When it comes to educating today’s youth, you rarely hear that students need more exposure to the arts. Rather, some schools are electing to remove or minimize arts education due to budget cuts. In a world focused on college and career readiness, we are seeing an increase in STEM programs and helping students with the most basic skills – reading and math.
I am not trying to say that reading and math are not important. They are the backbone of a solid education. It is almost impossible to find a job where those skills are not required. To prepare students for a successful future, more time and energy is being spent on reading and math instruction – primarily to work toward higher test scores. When schools need extra time to work with struggling students, it seems that the most natural choice is to take them out of their “fun” classes – like art, music, and drama.
Yes, the arts are fun…but they are also critical to a well-rounded education. Through the arts, we learn emotion, expression, social development, and problem-solving. Tom Forcella, a North Carolina superintendent, recently wrote, “Increasingly, the arts are recognized for developing the 21st century skills of critical thinking, creativity, communication and collaboration.” Lisa Phillips, an arts educator, wrote an article which contains the “Top 10 Skills Children Learn from the Arts”. Among them, she lists confidence, perseverance, focus, and accountability, as well as the ability to receive constructive criticism. (You can view the complete list on the Washington Post’s blog.)
Now, consider an entry-level job in the workforce – like a sales associate for a retail store. A sales associate is responsible not only for sales numbers, but customer satisfaction. In order to please a customer and find what they are looking, a sales associate needs to use critical thinking skills to creatively solve the problem of what to buy. Effective communication is essential, as well as confidence in yourself and your product. To ensure a sale, the associate must focus on the customer’s situation with perseverance. The sales staff must collaborate regularly to discuss tactics and new strategies. Furthermore, every employee must be held accountable for their actions and should know how to receive constructive criticism.
So if the arts teach us all of these things, why are they still being cut? Some districts consider the arts to be a sinkhole – a program that drains the school’s money. Why spend money preparing students for a jazz concert that might attract 100 people when schools can coach students for a basketball game that will guarantee at least twice as many? It seems that more people would still rather attending sporting events than concerts, plays, and exhibits. But think about it – when was the last time you heard of a student getting a full ride to college on a drama scholarship?
While it is true that other school subjects and practices do teach students these skills, one cannot deny that the arts are beneficial for student development. Forcella certainly agrees.
“I have come to appreciate the important of arts as a necessary component of life – and I never want a child to feel excluded from this arena based on perceived levels of talent or access to quality instruction in the arts.”
I couldn’t agree more.
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Forcella, Tom. “Tom Forcella: Arts Essential to Well-Rounded Education.” Chapel Hill: Opinion | The News & Observer. The News & Observer, 5 Apr. 2015. Web. 21 Apr. 2015.
Strauss, Valerie, and Lisa Phillips. “Top 10 Skills Children Learn from the Arts.” The Washington Post. The Washington Post, 22 Jan. 2013. Web. 21 Apr. 2015.