As the United States tries to keep up with the educational trends and demands of the modern world, our schools’ curriculums have shifted heavily toward the common core subjects of reading and math. But are those seemingly pure “academic” trends and demands enough for the overall development of our children?
What about art? While funding and time dedicated to the arts is diminishing in schools, research is showing that education in creative arts provides some of the most fundamental building blocks for academic, mental, and social development. This is true particularly in children. The correlation is clearly stated in a report by Americans for the Arts:
“Young people who participate regularly in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair, to be elected to class office, likely to have higher SAT scores, and are less likely to drop out of school than children who do not participate”. The report goes on to state that art education strengthens problem-solving and innovative thinking skills and increases academic performance overall, resulting in not only better students, but better human beings.”
Art schools and creative programs such as dance, theater, and music classes are booming in places where parents have the vision and desire to provide development and well-rounded educational opportunities for their children. Parents are realizing that it is up to them to supplement the in-school/class curriculum with the arts. Those who provide creative programs in the community and in the home see that students not only learn “creativity skills” in these programs; creative art experiences teach students how to use their brains in different ways than in typical academic learning. In addition, the non-threatening/non-competitive environment of an art class or other creative experience provides a safe enironment where kids feel free to explore; to feel like they “fit in” and can be successful in class.
“Practice makes perfect”, “Small differences can have large effects”, “Collaboration leads to creativity”: These are a few of the life lessons a child can learn in an art class. The arts also teach children that there are several paths to take when approaching problems and that all problems can have more than one solution. This is a great departure from the typical academic line of thought which can crush confidence and individuality while learning experiences are increasingly mainstreamed and competitive in nature.
Leonardo Da Vinci best captured the relationship between the arts and sciences in his claim that the two are separate, but intertwining paths that lead one to the same end: Knowledge. For now it is up to parents to supplement the schools’ academic education with the fundamental basics of creativity until schools finally circle around and realize they have missed a very important aspect of a child’s education and development. Meanwhile, we all need to keep focused on the “why” behind supporting the arts in education, our communities, and in our homes.
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