20 August, 2014
The Beneficial Potential and Negligent Disregard of Art Education
In 1969, Fred Rogers, known on TV as “Mister Rogers,” appeared before the US Senate to protect the funding for PBS and public broadcasting. In only six minutes, Mr. Rogers moved emotions in the Senate room and was respectfully awarded 20 million dollars afterwards. His emotional speech showed commitment and care for American and Canadian children, of which he said, “This is what I give – I give an expression of care everyday to each child; to help him realize that he is unique. I end the program by saying you’ve made this day a special day by just being you. There’s no person in the whole world like you and I like you just the way you are” (“Senate Committee Hearing”). This is one of many heartfelt words that sparked a positive reaction throughout the senate room and ensured that his program would still express this emotion of care. Mr. Rogers is an American icon in public educational television and a prime example of educating children using art as a visual communication including puppets, songs, and props. He is one of many great examples showing the importance of integrating art education to teach children in everyday life events and positive ways of expressing their feelings. Based on past and recent studies, the evidence shows that art education in American schools is as significant and productive as other subject areas. This is because art activity encourages individual identity as well as thinking and creativity in young minds. There is much consideration to integrate art into classrooms and to disregard art programs is an act of negligence. The outcome of integrating art in schools is far more beneficial because children can be more expressive and, importantly, succeed in academic studies.
The Educate American Act passed by Congress in 1994 (United States. United State Congress) acknowledges that art is a core subject and as important as any other subject in school. This can be considered one of the most impact-full acts showing the significance of having a strong art foundation in schools. This set the tone for the National Art Education Association which in turn gives the mandate to emphasis or defend the importance of art in American schools. Acts and Foundations like this are a large motivation for schools to require subjects such as; studio art classes, art history, music, or dance in each and every students’ curriculum. Furthermore, schools encourage students to join after school clubs and activities such as art clubs, music club, school performances/plays, dance club, and any other activities that do not limit a students’ creative imagination.
There are many proven reasons showing the significant benefits of students studying art in schools. First, and most importantly, art fosters creativity because art encourages unique thinking from ones prospective (Fowler 9). “The art requires abstract reasoning…” This is because, there is no right or wrong answers To add to the process of creativity, Fowler says; “It is precisely the ambiguities of [showing abstract] expression that require us to exercise a higher order of though processes” (Fowler 11). Actions of creativity can articulate into having a higher thought process which opens opportunities for the minds to creatively solve problems. Another reason students should study art in school is because it stimulates democratic thinking as groups and encourages leadership skills. “Art education can lead students from personal expression to cultural engagement through the capacity of art to act as a social mediator” (Freedman). It also requires the elements of negotiation and collaboration in groups, because art is a very social activity to have in schools. If properly acknowledged, students are urged to work in groups and make decisions involving expression that promotes leadership and working democratically as a group.
The SPECTRA program is a four- year program initiated in 1992/1993 for selected schools in Ohio. Within four years, the schools integrated art into academic studies in three grade levels and requires every student to dedicate an hour a day in art, dance, music, or drama. Comparing SPECTRA schools to other schools in Ohio, statistics showed that SPECTRA schools improved in attendance and reduced disciplinary problems. In addition, SPECTRA students showed higher improvements in reading scores, reading vocabulary, reading comprehension, and math comprehension. (Fowler 7). Art integration in schools does not only benefit the elementary minds, but also improves SAT scores in a higher degree of education. “Those students who study the arts do substantially better on their verbal and math scores than do students who take no art courses.” This information is supported by a mean number score since 1993 to 1995 by the Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) which indicates the more years students study the arts, the higher they score in verbal and math exercises (Fowler 138). A more recent report from USA Today written by Tamara Henry in 2002, showed significant conclusions from analysis of 62 studies of various categories of art and nearly 100 researchers. The article expands each type of art experience that gives different ways of academic and learning benefits. For example; drama students are more aware of social relationships and better comprehension of thought and story. Visual art students have better organization of writing, better comprehension of complex reading and better readiness of scientific images and understanding. Music students show improvements in math, faster reading development, and better skills learning a second language (Henry). Seventy seven percent of American adults agree that art courses should be paid for a part of regular school budget according to a Princeton University survey. Furthermore, more than half of people who had some high school education until Postgraduate study agreed to provide art programs with regular funding (How Supportive, Princeton). In 2005, Americans for the Arts conducted a survey which Freedman uses to emphasize the attitude of Americans towards art subjects;
“In contrast to these repercussions of policy, a 2005 Harris poll reported that 93% of Americans consider the arts a vital part of a well-rounded education. The report also revealed that “86% of Americans agree that an arts education encourages and assists in the improvement of a child’s attitudes toward school; 83% of Americans believe that arts education helps teach children to communicate effectively with adults and peers; and 79% of Americans agree that incorporating arts into education is the first step in adding back what’s missing in public education today” (Freedman).
Despite most Americans being in favor that art as a vital subject area in schools, there has been a recent trend toward art programs being the first cut or least funded category in many public American schools.
The disregard of art education is still present and is on the rise, “Federal funding for the arts and humanities rolls in around $250 million a year, while the National Science Foundation is funded around the $5 billion mark” (11 facts). In 2013, Chicago public schools cut more than ten percent of its fundings for art or music teachers (Fang) and also 98 art programs reduced or eliminated (Fitzpatrick). Philadelphia schools are another victim suffering from budget cuts. “Philadelphia’s city schools are dealing with a $304 million budget shortfall by completely eliminating funding for art and music programs, among other painful cuts” (Fang). Chicago and Philadelphia are two prime examples of historically great liberal American cities crumbling by neglecting the importance of art education in schools. The effects of shortsighted disregard of the arts in American schools can negatively impact many aspects. Most importantly, cutting back on art education is neglecting children the right to learn the arts. As mentioned earlier, art has many proven academic benefits. Also, SPECTRA programs which integrated art in its curricular inspired students to be self -motivated to attend classes, and be more disciplined in school. Art classes help define children’s identity; to imagine their unique self in society. A child at a young age is not privileged to have many options to express their emotions yet. Art is a great way for children to communicate their emotions and also for adults to communicate back more effectively. Reducing or eliminating art education is simply cheating our children of being unique or imaginative (Fowler 57-66).
In conclusion, art education must be kept vital to the academic curricula and child’s development. This is because art education has a significant potential to help students to have a higher quality education and most importantly succeed in their education. Taking art classes improves creativity, self esteem, expression, leadership skills, and problem solving. Art education is a positive alternative for children to practice their skill that promotes thinking and being unique. Having a strong art education program in schools is as essential as any other subjects and must not be disregarded. The sooner a child learns art, the faster they can practice thinking and develop unique skills.. Also, art improves the way students think and solve problems, which contributes to better academic scores such as the SAT. The Educate American Act of 1994 ensured the standards of all aspects of learning in schools, thus American should understand the importance of art in schools and ensure art education remains important so future generations receive the opportunities of studying art. There is great potential if schools integrate art and provide students with opportunities to be involved in art activities. This is because our children deserves the best in all forms of education with no limitations.
“Senate Committee Hearing.” Online video clip. fredrogerscenter.org. Fred Rogers Center for Early Learning and Children’s Media, Saint Vincent College. Web. 20 Aug. 2014. <http://exhibit.fredrogerscenter.org/advocacy-for-children/videos/view/969/>
United States. United State Congress. The Goals 2000: Educate America Act (P.L. 103-227). Washington, 1994. Print
Fowler, Charles. Strong Arts, Strong Schools: The Promising Potential and Shortsighted Disregard of the Arts In American Schools. New York Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996. Print.
Freedman, Kerry. LEADERSHIP in Art Education: Taking Action in Schools and Communities. Art Education 64.2 (2011): 40-5. ProQuest. Web. 28 July 2014.
Henry, Tamara. USATODAY.com – Study: Arts education has academic effect. USATODAY.com – Study: Arts education has academic effect. USATODAY, 19 May 2002. Web. 28 July 2014. <http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/education/2002-05-20-arts.htm>.
How supportive are Americans of arts education in the public schools? Center for Arts and Cultural Policy Studies. The Trustees of Princeton University. Web. 19 Aug. 2014. <http://www.princeton.edu/culturalpolicy/quickfacts/policy/harris92.html>
11 Facts About Arts in Education. dosomething.org. Web. 19 Aug. 2014 <https://www.dosomething.org/facts/11-facts-about-arts-education>
Fang, Marina. Public School Slash Arts Education and Turn to Private Funding. thinkprogress.org. Center for American Progress Action Fund. 5 Aug. 2013. Web. 18 Aug. 2014 <http://thinkprogress.org/education/2013/08/05/2412381/public-schools-slash-arts-education-relying-more-on-private-arts-funding/>
Fitzpatrick, Lauren. CPS Layoffs Hit Arts, Specialty Subjects Hard, CTU Says. suntimes.com. Sun-Times Media, LLC. 6 Sep. 2013. Web. 19 Aug. 2014. <http://www.suntimes.com/21669834-761/cps-layoffs-hit-arts-specialty-subjects-hard-ctu-says.html#.U_UmskuovwJ>
Melnick, Steven A., Judith T. Witmer, and Martha J. Strickland. Cognition and Student Learning through the Arts. Arts Education Policy Review 112.3 (2011): 154. ProQuest. Web. 28 July 2014.
Music Educators of Berks County. The Impact of the Arts on Learning. The Impact of the Arts on Learning. BerksMusic.com, n.d. Web. 28 July 2014. <http://http://www.berksmusic.com/whymusic/whymusicimpactofthearts.html>>