Tonight was our daughters’ art show at school. How fortunate they go to a public school where arts are taken seriously! How great to see pint size pupils portrayals of Picasso! How fantastic to see both the principal, vice-principal, and a great crowd of parents and community members turn out to support the arts at this smallish, rural elementary school! The Art Club is one of the man y clubs offered at the elementary school as an after school activity. Just a nicety, think again.
The arts have many purposes in our life, with sheer enjoyment topping the list. At the Edutopia website, the article “Why Arts Education is Crucial and Who is Doing It Best,” by Fran Smith, looks at why it needs to be viewed as an essential element in our schools. It discusses how through the years, research has consistently shown that arts is linked to gains in: math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skill. It has also been found to improve motivation, concentration, confidence, team work, and to level the iniquity that can exist with arts, when one looks at the exposure someone may have to the arts in a more affluent home compared to a low-income one. Art is widely realized and valued across our country, with 47 states having arts education mandates. There have been many fantastic collaborations between strong arts communities and schools, with examples of schools in the Minneapolis and Chicago School Districts cited.
Yet it has become something of an endangered species. As an original article from 2009, it discusses how the USA Federal ‘No Child Left Behind’ Mandate led many schools to decrease overall time spent participating in the arts, to place an increasingly narrow focus on reading and math:
A 2006 national survey by the Center on Education Policy, an independent advocacy organization in Washington, DC, found that in the five years after enactment of NCLB, 44 percent of districts had increased instruction time in elementary school English language arts and math while decreasing time spent on other subjects. A follow-up analysis, released in February 2008, showed that 16 percent of districts had reduced elementary school class time for music and art — and had done so by an average of 35 percent, or fifty-seven minutes a week.
I am curious as to what your child’s school is doing with the arts in wake of the new Common Core Standards. Another Edutopia blog article “Use Arts Integration to Enhance Common Core,” by Susan Riley, discusses one arts integration specialist’s ideas for enhancing Common Core practices through the arts. It makes sense on paper, but does it make sense at your child’s school? Are there the resources to make these ideas happen? Is there the know how and savvyness to make this happen at your child’s school? I would really like to know how you see this playing out. My fear is that just like with No Child Left Behind, art and great art shows will be a casualty and a consequence of overemphasis on testing focused on math and ELA skills, at the expense of great learning and enjoyment in a wider array of subject areas. I hope I am proved wrong….