Monday, September 3, 2007

saving arts education

The summary:
To determine what happens inside arts classes, we spent an academic year studying five visual-arts classrooms in two local Boston-area schools, videotaping and photographing classes, analyzing what we saw, and interviewing teachers and their students.

What we found in our analysis should worry parents and teachers facing cutbacks in school arts programs. While students in art classes learn techniques specific to art, such as how to draw, how to mix paint, or how to center a pot, they're also taught a remarkable array of mental habits not emphasized elsewhere in school.

Such skills include visual-spatial abilities, reflection, self-criticism, and the willingness to experiment and learn from mistakes. All are important to numerous careers, but are widely ignored by today's standardized tests.
As a former band geek and debater, and as a current English teacher and debate coach, I don't need any more proof about the value of the arts. But sadly, more and more policymakers do.

Winner and Hetland argue that arts defenders, by selling the arts as worthwhile inasmuch as they boost learning elsewhere, are selling them short. Read the entire article--I come away thinking they're right.

Now, as long we don't start standardizing the arts...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

In addition to encouraging skills like visual-spatial abilities, reflection, and self-criticism, practicing the arts feeds the creative soul. We often hear in the working world that 'thinking outside the box' is a desired skill for upper level jobs and yet we insist on teaching our kids to mimick specific responses that will get them A's, or 4's on standardized tests. Art provides the perfect medium, the perfect opportunity to let kids experiment, as you say, and learn from both their "failures" and successes. I write "failures" like this because failures are not failures if indeed we learn something from them and they shape the way we interact with our world the next time around. I also think the willingness to experiment in this perfectionist society, for which we start traing our people in elentary school, has diminished. I taught art classes to kids who were homeschooled (yes I understand the differences... and similarities between home school and public school) and a vast majority of them were afraid to get it wrong. They didn't believe me when I told them repeatedly that there is no way to be wrong in art. If I showed them any sort of example nearly the entire class would copy the example, so I had to do away with examples and leave them to wonder just a little. I agree wholeheartedly that all these skills are important to numerous careers, including those which are so far uncharted or just burgeoning like the alternative fuels market and other "green" fields. I agree also that these skills are widely ignored by today's standardized tests and emphasize again their importance by mentioning lastly the confidence it gives children to be able to take academic and creative risks in a safe setting like school. Let's be honest, just about everyone, child and adult alike, could use more confidence. Not to mention a little fun, a little freedom, and a little faith in oneself! All can come from art!