Academic Benefits of Arts Learning

I discovered this easy-to-read article about the benefits of arts education, specifically, in early childhood education. Here’s a pertinent excerpt:

A Harris Poll taken in 2005 measured American’s attitudes toward arts education and found that an astounding 93% agreed that the arts are a vital part of a well-rounded education, while 86% believed that children’s attitudes toward school are improved by a good arts education. More than half – 54% – rated the importance of arts education a “10” on a one-to-ten scale. Head Start, state school boards, No Child Left Behind requirements, teachers, and researchers all recommend (my italics) quality arts education. Arts education funding is oftentimes tight, with programming sacrificed for those subjects considered more “academic.”

The author, Kathreen Francis, goes on to explore in brief several other studies which cite the academic benefits of (for the most part) dance and music education. She continues with:

Perhaps more importantly than test scores and grades are the less tangible, but powerful effects that critical study of the arts can give us. These include cognitive skills such as reasoning ability, problem solving skills, creativity and inventiveness, all of which are improved when children discuss, create and participate in the arts. They learn to draw inferences and strengthen their abstract thinking. Research in “Critical Evidence” found increases in fluency, originality and improvisation among children with a good integrated arts education.

Unfortunately, Ms. Francis stops several steps short of saying anything truly useful. Sure, we care about statistics because we can understand them, and we care about “the less tangible, but powerful effects.” But what is most significant is the fact that our leaders in education merely “recommend (my italics) quality arts education.” Even with all of Ms. Francis’ cited research, our leaders still neglect to make it a requirement that children are exposed to integrated arts programs. They continue to be more concerned with test scores than the creation of a whole child. We need people like Ms. Francis to go beyond cutesy lines like “Make Time for Art’s Sake!” and start advocating for the required inclusion of arts curriculum.

Learning about the laws of physics, addition, verbs, and government are useless if our children are incapable of “reasoning, problem solving, creating and inventing.”

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