Making the Case for Arts Education

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Arts Education Cuts: Lack of Funding or Lack of Faith?

By: David Ginsburg on April 30, 2014

In NCLB: No Chance for Latinos and Blacks, I wrote about responses to test score pressure that have been a disservice to children. One of those responses, cutting arts education, is often attributed to a lack of funding. Seems to me, though, that it’s a lack of faith. Lack of faith in the inherent value of the arts and its role in children’s overall development. Lack of faith in educators to help improve academic outcomes through a student-centered approach rather than a scores-centered approach. And lack of faith in children as learners.

There may also be a lack of faith in the arts-academics connection, which Joe Neubauer, Chairman of the Board of The Barnes Foundation, and Deirdre Connelly, President of North America Pharmaceuticals, GSK, wrote about in their April 25, 2014 op-ed in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Team Up With Schools for Arts Education:

Painting involves chemistry. Sculpture requires an understanding of geometry, gravity, and–in the case of the human form as subject–anatomy. Music is math brought to life. Why then, do we sometimes view arts education as less than essential to developing well-rounded students?

A solid education in the arts helps children learn how to debate, exchange ideas, and discover new ways of seeing, thinking, and perceiving the world around them. We need more inquisitive and creative minds in the workforce. We want multidimensional thinkers pursuing careers in public service. That’s why investing in arts education is more than a “nice to have”–it is critical.

Research indicates that learning through the arts has positive effects on learning in other areas. For example, multiple years of enrollment in arts courses are positively correlated with higher SAT verbal and math scores. Kids who are inspired to learn through the arts are more likely to stay in school. These same children are more likely to grow up to be successful in companies like ours and to be leaders in our communities.

It’s convenient to say there’s a lack of funding for the arts. But would money be an issue if there was a program that guaranteed higher test scores? We’ll probably never know since no such program is likely to exist. Then again, what would happen if we put our faith in the arts to help raise scores? Maybe the funding would follow.


Image by Phillip Martin

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