George Lucas Educational Foundation

Why Arts Education Must Be Saved

Schools draw on the community to bring art and music to students.
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ART and Soul with the A as splashes of paint; R, an antique typewriter key; and T a trumpet and tuba

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:

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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malcolm bellamy's picture
malcolm bellamy
Teaching and Learning Consultant in Southend, Essex, U.K.

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

Judy Jack's picture
Judy Jack
Education Officer at the Catholic Education Office Melbourne Australia

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.

Mary-Helen Rossi's picture
Mary-Helen Rossi
Business Director at Merge Education

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

Denise M. Cassano's picture
Denise M. Cassano
Artist, Educator, Dog Lover

"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:

pwillis's picture

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!

Darcy Hill's picture
Darcy Hill
Creative Drama and Music Teacher Pre-K through 5th Grade

"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

Lina Raffaelli's picture
Lina Raffaelli
Former Community Engagement Intern at Edutopia

Great stories! Arts education is so important in fostering creative practices that will stay with students well into their adult lives. I especially enjoyed the story about the Dallas school creating a community network for the arts. With technology rapidly entering the classroom and growing budget constraints, it takes creativity and innovative thinking to find ways to keep arts in the curriculum.

Darcy Hill's picture
Darcy Hill
Creative Drama and Music Teacher Pre-K through 5th Grade

Collaborating with arts as the vehicle of collaboration is fun, meaningful, and builds bridges of hope and trust. As budgets tighten, creativity needs to flourish.

Candle's picture
ESL Teacher

I completely agree that art lets students be in complete control. In public, I often see children being told what to do. Put on your coat! Eat your vegetables! Pay attention! Sit straight! Art is beautiful and teaches kids so much. Throughout an art project, there are constant decision making opportunities: from the kind of paper to use, what medium to use, what to draw on the paper, what color to use, and for whom it shall be given. This process builds independent and critical thinking skills. Art also builds self esteem. Most kids I know are proud of what they do. I don't think the result of the work is what they are proud of. I think it's the fact that they created something on their own. I know many children (my seven year old included) who would scream murder if a parent or anyone else tries to throw away a piece of paper that had their "artwork" on it.

It's a shame that most school art programs are underfunded or cut because of resources. This constant focus of assessment and accountability through standardized testing is hindering our children's creativity. Children need a designated time at school to express themselves freely. They already spend most of the day following commands. They should be given some time to explore their creativity.

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