In today’s day and age, budget cuts are a fact of life. Whether private or public, no school is completely safe from the unnerving effect of a tightening belt. Within that realm, unfortunately, the Arts are usually the ones who find themselves on the chopping block. While the Arts programs are seen as the easiest to cut back, we – as a society – need to take a step back and reevaluate the situation. Theatre, Art, and Music have proven themselves to be equally as important in the classroom as the Core classes they are often sacrificed for.
According to EducationFund.org, “A strong arts education promotes the skills children need to be successful.” But what does this mean? Over the last several decades, studies have shown that the inclusion of the Arts programs – both performance and visual – increase academic achievement, encourage both emotional and social development, and heighten a child’s civic engagement on a broader level.
There has been a large misconception over the last three decades that the Arts, while enjoyable, are not necessary. The need to increase concentration on test scores and standardized curriculums has left little room in student’s day and a school’s budget – forcing educators to rely on the parents to provide any Arts education or contact. While it has been shown that children from affluent backgrounds remain exposed to the Arts in these cases, those from a lower-income environment are robbed of this experience. “Arts education enables those children from a financially challenged background to have a more level playing field with children who have had those enrichment experiences,” says Eric Cooper, president and founder of the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education.
The connection between Arts education and academic achievement is undeniable. Due to new, all-inclusive studies being conducted across the US, results in this comparative study are singing the praises of Arts Education by showing that children surrounded by the Arts programs tend to produce higher test results in Common Core subjects – such as math and reading. “Exposure to Arts Education promotes self-directed learning, improves school attendance and sharpens critical and creative skills,” explains Education Fund regarding the Importance of Arts Education.
In addition to increasing achievement across the board, the Arts serve as a cultural tool – a bridge – in which children can find a common ground. The Arts transcend language barriers, and are capable of increasing cultural awareness outside of the child’s classroom; exposing them to an entire world that they were unaware of before. While reading about a culture in a history textbook is educational for some, other students are visual learners and the Arts can help increase their cultural diversity and awareness in a way that no textbook ever could.
Dr. Kerry Freedman, Head of Art and Design Education at Northern Illinois University, urges parents and educators to recognize the importance of Arts Education, especially in the early years. “Children need to know more about the world than just what they can learn through text and numbers,” states Freedman. “Art education teaches students how to interpret, criticize, and use visual information, and how to make choices based on it.” When taught from an early age, these skills can assist a child in expanding their motor skills, language development, and decision making abilities.
As these developments in new model studies have begun to reshape the way our government thinks about Arts Education, there is still room for improvement. Currently, forty-seven states in the collective US have instilled mandated Arts Education; thanks in part to the Clinton and Bush administrations. And, as more of these decade-long studies reveal their findings, proving to parents, educators, and politicians that Theatre, Art, and Music are vital in our children’s education – the support will continue to rise.