And now a plug for our favorite cause. No, not ourselves, we’re talking about that highest of higher powers: The Arts!
by Carly Ginsbert
“Today, more and more policymakers think it is the arts, after all, that can motivate kids, engage them and help them develop 21st-century skills such as teamwork and innovative thinking — in sum, be the key to their salvation.” (The Washington Post)
There is a strange, isolating dichotomy between the arts and more “valued” academic subjects in the education system, and the more I think about it, the more baffling it is to me. The problem is that the arts are viewed as these independent entities that have no effect on the other subjects taught in school. The fact is: the arts improve student engagement in the classroom. Many researchers have found causal links between the arts and academic achievement. An Education Week article discusses how “arts education, when it is approached with the seriousness of purpose exemplified by the schools profiled in this report, can be a powerful medium through which students come to love learning, strive for excellence, and imagine a fulfilling, purposeful life.” The arts foster a sense of empathy and awareness that translate into every arena of life, and therefore, I find it critical that we make time for the arts in education.
A fascinating study revealed that when low-income schools added more learning time to their school days in order to incorporate arts programs, the students achieved a well-rounded education, which aided them in fostering abilities to communicate and express ideas, accomplish their goals, and engage in positive social behaviors. When students develop this well roundedness in the classroom, they are better able to navigate the challenges of the world around them. The arts, which I like to view as creative forms of storytelling, undoubtedly promote empathy on their own. However, when the arts are integrated into education, students not only understand themselves better, but they are also better able to communicate with their peers better. Through these developments, they learn to appreciate the world around them in a new and refreshing way. One of the study’s findings was: “Creating and learning through the arts offer children and adolescents access to an invaluable endeavor: a means to connect emotionally with others and deepen their understanding of the human condition.” Harnessing a sense of awareness for our own intrinsic natures is a life skill that should not be overlooked. This sense of awareness allows students to not only recognize problems in the social world around them, but to actually feel compelled to do something about them. Bringing this back to the classroom, intrinsic awareness can help students recognize where they struggle and where they thrive, and be able to communicate with their teachers and peers with more sensitivity.