Most would agree that arts education is a good thing. The benefits of arts education, however, have been under scrutiny since the US started to fall behind much of the world in skills that seem most applicable to working in a modern economy, like science, technology, engineering, and math.
When administrators attempt to improve school curricula, they grapple with what to omit so to make room for more modern subjects. For the sake of our children’s’ futures and financial well being, should arts education be scrapped entirely?
Here are two main reasons not to disinvest in arts education. (Although there are many more!) The first is that arts can be a respite for creative-minded students who struggle with the rote and analytic parts of a curriculum, which can empower them to stay invested in school and not drop out. The other is that art breeds special skills – creativity, self expression, production ownership – that are hugely applicable, not only to other subjects, but in modern industries that increasingly reward innovators.
Art education improves overall scholastic achievement.
According to Americans for the Arts, young people who participate in the arts for about nine hours per week, “are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair or to win an award for writing an essay or poem than children who do not participate.”
Arts education helps improve skills that are crucial for general school performance, like creativity, critical thinking, problem solving and learning skills. The old mode of teaching one method to find one correct answer is increasingly out of touch with both education standards and our modern workforce. This makes arts education more relevant than ever for modern students.
According to The Education Fund, “…several recent studies have concluded that the creativity and innovation utilized in the artistic process will be highly valued by employers in the United States in the coming years as we continue to shift into a global economy.” Compelling children to think creatively now will help those skills come more naturally in their future careers.
Increasingly, even jobs that don’t seem explicitly creative require out-of-the-box fluid thinking and elements of design. By prioritizing art education, we prepare our students for the realities of today’s world of work, and give them the best tools that we can for tomorrow.
Arts education improves self-esteem.
Many students are not attracted to the traditional list of grammar school subjects and are routinely discouraged by their lack of aptitude in math, science and language. Art lets those student use different mental skills find positive reinforcement in school and even view school as a place where their passions can flourish.
If students come from households struggling with poverty, trauma, or hunger, art education can also be a protective barrier against dropping out of school. Poverty and a lack of an academic support system can all be impetus for students leaving the school system. Art education encourages creativity, growth, and healing, in an institutional setting which often does not leave room for students with diverse circumstances.
Arts education improves cultural understanding.
Inherent in art education are lessons on varied cultural expressions. Diverse classrooms are likely to breed cultural artifacts that can be taught and discussed in a comfortable and protective setting. When students are familiarized with culture and history which is not their own through art, from a young age, they are ready to enter the world as culturally competent and sensitive individuals. Their world view is not centered on their limited experience, and they understand that there are many diverse groups of people who live differently than they do and have different values.
Arts education not only makes for better students and workers who are better prepared to succeed in a modern economy, but it helps make better citizens who value societal differences and seek opportunities to expand that appreciation wherever they may find it.
At IPaintMyMind, we’re champions of art education. It has profoundly shaped each of us, as we believe it will for future generations of youngsters. We help to fill in the gaps in the Chicago Public School system, providing high-quality arts programming through our Shared Walls program.
We hope that one day art education will be fully funded, and that our programs will be a luxury and not a necessity. However, that’s not where we are today. Too many schools have little to no arts budget, no art-specific teachers, or materials available for art classes. This is the everyday reality of many CPS schools. For many schools that we work with, we are the only arts programming that they are able to provide. It’s a tragedy, but one that can be remedied through hard work and a shift in the way that our society perceives art education.
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