Art in Education – Not Just an Elective?

I was reading the post from MARGOTGIRERD and followed her link to the article. I am sorry to discuss this article again, but I found it too interesting to resist. 

I am interested in teaching English in high schools. But English isn’t my only interest, especially not while I was in high school. I was really involved in my school’s theatre program and the classes – yes I was (and still sort of am) a theatre nerd. I loved the stress of the theatre, but also the creations it would bring to life on a simple stage. I loved the break I got from my life by being a spectator for other characters. I got involved and by my senior year I was the stage manager for our school musical. The thrill of putting together something so great and large was my driving force, but it was also a lot of stress. I spent long hours working with actors, my director, and the other techies backstage. Then, when opening night came and went, I was so proud and felt extremely accomplished. 

Later for a college class I had to observe a classroom, and I chose to go back and watch my past theatre teacher in her IB Theatre class. I interviewed her afterwards and I heard some answers that I wasn’t happy to hear. She told me that state funding was cutting back on the arts budgeting and the administration for our school wasn’t backing her or the other teachers up. She told me, to her, the administration was basically tell her that her passion and interest wasn’t important enough. “It is like a giant slap in the face,” she said. 

When I came across this article, I wanted to send it to her immediately, as well as my school district’s head honchos. It shows that all areas of interest are important to learning. But more recently, research shows that art education is linked to “almost everything that we as a nation say we want for our children and demand from our schools.” This article explains our demands as: academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable opportunity. 

If this is what we want for our students and future citizens, why wouldn’t we appreciate it more? By being involved in the arts (music, theatre, visual arts, etc.) students are also associated with math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skills. “Arts learning can also improve motivation, concentration, confidence, and teamwork.” There are so many benefits from art education that are overlooked, and honestly, it’s disappointing. For something that seems so important to growing brains, it isn’t being treated so.

In many schools today, the areas of focus are mainly English, math, sciences, and reading/writing. All of these are subjects that we see on the SAT and ACT. So teachers are forced to focus more on these subjects because students’ test scores and acceptance into colleges depends on it! (I’m being sarcastic…) Students who are interested in the arts should not have the administration telling them it isn’t as important as math. 

As someone who is still interested and passionate about art, I think that studying and researching the benefit of art education is very important for our students’ futures. By having students stretch their minds and become well practiced in logical areas as well as creative areas, they will be better rounded and more experienced in their areas of interest/possible passions to pursue. 

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