Teachers teach remotely, and parents are helping students at home. Hopefully, children and teens are doing art. Self-expression is important, and art calms and leads to self-discovery. When public schools reopen, when it’s safe to do so, parents and teachers must demand a return of art education with qualified art teachers! Music and drama are critical too, but this post focuses on art classes.
Due to high stakes testing and the no excuses agenda, teaching art became obsolete especially in poor schools. Underfunded school districts removed art classes from the curriculum years ago. They pushed more reading and test preparation.
Nina Rees is President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools. Rees was once a senior education policy analyst for the Heritage Foundation and helped develop NCLB. Once asked “Do you consider art and music ‘frills,’ or would you say they are necessary to good elementary education?” she answered:
It depends. If a student is attending an affluent school that has the budget to invest in such things, then I see many benefits to adding art and music courses. What I object to is focusing the attention of poor school systems on these activities. Schools should be in the business of teaching students the basics. If they fail to teach students how to read and write, it makes no sense to ask them to offer music! In a perfect world, these are decisions that I wish parents could make and pay for.
Rees implies that the arts are only for children in wealthy schools! Educators know that the arts and academics complement one another. It’s detrimental to get rid of the arts in poor schools. Children in underfunded schools deserve art as much as students in rich schools.
All children deserve access to art classes. Dedicated public school art classes bring children together. Art is important for children with disabilities, gifted, twice exceptional students, and children and teens who have anxiety or depression.
Art is critical for the joy it brings, but it helps students improve in other subjects.
- Visual Motor Skills
- Eye-Hand Coordination
- Fine Motor Skills.
- Figure-Ground Perception
- Spatial Relationships.
- Nonverbal Communication
- Self Confidence
- Focusing Skills
- Interpretation Capability
- Ability to see Patterns
Some schools resort to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math). It’s an addition to STEM, an art project added to classwork in other subjects. Interjecting art into the curriculum is a nice touch, but it will never replace a dedicated art class with a qualified art teacher, an integral part of the curriculum.
Other schools rely on outside partnerships to fund some art, instead of no art. Or they hire artisans, not qualified teachers, to teach some art. But this is more like extra art, not a fully funded school art program.
Some cities showcase the Very Special Arts Festival, the equivalent to Special Olympics, only it’s about art. These festivals give children and adults with developmental disabilities opportunities to exhibit their art. School is where students have the best chance of learning about and doing art.
All children appreciate art. Students better understand other artists and art if they get the opportunity to do art.
Public schools must offer dedicated, fully funded art classes, with resources that support and encourage children to do art.
If nonprofit art programs like Americans for the Arts want to encourage the arts in children, they must get behind putting art classes and dedicated art teachers back into every single public school in the country! This should be their goal.
Turnaround Arts should also ensure that every child has access to a well-funded art program, with certified art teachers, in their public schools. It’s unfair to take art classes out of school and replace it in only a few schools.
This country should be able to fund the arts in all schools. School districts should not have to rely on partnerships and donations to fund art programs in public schools.
I have updated my website and added new links to The Arts found under School Curriculum on this website. If you want to share sites or information that could help with the arts please do.
Pinterest has many art ideas that might pique your student’s interest.
Do not ignore the importance of art education!
Laura H. Chapman says
Nancy, Thank you for this excellent list of resources and for your advocacy on behalf of arts education. If you tweak the list you should point out that Americans for the Arts is the lobby for The National Endowment for The Arts and that both have trickle down policies to state arts councils. Both entries have as a major purpose promoting artists as if they are qualified teachers, but working in a gig economy, offering few classes for a fee, or a longer “residency” also for a fee. As a person who has received a life-time achievement award from the National Art Education Association (named for Elliot Eisner) and who has worked on NAEP assessments in the arts, I note that a major research report on access to instruction in the arts (in your resources) was conducted with data from 2009. You should know that a major data project is currently underway with representatives from The National Art Education Association and Americans for the Arts. In 2005, the National Endowment for the Arts had not formal policy bearing on arts education. I devoted a chapter in my book about that: (2005) INSTANT ART, INSTANT CULTURE: THE UNSPOKEN POLICY FOR AMERICAN SCHOOLS. Reston VA: National Art Education Association (“NAEA Classics Series” reprinted by permission of the author and Teachers College Press). Then and to a lesser extent now, the federal architecture for education and for the arts operate separately, and more often than not, separately from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Some frail connection with the National Science Foundation are constructed to promote STEM as STEAM..So, so far at least the federal architecture has four major silos, one each for the arts, sciences, and humanities, and one for education, with education differently regarded in the arts, sciences, and humanities.
So cheers for the arts and for your stong and well-informed advocacy from the perspective of an EDUCATOR.
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you, Laura, for stating this much better. I appreciate it. I will tweak it. I have been trying to better understand that whole process. I’ve known for a long time that something was wrong, and you cleared it up for me! Let me look at this closely and revise what I said. Artisans make nice visitors to demonstrate a technique, but students deserve art classrooms with art teachers. I’ll add your book title too. It sounds like a good one. Interesting summer reading on a serious issue! Thanks again!
Nancy Bailey says
Thank you, Diane Ravitch!