranked "creativity/innovation" as
among the top five applied skills projected to increase in
importance for future graduates.

To survive in this age, individuals and organizations must
examine what they're doing to earn a living and ask
themselves three questions:
1. Can someone overseas do it cheaper?
2. Can a computer do it faster?
3. Is what I'm offering in demand in an age of abundance?
If your answer to question 1 or 2 is yes, or if your answer to
question 3 is no, you're in deep trouble. . . that is why high
tech is no longer enough. We'll need to supplement our
well-developed high-tech abilities with abilities that are high
concept (the ability to create artistic and emotional beauty,
to detect patterns and opportunities . . . and to combine
seemingly unrelated ideas into a novel invention) and high
touch (the ability to empathize, to understand the subtleties
of human interaction, to find joy in one's self and to elicit it
in others, and to stretch beyond the quotidian in pursuit of
purpose and meaning).
A few years ago, GM hired Robert Lutz to help turn around
the ailing automaker . . . who has been an executive at each
of the big three automakers. When the New York Times
asked him how his approach would differ from that of his
predecessors, he responded, "It's more right-brain. . . I see us
being in the art business. Art, entertainment and mobile
sculpture, which, coincidentally, also happens to provide
Businesses are realizing that the only way to differentiate
their goods and services in today's overstocked marketplace
is to make their offerings physically beautiful and
emotionally compelling. Thus the high-concept abilities of
an artist are often more valuable than the easily replicated
Left-Brain directed skills of an entry-level business graduate.
In the United States, the number of graphic designers has
increased tenfold in a decade; graphic designers outnumber
chemical engineers by four to one. More Americans today
work in arts, entertainment, and design than work as
lawyers, accountants, and auditors.

Ten Lessons the Arts Teach by Elliot Eisner (from the Ohio Visual Art Academic Content
1. The arts teach children to make
good judgments about qualitative
relationships. Unlike much of the curriculum
in which correct answers and rules prevail, in the arts,
it is judgment rather than rules that prevail.

2. The arts teach children that
problems can have more than one
solution and that questions can
have more than one answer.

3. The arts celebrate multiple
perspectives. One of their largest lessons is that
there are many ways to see and interpret the world.

4. The arts teach children that in
complex forms of problem solving
purposes are seldom fixed, but change with
circumstances and opportunity. Learning in the arts
requires the ability and a willingness to surrender to the
unanticipated possibilities of the work as it unfolds.

5. The arts make vivid the fact that
neither words in their literal form nor
numbers exhaust what we can know.
The limits of our language do not define the limits of our

6. The arts teach students that small
differences can have large effects. The
arts traffic in subtleties.

7. The arts teach students to think
through and within a material. All art forms
employ some means through which images become real.

8. The arts help children learn to say
what cannot be said.

9. The arts enable us to have
experience we can have from no other
source and through such experience to discover the
range and variety of what we are capable of feeling.

10. The arts' position in the school
curriculum symbolizes to the young
what adults feel is important.

frances rice's picture

I feel truly alive when creating art or dancing to music for instance. I get a real kick out of solving problems in art. And there are problems to solve aesthetically, technically, and physically. If I had had more opportunities to solve problems in the arts as a student I believe I would have been a heck of a lot more motivated in school overall.
I see my students really engaged in learning when the arts are integrated, whether that is through movement, music, storytelling, drama, creative writing, or the visual arts.
I remember feeling as if school was so incredibly boring and jail like at times K-12. I hear my own children say the same thing, and it makes me feel so sad, because they are intelligent and I want them to experience the joy of meaningful learning. I believe the arts are one of the key ways that we as educators can capture student's interest and imagination.

Carol Parker's picture
Carol Parker
7/8 Drama, Film, Honors & Regular Language Arts

I am very involved and passionate in teaching the arts in a Jr Hi in Southern Calif. I am the only teacher in my district who teaches an ART appreciation class to 8th graders, which I wrote. Luckily I have the support of the Principal. And, very few other staff members.

The great tragedy here is that my staff was never educated in the arts in the California school system. To them, what I do in my classroom questionable as to how it relates to education and life. Also, the art of the children has no where to be displayed and if it did, teachers ask "How does this improve their reading and math skills?" And, even worse, when I arrange a trip to the Getty, I always get students whom are not allowed to go because other teachers complain they are late to school or they have not completed their homework. I have explained that the teachers cannot use the arts to punish a child, and that they all deserve to attend a museum. Their parents will probably never ever take them to a museum. And, that the child will forever remember the teacher as THE person who said NO to the museum visit. The teachers win, and the child remains on the cement campus. My heart is broken and hopefully, sometime in the future the student will attend a museum.

I agree totally and wholly with all of you that the arts capture the student's imagination 500%. Every year of my life I see what seems to be the greatest gift of teaching the arts. The child everyone least expects, is the one very gifted in art, and never knew it. The child who seems blank, and/or lost comes alive with the arts. It is always amazing!!!! AMAZING. Yet, when trying to display the arts of my students to the staff, it falls on deaf ears. But, he can draw so beautifully, and captures the compassion of Michelangelo.......

Here in California, the brainwashing is so extensive that we have convinced the majority of the population that ART DOES NOT MATTER!!!
Sadly, many of our teachers have never taken an Art Appreciation class, nor do they know that here in Los Angeles County is the greatest industry in California: FILM. It is so incredibly sad that few people know of silent film and the film stars who made a huge contribution to the great industry we have today. It is very exciting to show silent films and the films of The Marx Brothers and other early great stars of Film and Television. And, the foreign films. They LOVE foreign films....the films are stories that are so close to home, that they are no longer so far away. We are all alike. Ah ha...

As much as I know I am making an impact on many students on the ART of the FILM, and the BEAUTY of the combination of storytelling through the film, music and pathos, it is very frustrating that California of all places is not funding their greatest treasure to all living here.

Imagination is great only when children have a basis for an imagination. When they have not been read to, when all they have seen is television since the age of 2, and a lot of that has been violence, it is difficult to ask a child to imagine many moments education requires.

The arts are the answer to so many of society's malady's. Until the few of us who are creative are able to convince the majority of the
people who are not blessed to be arts educators and/or appreciate the lifetime importance of the arts, our children will suffer immeasurably.

The arts are our soul. Without them we have a society crying with no tears, fighting for what we do not understand and lacking compassion and empathy for one another. No one is listening. Our children do not have any beauty in their lives. They will not until we give them music and color every day.


Christine Termini Passarella's picture
Christine Termini Passarella
Founder of The Kids for Coltrane Project in Education

Wow! Carol I can feel your pain and understand totally the joy of bringing art appreciation into your work. It is incredible! I remember a most joyful moment when I spoke to William Crow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art about my vision. He is an associate museum educator in charge of school programs there. I had a vision for my classroom, and I went to see him. He was incredibly receptive. What came out of this meeting was a wonderful collaboration with the museum. You are absolutely right though, to keep it going you need the support and understanding of the school community!! Below is a letter I wrote about the museum educator William sent to us, and the incredible program we developed together. I thought this community would enjoy it. Don't give up Carol...the children need teachers like you who have seen the transformation to a higher level of thinking and feeling. You are a treasure!!!

"The Kids for Coltrane students started working with the Metropolitan Museum of Art since the birth of my vision. One of the facets of my vision was to connect the curriculum to the visual arts based on Dr. Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences. After attending a Project Zero summer institute at Harvard and learning more about Artful Thinking, I was determined to develop my relationship with the Met in a deeper more meaningful way. In the past my elementary school did have teaching artists visit, and I was in fact the liaison for this program at the Holliswood School for many years. But this time, I had a plan that would teach for understanding at a deeper more profound level using art as a tool for developing critical thinking.

I asked for a meeting with William Crow from the education department when I returned from my professional development at Harvard. He was incredibly receptive and heard me out. I will never forget how sure he was that he had the "perfect" teaching artist for my program. And it was the brilliant Sassy Moral. I don't know if I could ever thank William enough for matching us with Sassy. Her intelligence, creativity, warmth and grace are attributes I could only have dreamed of, but never thought I would find in one person. The students absolutely adored her!! She engaged the children every inch of the way in a program that she customized to meet the needs of not only my class but also other classes in our building. I was incredibly fortunate that the Met allowed Sassy to visit us on an ongoing basis and we also took field trips to the Met.

Sassy brought stories in art to the children. We collaborated for three years in a row with my first and second grade classes. At one point we focused on myths and she brought in a few cultures. The kids wrote their own myths after our visit to the Met. The art took us to Africa, Greece, Rome, China, and India. I remember we looked at a Dogon container, Sphinx, a sarcophagus with the story of Theseus and Ariadne, the dragon vase, Shiva and Ganesha. Every inch of the way she checked with me to see if it met the needs of the curriculum and my mission. At some point, I had a vision that would connect the visual arts to my jazz appreciation program, but I needed to also bring in our social studies program which focused on New York City. Brilliantly Sassy had us explore some American paintings that related to NYC...paintings by Charles Demuth, Romare Beardon and Florine Stettheimer On a follow up visit the children worked on a project and created collages...the children created a cityscape after exploring the Romare Beardon collage. The children were learning by doing, and having such a fantastic time of it.

I can go on and on singing the praises of Ms. Sassy Moral. The children considered her part of our school community and will never forget how she touched their lives. I still work with the children she taught in my Kids for Coltrane enrichment program, and I can tell you that they want her back! I say this without hesitation, Sassy Moral is one of the most outstanding educators I ever met, in addition she is an outstanding human being. My hope is to one day work with her again. She not only enlightened the children, she enlightened me. I am very grateful to the Metropolitan Museum of Art for sending an educator with such exquisite professional qualities to my students."

Check out there link. I hope it can offer you some "quenching" ideas. It certainly is an oasis to me.


For further information contact
Mr. William Crow
Teacher Programs/Offsite School Programs
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 Fifth Ave.
New York, NY 10028
(212) 650-2292 (direct line)
(212) 570-3783 (fax)

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