I believe there is growing momentum toward a real commitment to arts education. At this point it’s just words. Eventually it would have to turn into policy. But the words are encouraging.
From the DC Advocates Site:
Secretary of Education Arne Duncan circulated a letter calling for support for rigorous arts education programming two weeks ago. The letter stated in part, “At this time when you are making critical and far-reaching budget and program decisions for the upcoming school year, I write to bring to your attention the importance of the arts as a core academic subject and part of a complete education for all students. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) defines the arts as a core subject, and the arts play a significant role in children’s development and learning process. The arts can help students become tenacious, team-oriented problem solvers who are confident and able to think creatively. These qualities can be especially important in improving learning among students from economically disadvantaged circumstances. However, recent National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results found that only 57 percent of eighth graders attended schools where music instruction was offered at least three or four times a week, and only 47 percent attended schools where visual arts were offered that often.” See more here, and see the original letter here.
From my interview with Agnes Gund, MOMA chair emerita for OvationTV:
Rob: Over the course of your career you have worked tirelessly to support not only fine arts, but education, and arts education. Do you think public schools should be required to provide arts education for all students? If so, what kind of arts education programming should be required?
Agnes: I believe very strongly that every elementary school, junior high school and high school student should have a good, solid music and visual arts curriculum. From pre-kindergarden on, each child should experience these subjects. If we track children that are involved in solid, well-constructed and well-taught programs from the start of their school years, we will see that they gain skills and applications that transfer to other areas in their lives. When complaints arise that the arts are frivolous, they stem from the fact that art classes arent always taught as broad, deep and important subjects.
The excellent blueprints developed for music and art by the New York City Department of Education demonstrate how seriously and academically enhancing these subjects can and should be. Serious study of the arts allows children to master important principles and vocabulary, to experience creativity, to understand perspective, line, mass, color, dimensionality, sound, range – all the different mediums and methodologies of the arts. These understandings help children express themselves and gain depth in many subject areas.
The arts also teach children how to collaborate. Even when projects are not direct collaborations, children look at their neighbors painting or sculpture, listen to the instrument or voice of another, and they gain ideas and insights. They learn to share projects, to create work together. Art production often involves such teamwork and collaboration, habits of mind and activity which are incredibly useful throughout school and into adult life. Art is intellectually stimulating as well. Children should be taught about works of art within a context of words, images and histories, so that they can better see and comprehend the world through them.
The serious study of the arts, in short, can increase imagination and creativity, inspire communication with others, and increase foundational knowledge. But it has to be a serious study of the arts – sturdy, intelligent and continual.
You can see the rest of the interview here.