The Arts Are Dead! Long Live The Arts!

Did you look forward to your arts classes when you were at school? Or were they mostly a waste of time? Or non-existent?

Today, January 31, is Art Day, which makes it the perfect opportunity to reflect on the impoortance of the arts in K-12 education. In spite of, or perhaps because of, my own experience attending a British high school where the arts were not considered important if you were on the brainy track (I was), it’s clear to me that an arts education is crucial. It’s not just about allowing kids to develop right-brain skills of flexible thinking and creative problem-solving, but also to ensure an enriched cultural appetite, stronger analytical skills, and higher achievement in other subjects. That was the conclusion of a 2008 study by The Education Commission of the States, which found that arts can play a critical role in improving the academic performance of students.  In a national sample of 25,000 students, those students “with high levels of arts-learning experiences” earned higher grades and scored better on standardized tests than those with little or no involvement in the arts-regardless of socioeconomic status.  Learning through the arts also appears to have significant effects on learning in other disciplines, with “students consistently involved in theater and music showing higher levels of success in math and reading.”

And of course these classes are also fun. I’ve known plenty of students in my teaching career who were pretty turned-off to school, and would have dropped out, but the chance of performing in the school jazz band, or showing their
work in the art show, kept them coming back.

So what’s going on in arts education today? With so much research documenting how arts education can improve test scores, it’s ironic that since the advent of No Child Left Behind(NCLB), with its emphasis on the importance of these scores, the amount of hours devoted to the arts in our nation’s schools has deteriorated. A survey by the Center on Education Policy in 2006 found that in the five years after enactment of NCLB, 44 percent of districts nationwide had increased instruction time in elementary school English language arts and math while decreasing time spent on other subjects, including art, music, science and social studies. A further analysis, released in February 2008, showed that a further 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 57 minutes a week. In a typical scenario, a middle school in California saw its final orchestra performance in May 2005, when the local school board decided to eliminate instrumental music instruction in its fifteen schools in order to save money; a New Hampshire school board elected to eliminate elementary music, art, and physical education programs districtwide. The future of arts education in our public schools looks even more grim, to judge by what’s going on in Los Angeles. Due to the budget crisis, the Los Angeles Unified School District(LAUSD) plans to eliminate 50% of its elementary arts teachers (dance, music-general/vocal and instrumental,
theatre and visual arts), or 173 of 345 teachers for the 2010-2011 school year, and fire the remaining 50% in 2011-2012.

Thankfully, there are some signs of hope around the country: in Dallas a coalition of arts advocates, philanthropists, educators and business leaders has worked hard to get arts into all schools. Today, for the first time in thirty years, evey elementary student in the Dallas Independent School District receives forty-five minutes a week of art and music instruction. A similar push is happening in Minneapolis and Chicago, where arts advocates are working to bring sustainable arts programs to the schools, not add-ons that can disappear with a budget crisis. And Arizona’s state superintendent of public instruction, Tom Horne, has made it his goal to bring high-quality, comprehensive arts education to all K-12 students.

“When you think about the purposes of education, there are three,” Horne says. “We’re preparing kids for jobs. We’re preparing them to be citizens. And we’re teaching them to be human beings who can enjoy the deeper forms of beauty. The third is as important as the other two.” Now if only Horne could have a word with Ramon Cortines, the superintendent of the LAUSD!

So what are you doing to do to celebrate Art Day?

Creative Commons - Nazareth College
Judy Molland


LMj Sunshine
James Merit5 years ago

Thank you.

LMj Sunshine
James Merit5 years ago

Thank you.

Karilyn K.
Karilyn K7 years ago

The arts are so important. They teach creativity, self esteem, and resourcefulness...but they also teach one how to think differently and to question the way things are ~ I think that the goverment prefers "little soldiers" to a group of free thinkers and this is part of the lack of support.

David Gunness
David Gunness7 years ago

I recently passed the state certification in teaching and now am as a student teacher. There are more then just an art, many people do not realize that it has several branches, such as an architecture is one of closest art branch! Eventually, engineering has its long history since Leonardo Da Vinci as a linear art! In addition, a new art branch that is a digital art such as a Pixar animation program.

Yoni Rowland
sophia R7 years ago

Speaking from personal experience the arts are just as important as any other subject, they should not be lost!!!!

Ellinor S.
Ellinor S7 years ago

thank you

Anubandh S.

correct! arts education is really important. science, research and other things are very important for enhancing reasoning and ability to think but without the education of arts people will be simply converted into Living Robots and that is what is even happening.

gerlinde p.
gerlinde p7 years ago

arts are important in education. i loved arts and crafts lessons.

leona l.
.7 years ago

I really wish that arts was not phased out in schools because it accents or reinforces everything that is taught as core classes in schools. I; in my later years took an art class to enhance my drawing skills. I was surprized that it was done mathematically and not by feeling or see and then draw. There was structure to it. Even when talking up dance in my later years, how that art form involved math and counting and sequencing. Plus there is a relaxation and learning to appreciate sght and sound and movement. I think we cheat ourselves out of all life has to offer if we deny our kids the exposure of being taught art. We say we can't afford it, but we cannot afford not to. If by some means they do succeed in taking art out of schools can we develop art academies and contract out this special knowledge to yet be made available to our kids? We can fund wars unlimited for death and destruction, yet we cannot promote life and living with the quality of it. We should not have to qualify that we need art education and with art I am including music too, in schools. It is a given. The way this/our money system is ran in america confuses me. There is unlimited funding for wars but on the home front money is said to be scarce. How is it scarce for domestic issues and plentiful for military issues. It doesn't make sense to me. Our president Obama says Americans need to be proficient in the maths and sciences to compete in the world, so I say keep the arts in schools to reinforce the

David D.
David D7 years ago

The legacy of the Bush deficit plunge will be decades. We may go back to sticks, rocks, and dirt.
If you can find some water you've got mud.
Thus passes civilization under GOP rule.