The Importance of the Arts in Education
In it, writer Tom Jacobs, discusses two new scholarly studies of arts and education in the December 2009 issue of Arts Education Policy Review.
The first one, "No Child Left Behind and Fine Arts Classes," makes the point that in order to comply with NCLB's focus on testing and achievement, districts across the country are slashing their arts programs. But the removal of arts education may end up backfiring, author Tina Beveridge of Lower Columbia College in Longview, WA., writes, because a narrow focus on just core academics can actually widen, not close, the existing achievement gap.
"If we marginalize all non-tested subjects, we create a system in which only the affluent members of our society have access to the most comprehensive and well-rounded educations, which widens the achievement gap rather than closes it," she writes.
The second article, "How the Arts Help Children to Create Healthy Social Scripts" by Liane Brouillette of the University of California, Irvine, lays out the argument that arts education helps children learn vital skills like being able to collaborate, cooperate, and "persist in goal-oriented activity" -- all crucial in today's job market.
Such arguments leave out the idea that artistic expression is a "core" aspect of human culture, of course, and has been for tens if not hundreds of thousands of years; that creating art, music, literature, and drama (and learning about the history of these disciplines) actually does require cognitive skills, not just an ability to emote; and that art programs in the schools contribute to the building of community bonds (think art shows, concerts, and school plays if you don't believe me).
And if you've ever been in a classroom of kids doing art, you may also have noticed the great joy many of them take in these projects, too, but don't let me get all touchy feelie on you. Let's focus on test scores and jobs and consider that maybe, just maybe, arts education really matters.
Posted By: Susan Davis (Email) | April 08 2010 at 06:51 AM