Experts Say These Programs Are Essential — So Why Are They Disappearing From Our Schools?

Children can be so creative and imaginative, and most parents and teachers want to foster these traits.

Many schools have put academics ahead of the arts, sometimes cutting programs altogether.

But they should take a second look at what the experts say about the importance of creative pursuits – and how they influence academics.

As school districts have put a heavy emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) classes in recent years, electives like art, music, and drama have taken a back seat.

While core academics are of course essential, many administrators don’t understand what is at stake if the arts are given a low priority in our schools.

Sometimes these programs are cut due to budgetary concerns; sometimes because states determine there just isn’t enough time when the focus seems to be “teaching to the test.”

Not only do the arts teach the value of practice, individuality, and collaboration, these courses also offer a respite from academic stress during the school day.

Even more, research has shown that arts education improves interest and motivation in academics, attendance rates, and overall student conduct.

Psychology professor Paul T. Snowden of England is concerned with the decline in arts education in both the U.K. and the U.S.

He tells the New York Times that, “when children are younger, arts education helps develop their capacity for collaboration, for creativity, and even for asking questions.”

Snowden continued, “their executive function is much more developed, their ability to sustain attentional tasks is much greater.” The arts offer the opportunity for kids to master a skill over time.

He believes that it is vital to continue to offer art courses in all schools, whether it’s visual arts or performing arts like music, drama, and dance.

Practicing these pursuits leads to feelings of accomplishment, higher self-esteem, resilience, and determination – vital skills when working to understand core academics like math.

Americans for the Arts shares many of the benefits of arts education on our students – and the results are stunning.

Children involved in an artistic course in school are four times more likely to attain recognition for high academic achievement.

Students who take several years of visual or performing arts classes average almost 100 points higher on college entrance exams like the SAT than those who don’t.

For students who come from “low socio-economic backgrounds,” the arts can make all the difference.

The school dropout rate of children who receive regular arts education is five times less than those who don’t.  These same students are twice as likely to graduate from college as low-income students who are not exposed to the arts.

And the benefits continue into adulthood.  Nearly 75 percent of employers say creativity is essential in hiring – in fact, it is the number one skill they look for.

Likewise, 98 percent of adults think that the arts are essential for receiving a well-rounded education.

With statistics like these, you’d think arts education would be prioritized in schools, but that is rarely the case.

Education Week notes that “arts integration” – the use of the arts in teaching academic subjects — shows “promise for enabling students to learn and retain academic content.  [They] are more likely to show better academic outcomes, transfer knowledge from arts to non-arts domains, and demonstrate greater motivation and engagement in learning.”

Two-thirds of public school teachers say the arts are being pushed out of school curricula in favor of academics – especially preparation for more and more standardized tests.

And many teachers know that putting a creative spin on academic lessons makes the lessons “stick” in a profound way, but they are often discouraged from doing so.

It is high time that state and local school districts recognize how vital the arts are in developing skills and positive character traits in our children.

The studies don’t lie – the arts improve kids’ concentration, mood, motivation, and interest in school.

It’s just that simple.

What do you think of the fact that many school districts are reducing or all-out dropping the arts from their curriculum?  Leave us your comments.

 

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