The Importance of Arts Education in the Public Schools

My topic, and why I chose it
My topic is the importance of arts education in public school curriculum.
I am very passionate about this topic. I truly feel that the arts create a well-rounded person. I also believe that the arts aid in intellectual development. The dedication, reasoning and spatial skills, motor skills, and creative thinking that are utilized while learning any of the arts should render them a much-sought-after component of every school in America. So, what has happened? The arts have been cut in order to pursue "more academic" subjects, leading most people to believe that arts are not amongst the academic curricula to be studied in school. There is a prevailing sense that these are "fun" pursuits but not actually important to academic progress. My desire is to work on changing this perception.

One Minute Slide Show

If you can only view one element of my Wiki page, go to Art Speaks because it is a concise, thought-provoking appeal for the arts in education. Showing real students engaged in the artistic process helps to demystify what can be a daunting subject. One of the problems surrounding the arts is that far too many adults feel disconnected from the creative process, or that the information is too specialized to understand. This video helps explain the need for education in the arts.

The 5 things I have learned:
1. Student engagement in the arts directly, positively, affects their performance in other academic subjects.
2. The Arts are a core academic subject according to NCLB standards. The National Core Arts Standards now work with the CCSS.
3. Employers overwhelmingly value creativity.
4. There are so many people passionately engaged in teaching the arts to our students, even in difficult situations and with meager budgets.
5. Kids want the arts. It is often what keeps them attending school.

My 8 picks, in order of personal impact, are as follows:

1. Why Art Matters, Dr. Linda F. Nathan @ TEDx The Calhoun School

Accessed via TEDx website, but the video embedded easier via the YouTube source.
She brings such charisma to the issue, speaking both about arts education and the arts as community activism. Dr. Nathan is the founding headmaster of the Boston Arts Academy. During her tenure, she has experienced first hand the amazing ability of the arts to enhance the education and work ethic of the students. More information about the school itself can be gained by visiting the Boston Arts Academy's website.
5/5 Engaging, charismatic presentation. Kept me watching all the way through! I am also very passionate about the subject, and it was worthwhile to hear someone talk about the formation of this school from the ground up, based on the knowledge gained during her experiences as an educator. Knowing that her initiative is producing such great results is very encouraging.

2. Art Speaks

A video by Dave Heinzel, accessed via YouTube
Personally, I like the first quote given in the video, by Picasso. We have denied this truth too long in our culture. I fear we are in danger of loosing our ability to express our thoughts, our culture. It is imperative to regain it! I personally like the voice overs filtered on top of the video footage of students engaged in the artistic process. Makes the whole issue real.
If you haven't listened to Sir Ken Robinson's talk on creativity, I would highly recommend it. Do Schools Kill Creativity?
5/5 I find the video powerful, and it remains short enough to be an easy viewing experience.

3. Turnaround:Arts

Accessed in Turnaround:Arts website.
Read this interesting article in the Washington Post detailing the change in Savoy Elementary School in Washington D.C. after becoming a part of the Turnaround:Arts program.
For more information on the Turnaround:Arts program, please visit their site. The Turnaround:Arts website contains several interesting facts, such as: Students in the highest poverty elementary schools are 50% less likely to have arts or music classes. Turnaround:Arts is a national program under the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. At this point, it is only geared toward elementary and middle school. My hope would be for it to expand to include high school.
5/5 for their innovative, immersive approach to changing the academic ability of low-performing students.

4. NPR: Elizabeth Blair, The Case for The Arts in Overhauling Education, on All Things Considered

Accessed on NPR website.
Podcast on the topic of the intersection of the arts and education. It points out several interesting facts, including that middle and upper class schools have often retained their arts programs. The podcast also mentions the pressures of performing well on standardized testing. During the interview, Blair remarks on the creativity test created by James Cattreall, director of the Centers for Research on Creativity in Los Angeles, called The Next Generation Creativity survey. This is an interesting survey. My opinion is that we have a long way to go before the majority of our nation's students can perform well on this test. I would love it if they could!
"What if all the streets and roads on the planet were actually rivers and streams?" (Blair, 2013)
If this were a relatively recent occurrence, I think we would have designed adaptive technology, to allow people to have gills or flippers, for example.
What about you?
5/5 Brief, engaging, thorough presentation of the issue.

5. Check out The Comic Book Project

Accessed via Comic Book Project website.
The above link is a compilation of work by students in New York City.
Their site gives pertinent information, highlighting the fact that many programs exist that are attempting to bridge the gap between schools and the arts. These programs are so valuable. It frustrates me that so much of arts education is relegated to the status of "extra", when proof exists declaring its academic viability.
5/5 Amazing work by the program in general, and a really great comic book full of excellent work by students. I love knowing the names and grades of the students who contributed art.

6. Arts Advocacy

Accessed via YouTube.
Well done advocacy video, sharing important information in a way that engages the viewer. It effectively serves the purpose of raising awareness of, and empathy for, arts in education.
4/5 Good video. We need to get people's attention in order to create awareness for the issue. This video definitely does that. However, I think that there is a potential danger in hyping the situation up. In my opinion, that is the effect they are creating by using prominent celebrities. It is ordinary people who will be accessing the arts in education. The Arts are just as important as any other "standard" academic pursuit. Positioning it as something separate can engender the same negative effect we are trying to erase.

7. A useful graphic...

Accessed via google images search.
The graph gives concise access to some of the most often cited facts. For example, 72% of business leaders say that creativity is the number one skill they are seeking when hiring. Sounds like something worth fostering in our students, hmm...
3/5 Good, for what it is, but it is difficult to capture the full importance of the subject in one graphic. Very useful, though, in conjunction with other information.


8. Take the time to read Arts Education: Creating Student Success in School, Work, and Life

Accessed via National Art Education Association website.
This arts education position paper gives usable information, in the form of: position, argument, and ask. The work is accessible to educators, or anyone passionate in advocating for the arts.
Interesting fact: The arts are listed as a "core academic subject" in the NCLB act. There are also correlations to deeper engagement in the arts and increased teacher retention.
5/5 Useful, easy format to access. I hope that this information gets passed along and creates the change it is meant to make.