Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; Arts Education Promotes a Strong Society

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Point of View; Arts Education Promotes a Strong Society

Article excerpt

Byline: Kimberly L. Hyatt

The average life span of great civilizations is 215 years.

A first-rate arts education is one of the best means left to save our American experiment, now 241 years old.

I've come to this conclusion over 15 years working with the Cathedral Arts Project, an organization whose mission is to enrich our quality of life through unleashing the creative spirit of young people.

I had assumed the increasing diversity of our society would automatically generate broader understanding and mutual respect. I was wrong.

Today, my perspective has changed. I have witnessed the transformative power of the arts for students, families and our community.

Students who participate regularly in the arts show marked improvement in class participation, task completion, peer communication and conflict management. They also gain the insights, empathy and language needed to understand each other and, just as important, to understand themselves.

I hope that the unique potential of arts education will help us achieve our country's promise of E pluribus unum - out of many, one.

A total of 78 percent of Americans believe incivility and political dysfunction prevent our nation from moving forward.

A meta-analysis of 72 studies of 14,000 American college students between 1979 and 2009 revealed a drop of 40 percent in empathy scores.

Arts education has the potential, like nothing else, to mold both brains and hearts and open us to meaningful encounters where we look to not only our own interests but also the interests of others.

Students in CAP's ARTS Ignite! afterschool program begin each class by reciting a creed that involves five promises, the first of which is to "respect others and their ideas as I respect myself."

For our democracy to flourish, we must revive our ability to reason together and respect one another - no matter what.

As John Dewey put it, "Imagination is the chief instrument of the good."

How we treat another person and their ideas, he noted, depends on our power to put ourselves in another's place.

What lesson are we teaching our children when they see us unfriend someone on Facebook simply because we disagree? …

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