These days, many Americans doubt that the benefits of art education are worth the time compared to math, science and technology. US companies continue to expand their online operations, requiring more and higher quality technical expertise. The future of the American labor force is often thought to be found in STEM subjects and common core classes.
Should art be abandoned altogether? Experts, researchers, and teachers insist that our future citizens and employees need art skills now more than ever.
Art education provides students with a variety of unique skills and methods of approaching learning that can’t be taught any other way. Art education is critical to create the kinds of dynamic, innovative, and intercultural individuals that the ever-changing landscape of work now requires.
Chicago Public Schools has changed its attitude towards art education in recent years. They have begun to re-invest in funding art programs across the city, because CPS knows that the benefits of art education are many and impactful. In 2012, CPS formed the Arts Education Plan (AEP), to increase access and equity to art education in their schools.
Let’s explore some benefits of CPS arts programs and education.
Problem solving/Inventiveness: Most subjects teach a singular method of reaching one correct answer. Art rather has a student choose from endless possibilities to create something new. Each decision must meld with the one before. When a snag is hit, the only way forward is creative invention.
Accountability: Ownership over every step of art creation can offer a rare sense of accountability. Each decision is a personal expression that can develop self-awareness and identity in young students.
Perseverance: Learning to paint or play the clarinet lack the clean endpoints that math problems have. Students must decide when the project is finished. This offers students the opportunity to work long and hard toward their own satisfying endpoint.
Confidence: Theater and music involve performing for crowds, a crucial skill for building confidence under the pressure of public scrutiny. Most jobs will require a level public performance that STEM classes rarely offer.
Collaboration: Band, choir, and theater require students to work together. Sharing responsibility and compromising to achieve common goal are skills adults need to be successful in both jobs and relationships.
Improved Academic Performance: Studies find that the arts don’t just help develop a child’s creativity. Their benefits spill over into other forms of academic achievement. Success in art has been linked to better problem-solving and higher rates of graduation.
Cultural Awareness: Art can teach students to decipher between reductive stereotypes and cultural interpretations of the world. Exposure to cultures through art can build a healthy appreciation for differences in our society.
Despite gains in the last few years when it comes to funding art education in CPS, the fight is ongoing. Many schools are chronically underfunded and prioritize other things when it comes to the annual budgeting. Teachers are often forced to buy art materials themselves, and are totally on their own with costs incurred. The public perception of art education needs to shift, from viewing it as a frivolous extra to the really substantial impactful subject that it is.
In the meantime, IPMM is helping to fill in the gaps with our Shared Walls programming which brings high-quality no-cost art education to CPS schools. Help us sustain our efforts by donating, looking into our Sponsor A School program, or volunteering your time.
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