The Importance of Art in education
There is one contribution to humanity that makes a huge difference but doesn't get the credit it deserves in U.S. education. I'm talking about art, surprise, surprise. In recent years school curricula in the United States has shifted heavily towards math and reading. What has happened to the other subjects, including art as a result? "Extracurricular" activities, including art, get the budget cuts and even the entire art program removed from education! Art teachers everywhere don't know if they will have a job next year, are pulling funds from their own pockets, and are stretched so thin that they don't even enjoy teaching anymore.
What happens when you take away art? Well, what would happen if we took away all the pictures and diagrams from math books? What if we got rid of all picture books and magazines? “Parents need to be aware that children learn a lot more from graphic sources now than in the past,” says Dr. Kerry Freedman, Head of Art and Design Education at Northern Illinois University. “Children need to know more about the world than just what they can learn through text and numbers. Art education teaches students how to interpret, criticize, and use visual information, and how to make choices based on it.”
Besides education, when we stroll down the street we may see business signs, architecture, and many different designed cars that without artists, will disappear from our future. When we stroll inside a business we see decor, room layouts, business cards, logos and other items that complete a businesses brand to help people feel comfortable and understand what they can do for us. Without artists, those things don't happen well. When we go online, we can see an artist's work as soon as a logo appears on the screen and on social media we enjoy the arts as they capture our attention. What would our lives be like without movies? What would life be like without culture? All over the world we experience cultures through the arts. If art is so important to our daily human experiences, then why is art getting left out?
In the United States we love to stick with a small category of careers we find important. They would include doctors, lawyers, and superheros lol, that changed, as it used to be farmers, factory workers, and business owners. Who knows what the U.S. education is emphasizing now...math mathematicians and writers, do they know? Even if those other categories include art and creativity, if it's not a living as an "artist," well then, it doesn't include art. If 1 out of 10,000 graduates become an "artist" than it's better to focus on the 9,999 people lumped in other careers.
Plus it's easy to test progress in math and reading. Testing progress seems to be the goal in America's education, not actually seeing progress. You would think we would get a clue that "testing" and "measuring" isn't what changes education, as it hasn't since I was in elementary school! Even throwing more money at the problem, doesn't solve education. The solution is understanding how all subjects interconnect to establish progress! Seems extremely contradictory to elevate math and reading over all other subjects, when we use subjects like art to teach them. Children's "extracurricular" activities including, band, choir, art, P.E. are getting placed under reading and math, even science which is completely baffling! The United States education doesn't let people thrive in a system that elevates who they are, it over tests them, and dehumanizes the educational experience. When kindergartners come home with math and reading homework, you know we have huge problem!
It's not hard for me to see why the U.S. education system ranks so low based on the worlds standards. It's a shame because we obviously are adept to fixing the problem. Here we are with schools that don't even rank close to the top compared to other countries in any of these categories; early childhood education, primary grades, secondary levels, high school graduation, college graduation, and even safety in our schools. We aren't even in the top 20 for overall education in the year 2017 and so far nothing has changed for 2018, as the first quarter results show that we are not in the top 20, yet again. Are we really this stupid that we can't see that "extracurriculars" like art are not a "luxury" but a building block of child development and human progress? I don't believe we are stupid, we just have to speak up about what we think is important!
Learning to create and appreciate visual aesthetics may be more important than ever to the development of the next generation of children as they grow up. Here are some benefits of art in education, jut to name a few.
Motor Skills: Making art helps children move! Doing such things as holding a paintbrush or scribbling with a crayon, are essential to the growth of fine motor skills in young children. According to the National Institutes of Health, developmental milestones around age three should include drawing a circle and using safety scissors. Around age four, children progress to drawing a square and cutting straight lines with scissors. Many preschool programs emphasize art because it develops the dexterity children will need for writing.
Language Development: Art in literature provides opportunities to learn words, colors, shapes and actions in a visual way. When language includes more than one way of learning, such as visual and kinesthetic, it makes it easier for kids to learn. Adding "crafts" or art can reinforce concepts, such as cutting out a letter and making it into a collage or learning the color orange by painting with red and yellow. By elementary school, students can use descriptive words to discuss their own creations or how someone's art makes them feel. Art itself is a language, and can be used for expressing ones thoughts and emotions without words.
Visual Learning: Drawing, sculpting, and painting all develop visual-spatial skills, which are more important than ever. Even my toddler knows how to operate a smart phone or tablet, which means that even before kids can read, they are taking in visual information. This information consists of pictures or three-dimensional objects from digital media, books and television that can help teach math, science, language, and every subject that exists. Knowledge about the visual arts, such as graphic symbols is especially important for all of us to become smart consumers and navigate a world filled with marketing. For those of us that learn dominantly through vision, our future success depends on incorporating visual learning tools into our education.
Decision Making: According to a report by Americans for the Arts, art education strengthens problem-solving and critical-thinking skills. There are many decisions to be made within the process of making art. The experience of making decisions and choices in the course of creating art carries over into other parts of life. Kids need a safe way to explore, think, experiment and express themselves. When given a chance to make decisions with our own creativity, we all have a better chance of contributing something unique to humanity.
Inventiveness: When kids are encouraged to express themselves and take risks in creating art, they develop a sense of innovation that will be important in their adult lives. “The kind of people society needs to make it move forward are thinking, inventive people who seek new ways and improvements, not people who can only follow directions,” says Mary Anne Kohl, author of Artful Parent.
Improved Academic Performance: Studies show that there is a correlation between art and achievement. "Young people who participate regularly in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair or to win an award for writing an essay or poem, than children who do not participate," according to Americans for the Arts .
Cultural Awareness: We live in an increasingly diverse society where we can choose to be tolerant and humane or racist, sexist, belittling, and even violent. Art is a way we all can learn to appreciate our differences and discover our human connection. Teaching children to recognize the choices an artist makes with their creativity, helps children understand the concept that they can interpret or see something differently, and still both them and the artist can be appreciated. Art in education teaches about other cultures and how they developed or changed over time. It's important for children to be aware that art can be used against humanity, portraying mixed messages like boys who like pink are girls, kids with darker skin are inferior, other religions are bad, or that women should not enter the workforce, but also can be used to create a culture where humans thrive because of better messages. This type of education helps children understand the influence art has over them as well as all humanity.
All these reasons are why I'm so passionate about keeping art in education and why I built Createfulart.com. Even if the schools may fail to deliver art, we as parents and teachers can stand up for what we believe in and make a difference. Every video I create can reach thousands of kids, opening them up to the world of art and the creative process. If you also believe art should stay in education, you can join our membership program that supports delivering art to everyone around the world through the internet. Thank you for your consideration and support.
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