IN budget-cutting times, the dire state of the arts in our
schools' curriculum reflects as much the public's perception of the
role of arts in American culture as it does budgetary constraints.
Many Americans feel the study of the fine and performing arts is a
nice thing for children - but that study of disciplines such as
math and science is more important to prepare for the "real world"
of college and work. The arts are often viewed as "frills." Radical
as the notion seems, however, serious study of the arts is one of
the best ways to educate a young person for that real world.
The "back to basics" approach that has partly characterized
educational reform for the last decade has not produced the results
that educators and parents sought. However, research at schools
with curriculums that include 25 percent or more of arts courses
shows that students acquire academically superior abilities. There
is a relationship between learning in the arts and learning in
academic subjects, and as we look for answers to the dilemma of
improving our schools, the power of the arts as an avenue for
learning, "education through the arts," should be considered.
In this post-industrial society what is required of workers at
all levels is that they be creative thinkers, problem solvers, able
to work well with others and independently. Schools can no longer
simply train students for specific tasks; we must educate them in
broad skills so they will have the ability to function in any
number of capacities. Students must be active learners, know how to
work collaboratively, be judicious risk-takers, be able to push for
high levels of achievement, and have the courage of their
Arts training develops such skills. The student artist
(musician, dancer, studio artist, writer, actor) learns by doing.
Often in schools students do not do anything. Rather they learn
about doing something, or watch someone else perform. The young
musician, however, learns by doing, by playing the violin, not by
listening to someone lecture about playing. Artists often work in
groups, requiring listening, responding, and asserting their own
"voices" while supporting the voices of fellow artists. Research
tells us that one of the most important reasons Japanese education
produces such productive workers is not the many classroom hours,
rote learning, or longer days, but the fact that children are
taught how to work well in groups. Many artists are highly skilled
in collective and collaborative work. …