Supporting the whole child, but not with arts education

There is a lot of talk these days about meeting the needs of the “whole child.” Once past the bizarre visual image of a less-than-whole child that the phrase tends to conjure up, we understand its intent, and, in near unanimity, we agree there should be more student supports that actually prevent problems from arising in the first place.

In April, the National Education Association convened a panel of 100 of the country’s top educators. Many asserted that students need more than a curriculum focused in reading and mathematics, saying America’s students also need opportunities to learn more about career technical education, social sciences, and the arts. Yes, that’s right—the arts, as in music and art classes. It seems reasonable that to fully address the issue of whole-child supports, we need to nurture children’s minds in every way, including the unique ways that music and art offer.

Last month, the president’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities released the report, Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future through Creative Schools, the result of an 18-month in-depth review of the current condition of arts education, research about its benefits, and opportunities for advancing it. The report acknowledges one effect of high-stakes testing has been a trend away from arts education, but it also identifies the increased interest of civic and business leaders in arts education as a positive and promising development that somewhat counters that effect. Then it dives into some lesser known research. How many educators know the work of anthropologist Shirley Brice Heath or education researcher Milbrey McLaughlin? Do parents and teachers know these researchers found links among arts education, school attendance, and high academic achievement? The report’s authors also describe impressive longitudinal studies and findings from neuroscience that suggest “early arts education is a building block of developing brain function” (p. 22). Lastly, they make several recommendations, including developing the field of arts integration and reinforcing the role of arts education through federal and state policies. Yet, the larger question is whether there is enough public will to act on any of the committee’s recommendations, despite a few influential voices.

It may be that neuroscience will be the driver that restores art and music to America’s classrooms.

Knowing this, one can only ask, if we really care about supporting the “whole child,” and we know that our brains work better when we are being creative, why in the world are we eliminating arts education from our schools?

[Go here to watch a TED Talk on artistic creativity as a neurologic product: Charles Limb: Your brain on improv | Video on TED.com]

See how two teachers are integrating art and politics: Schools That Work: Integrating Art and Politics to Improve High School Student Engagement | Edutopia

11 Comments

  • All education like career technical, social sciences and the arts is require for the students. With that students can make their career in their favorite field.

  • Janet Bissett says:

    Thank you so much for posting this article. I read most of President Obama’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities report titled “Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future through Creative Schools”. I am excited to know that our president realizes the importance of art and music in America’s classroom. I agree with you that neuroscience may be the driving force to restore art and music to America’s classroom. Also, thank you for posting the link for “Charles Limb: Your brain on improv” Video on TED.com. The research on the activity in the brain during “improv” vs. “memorized” music is facinating. It does seem that Science needs to catch up to Art, as Charles Limb closed with.

  • R. Marks says:

    The philosophy and practice within America’s public school system today is largely driven by the Bush administration’s No Child Left Behind Act of 2002. Critics of the policy claim that by basing school funding on achievement in only three subject areas –math, reading, and writing—school administrators have reduced or eliminated time allocated to the study of other subjects, thus depriving students of a balanced education (Beveridge, 2010). Though it would be difficult to argue against the importance of competence in math, reading, and writing, the fact that compulsory public education ends at age eighteen places a heavy burden on school boards and politicians to consider carefully that those formative years of study not only yield a satisfactory product upon graduation, but also plant the seeds for future success in all areas that society deems worthy of its citizens. A comprehensive primary and secondary curriculum, then, will be designed with vision, patience, and a balance among the various disciplines so that it respects all learners and learning styles.
    Yet, in present day schooling it is precisely this lack of a vision, patience, and balance that brings about feelings of resentment and discouragement among teachers who instruct in subjects that have been marginalized by federal, state, and local education policy makers. Though these policies have at their core the noble intention of promoting achievement in specific academic areas, they also have unintended consequences which find their way into the classrooms where the less important subjects are taught.
    References
    Beveridge, T. (2010). No child left behind and fine arts classes. Arts Education Policy Review, 111, 4-7. doi: 10.1080/10632910903228090

  • M. Mata says:

    I am a CTE teacher and this is a very important topic that is discussed frequently by the elective teachers during PLC meetings at my school. Unfortunately, the school system that I work for cut back music and arts positions for the 2011-12 school year. I think it is extremely important to integrate creativity through art and music into the lives of our students. Music, art and CTE courses gives students the outlet they need beyond SOL testing preparations.

  • Lynn Betterton says:

    Music and the arts are critical pieces to having a well rounded education for all students, both can be related back to other areas of the curriculum and enhance learning for all.

  • Tierney says:

    Even without the arts being reinstated in districts with diminishing budgets, teachers that understand the value of the arts will integrate them into reading, math and science as much as possible. This is not the ideal situation, but until the arts are considered by more people to be of critical value to educating the “whole student” it the job of classroom teachers to integrate the creative arts into daily education. I do this whenever applicable, but I am looking forward to the time when my students will receive the proper education in the arts that they deserve.

  • C. Cohn says:

    It certainly is unfortunate that schools struggle to keep arts programs when it is proven that they are beneficial for students’ education. Although this does not make up for the lack of arts in school, teachers can implement arts lessons into their own classrooms. However, this should not be viewed as classroom teachers picking up the slack when it comes to providing arts education. It should be seen as a wonderful opportunity to bring lessons to life and reach students in different ways.
    I am currently taking part in a summer Professional Development program about Arts Integration. It is provided by Young Audiences of Maryland (http://www.yamd.org/). We have artists teaching us how to incorporate dance, music, visual art, and theater into our ordinary lessons. At first it seems overwhelming, but eventually it is natural to make connections between fine arts and core curriculum standards. If you are a teacher who is interested in integrating arts into your own classroom, I would suggest looking for connections between the standards to help you implement the arts successfully. Some ideas are analyzing illustrations using knowledge of art, utilizing drama to act out sequences of events and character traits, correlating music to counting and patterns in math, and making cultural connections to dances from various countries.
    If classroom teachers take the initiative to implement arts into their lessons, they educate students more completely. Some students may find an interest in an area they were unaware of before. This could be a sense of motivation for them in school.

  • Sepeda Anak says:

    Arts might be important to stimulate their creativity. If they can explore things as in their imagination, other lesson can be understand easily.

  • Tanya McHenry says:

    I.T has become a part of life, but if we take the arts out of the schools students may never get the chance to experience their own creativity and therefore develop as well rounded individuals.

  • Nofian says:

    Even without the arts being reinstated in districts with diminishing budgets, teachers that understand the value of the arts will integrate them into reading, math and science as much as possible. This is not the ideal situation, but until the arts are considered by more people to be of critical value to educating the “whole student” it the job of classroom teachers to integrate the creative arts into daily education. I do this whenever applicable, but I am looking forward to the time when my students will receive the proper education in the arts that they deserve.

  • I am a CTE teacher and this is a very important topic that is discussed frequently by the elective teachers during PLC meetings at my school. Unfortunately, the school system that I work for cut back music and arts positions for the 2011-12 school year.

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