Sunday, October 26, 2008
One thing we should not ignore, as the election draws near, is where the candidates rank the arts. Recognizing the importance of art in education is becoming increasingly important. Research tells us that children exposed early, and often to the arts fare better in tests, careers and life. But as our nation's economy reels, will we see funds for art programs shelved?
Good thing Americans for the Arts Action Fund, a bipartisan arts advocacy group, is asking. In their ArtsVote report, they found that while Republican Sen. John McCain issued a brief statement, vaguely saying "arts education can play a role in nurturing the creativity of expression" the Obama statement was long and strong.
In addition to a history of voting for the arts throughout his political career, he stated, "To remain competitive in the global economy, America needs to reinvigorate the kind of creativity and innovation that has made this country great. To do so, we must nourish our children’s creative skills. In addition to giving our children the science and math skills they need to compete in the new global context, we should also encourage the ability to think creatively that comes from a meaningful arts education."
He gets it. A meaningful arts education.
Neuroscientists get it. Training in the arts improves cognition.
Teachers get it. Students who participate in the arts have higher test scores and lower drop-out rates.
Corporate leaders get it. Terry Semel, past chairman of Warner Bros., said, "Art is central to a civilized society. Kids who create don't destroy."
Thinker/writer, Daniel Pink notes that we are at the end of a binary-only thinking era. Students who can think imaginatively, creatively, or "outside the box" will become the most attractive workers for global corporations. Arts education prepares young minds for non-linear thinking.
As the oft-quoted Elizabeth Murfee writes in her 1995, Making a Case for Culture, "Drawing helps writing. Song and poetry make facts memorable. Drama makes history more vivid and real. Creative movement makes processes understandable."
Socially, arts have proven to be an effective outreach tool to engage youth. Self esteem, cooperation, resilience improves when students have been exposed to the arts.
And lastly, what of the joy and wonder the arts offer the mind and spirit? Arts play a key role in the education of a child.