Wednesday, April 22, 2009

DAMage Report - Arts Education: The more things change, the more they stay the same

We tend to think of the battle to create awareness of how important the arts are to the education of our youth as a fairly recent war being waged between art advocates and the unenlightened. A little bit a research uncovered an interesting revelation: this has been an ongoing struggle for well over a hundred years. Same song and dance, just a different century.

A New York Times news story "A Taste in Public Schools"  from April 1897, states "too much attention has been paid to the education of the head, to the neglect of that of the heart and hand. It is through art education that preparation for the higher enjoyment of life is made." Even then, the pleas to regard art as significant and vital filled the news.
A brief travel back in time via news stories showed that the battle was never won. Arts Education appears to have enjoyed a very brief heyday during the 60s and 70s in the schools, when it was incorporated as part of the teaching curriculeum. But the advent of the 80s began the decline, with the snowball headed to hell with ever increasing speed.

In 2006 the Federal Fiscal Year Education Budget Summary proposed to make a cut of 35.6 million dollars in art education. This was tied to the desperate attempt of schools to find funding to support the No Child Left Behind mandates that focused on "core" subjects. Cut arts, it's not important. People want their kids to have a focus on maths and sciences.

We assume that the general public doesn't understand the need for the Arts but according to Americans for the Arts:
  • 69 percent of American voters believe that, when compared to other nations, America devotes less attention to developing the imagination and innovation.
  • 86 percent of voters believe that encouraging children to be creative and develop their imagination is necessary to maintain our competitive edge and ensure we do not fall behind other countries.
  • 83 percent of voters believe that a greater focus on the arts—alongside science, technology, and math—would better prepare students to address the demands of the 21st century.
So who are we fighting to educate about the importance of art? The statistics to support the importance of Arts to education are solid and readily available.
A recent Huffington Post story provided these relevent stats:

The research has shown that youth 'at risk' benefit the most from arts-integrated programming. Young people living in challenging circumstances tend to be creatives because they need so much flexibility, creativity and improvisation to survive challenging circumstances. Their assets are typically enormous and under-recognized. The arts can be life-saving and life-affirming for young people who have been discarded by the culture. 

Young people who participate in the arts for at least three hours on three days each week through at least one full year are:

• 4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement

• 3 times more likely to be elected to class office within their schools

• 4 times more likely to participate in a math and science fair

• 3 times more likely to win an award for school attendance

• 4 times more likely to win an award for writing an essay or poem

Young artists, as compared with their peers, are likely to:

• Attend music, art, and dance classes nearly three times as frequently

• Participate in youth groups nearly four times as frequently

• Read for pleasure nearly twice as often

• Perform community service more than four times as often

Believe it or not, these are strikingly similar to the arguments made throughout the last two centuries. We seem to be yelling the same message over and over, yet the arts continue to be "trimmed" further and further back.

Soon, there will be nothing left to trim, because we will have no artists, no arts and a country filled with an uninspired, hopeless workforce of drudges.


Paul said...

That is a fantastic article, Lakota. I have no idea what the answer to your question is but I wanted to leave a note to say I noticed how spectacularly well researched and well written that is.

Anonymous said...

"...Soon.....we will have.....a country filled with an uninspired, hopeless workforce of drudges...."

This would be a Capitalist's wet dream!
As a former, almost reformed, capitalist pig I can understand why the Arts are being trimmed to extinction.