The importance of art in schools has always been a hotly contested topic. Some schools of thought consider art to be a crucial part of learning while others consider it to be of no consequence to the students. Arts help people to express themselves and showcase their unique abilities. The arts industry is a significant part of the economy today, and it also helps in improving the characters of students. Schools ought to invest in art education because it has educational and personal benefits to the learners.
A study published by Lois Hetland and Ellen Winner concluded that arts classes did not improve the overall academic performance of students in school (Pogrebin). Opposing schools of thought have indicated that students who are engaged in high-quality art classes performed better, on average, in other courses. The direct connection between art classes and improvement in reading or math is yet to be explicitly proven. According to Lois and Ellen, taking a lot of art does not help children to improve their core subject areas (Pogrebin). However, the importance of art should not be viewed by how much it helps students in improving their academic performance. Art should be considered to be a stand-alone concept that has its unique advantages, and hence schools should ensure they invest sufficient money in this sector. "The arts need to be valued for their own intrinsic reasons. Let's figure out what the arts do teach (Pogrebin)."
The research conducted by the two authors found out that visual arts classes had several indirect benefits to the students, although they were not directly linked to improved performance in other subjects. Art teaches students numerous things, such as how to see better, persistence, how to visualize things, how to learn from mistakes, and how to make critical and justifiable judgements (Pogrebin). Improved ability in math or reading is good, but learning should not be all about classwork alone. The study identified three key advantages of arts, although they are unrelated to student grades. Making music in class improved the visual skills of children. Listening to classical music in class also improved visual skills, albeit briefly. The third advantage is that classroom drama improved certain verbal skills (Pogrebin). These indirect benefits make it worthwhile for schools to invest in arts to ensure that students develop in an all-rounded manner rather than academically alone.
Other researchers have found facts that are contrary to the findings of Ellen and Lois. There is the possibility that arts could be of great benefit in improving the educational performance of students. According to the University of California's James Catterall, a professor of education, students who were highly involved in arts during and after school scored highly on standardized tests (Pogrebin). According to Stanford professor emeritus of education Elliot Eisner, arts helps to teach learners that there plenty of solutions for any problem (Pogrebin). Learning through the arts pushes students to see more than one answer to any question, which makes them resourceful. These studies show that art has many benefits, and schools should invest in its education because students need these added benefits to improve their character since life is not all about good grades.
Reading literature has been seen to improve the character and morals of people. Annie Murphy Paul has argued that deep reading, the kind that is likely to happen in the literature classroom, can make people nicer since it contributes towards an improved ability to empathize with others. Paul borrows from previous research which opines that "People who often read fiction appear to be better able to understand other people, empathize with them and view the world from their perspective (Prior)." Recent studies in cognitive science, psychology, and neuroscience show that deep reading is a distinctive experience. Deep reading is immersive, slow, morally complex, and rich in emotional and sensory detail (Prior). Most of the reading that occurs in schools is hurried, and it constitutes mere decoding of the words. Investing in arts will ensure that there are programs focused on the reading of relevant literature in a detailed an immersive manner. The current state of neglecting arts in schools is leading to poor reading, which ends up being of no benefit to the students either academically or behaviorally. Reading good literature can touch the human soul (Prior). Good literature improves the morals and self-understanding of the students, and hence schools should invest in this form of art.
Arts teaches students about other cultures and ways of life. When Sonny was about fourteen, he read books about India, and people were sitting on rocks, walking naked and barefoot in all kinds of weather (Baldwin 1699). Sonny was able to learn these things by reading the literature. This brief period of reading gave him a window into the lifestyle and culture of a distant society. It shows that literature can help to expose students to other cultures, and this makes them global citizens.
Arts can help to keep students away from trouble and keep them actively engaged in school matters. Sonny was a troubled child who was pushed by the influence of peer pressure to start using drugs while in school (Baldwin 1694). Sonny's behaviour is characteristic of what was happening to most school children at the time. The narrator said that he was in class teaching algebra to a group of boys who might be injecting themselves with heroin every time they went to the toilet (Baldwin 1695).
Sonny had taken an increased interest in music and even purchased a set of drums (Baldwin 1704). His brother is worried about the passion for music, and whether it is a career path that can help one to make a living. He asked Sonny whether he wanted to play classical music or to become a concert pianist. Sonny sobered up and said, "I mean, I'll have a lot of studying to do, and I'll have to study everything, but, I mean, I want to play with Jazz musicians." He paused. "I want to play Jazz (Baldwin 1704)." The decision by Sonny shows that he is very interested in music, but he is finding it difficult to settle for a particular genre. He went from being a drummer to a pianist, and now he is saying that he is interested in Jazz. He also says that he will have to study everything and understand the music. Offering music classes in public schools can help youth like Sonny to take up these courses and improve their lives. Such students are disillusioned about the educational aspect, and hence they are not engaged in class. When the same student is given access to their preferred art form, they come alive and are immersed. When Sonny was staying at Isabel's, he was so serious about his music that he was always at the piano every day after school (Baldwin 1707) practising and perfecting his craft. Music classes in school could have helped Sonny to improve his skills and talent, and it would also have contributed towards increasing his concentration and attendance. Investing in the art will, therefore, help at-risk students and nurture their talents in art. Today many people make a living out of various art forms, and hence investing in this area is viable for the students.
Schools should invest in arts because early training helps in nurturing world-class expertise. Cognitive neuroscientists have identified that the slightest exposure to music lessons in childhood creates more advanced neural circuits for processing music than in people who have never had any training (Levitin 190). Music lessons teach the students how to listen while accelerating the ability to discern form and structure in music, which helps people to decide the type of music they like. Talent is innate, and hence there is a focus on early identification, which calls for studying the development of skills among children.
There is clear evidence that some children acquire certain skills faster than others, but it is not always due to genetics. There is the tried and tested view that practice makes perfect based on the amount of training needed to become a high-performing expert (Levitin 192). Music experts, therefore, require lengthy periods of practice and instruction to gain mastery of their craft. Starting the students early on with music classes places them in an excellent position to commence their skill mastery at an early age, and with minimum pressure. World-class expertise is often achieved in about ten thousand hours of practice, and hence learning music in school will be hugely beneficial. The author says that "The more experiences we have with something, the stronger the memory/learning trace for that experience becomes (Levitin 193)." Therefore, schools should invest in arts like music to ensure that talented people have an excellent opportunity to grow their skill.
Talented people, or those who have an interest in music, can transform their imaginations to reality if they train. Some people get these musical hallucinations/inspiration, and they can be quite powerful. Talented individuals have the music deep inside them, and all they have to do is let it flow freely. Cicoria had to learn the Chopin while attempting to give form to the music that was continually playing in his head, trying it out on the piano, and putting it down on manuscript paper (Sacks 6). Cicoria is concerned about how he will structure the music that is filling his head, and this is an area where schools can come in handy by teaching music. "I would get up at four in the morning and play till I went to work, and when I got home from work, I was at the piano all evening (Sacks 6)." He pushed himself to play and master the piano through constant repetition on a daily basis. He went from a stage where he was a complete novice, with music was floating around in his brain, and he trained himself until he became an expert. Cicoria continued playing the piano, got training books, and then he realized that he needed a teacher. Therefore, one can learn and advance in music if the lessons are readily available. Investing in arts education will help individuals to advance their skill since they get the opportunity to train, practice, and learn.
The importance of teaching in class has been widely debated. I believe that it is vital to ensure that schools invest significantly in art education. Art is important because it has indirect benefits for the students. Studying drama in class was seen to improve certain verbal skills. However, some studies have also found that people who are highly trained in arts often score highly on standardized tests. Art also teaches students that there are numerous solutions to every problem, which is a crucial life skill. Reading good literature has also been seen to improve the morals of students in the long run. Art also helps to keep troubled youth engaged in school instead of dropping out. Training from a young age helps to improve the skill and confidence of an artist. It is clear that, apart from improving grades, arts education has numerous personal and educational benefits to students, and hence schools should invest the money.
Baldwin, James. Sonny's Blues, n.d.
Levitin, Daniel J. This Is Your Brain On Music. Penguin Group, 2006.
Pogrebin, Robin. Book Tackles Old Debate: Role of Art in Schools. NY Times, 4 August. 2007, https://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/04/arts/design/04stud.html. Accessed 27 Nov 2018.
Prior, Karen. How Reading Makes Us More Human. The Atlantic, 21 June. 2013, www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/06/how-reading-makes-us-more-human/277079/. Accessed 27 Nov 2018.
Sacks, Oliver. Musicophilia. Alfred A. Knopf, 2007.
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