Arts in School; What Difference Do They Really Make?

A really stellar article in the NY Times on the value of arts in school. Two researchers who had written in a study published in 2000 that arts do not help with overall academic performance. There was a tremendous backlash against them and they went on to do another study, arguing that while they stand behind their initial thesis they believe people are viewing arts' value in school incorrectly. From the article:

"The researchers found that the visual arts classes did have broad indirect benefits, even if they were not directly related to quantifiable performance in other subjects. “Students who study the arts seriously are taught to see better, to envision, to persist, to be playful and learn from mistakes, to make critical judgments and justify such judgments,” the authors conclude."

Important to our discussions about what people want in high schools is this excerpt:

"When students who take art also generally do well in school, Ms. Winner and her co- researchers say, this may be because academically strong schools tend to have strong arts programs, or because families who value academic achievement also value achievement in the arts."

So what does it all mean? Here's another thought from the article:

"In campaigning for keeping arts education, some educators say, advocates need to form more realistic arguments.

“Not everything has a practical utility, but maybe it’s experientially valuable,” said Elliot Eisner, a professor emeritus of education at Stanford University. “Learning through the arts promotes the idea that there is more than one solution to a problem, or more than one answer to a question.” "


Unknown said…
Thank you Melissa for posting this article. Ultimately it exposes the same current bias that 'core' subjects are more important than the arts in the US. Under NCLB, the arts are defined as a 'core' subject, but some administrators still believe that if it is not tested, it needn't be taught. WA is going to test in the arts next year, as a result of this linear thinking. Too bad many students haven't been taught the arts prior to the testing. The arts are an invaluable part of life, and should be at the core of most learning experiences in schools. Any esteemed culture can testify to that. Too bad the US only currently values the testing culture for our public schools.
Anonymous said…
I find it difficult to accept the 6 period middle school day. My son plays an instrument, and while I know music is an art, he is unable to participate in any other "arts" or electives because he is in band. I feel like he is being robbed of drama, painting, drawing, modeling, and all of the great electives out there. I feel sad that a kid has to choose an instrument or all other arts and electives. My son, who is passionate about his sax, is thinking of giving it up this year so he can try some other things. To bad he has to make that decision.
Johnyara said…
I think we need to let kids decide for themselves witch subject they would wanted to study. From perspective of teacher, students only should be guided in chosen direction. With invention of internet, there are many online recourses, like bookriff or Wikipedia, which provide free educational material.

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