The debate on whether arts education is beneficial to children and its importance in schools is quite substantial. Despite the evidence in research suggesting arts education promotes development and creative thinking, schools are not supporting arts programs and are focusing on science, math, engineering, and technology-based learning styles. Although art education is being overshadowed by STEM education, arts education promotes critical thinking, academic confidence, and aides’ students with self-expression. Arts education has many benefits, one being the promotion of academic confidence in the classroom. One way arts education promotes academic confidence is by reducing test anxiety and stress surrounding standardized testing. Scogin said, ‘Standardized testing has been perhaps the biggest hurdle preventing wide-range adoption of experiential-type learning pedagogies.’
Scogin’s statement showed that standardized testing is hindering experience in students learning and is only teaching students logic and not inquiry. Also supporting Scogin’s claim, Mains (2007), a former educator, stated, ‘Further, societal factors such as popular culture, political rhetoric, and the media’s preferential attention to success in math and science have affected the nucleus of our public schools’ curricula.’ This statement explains that technology in modern pop culture and media focus has led the evolution of the education system. Technology-based learning has captured the curriculum and has pushed art education aside, according to Mains. Mains also gave insight into how education is changing toward mainly standardized testable learning and what schools are doing to art programs to adjust to the change. Due to test scores reflecting the jobs of teachers, teachers are teaching students to pass, not learn through experience. Teachers are teaching their required curriculums for their students to memorize the content, opposed to engaging their students to learn to their full capacity.
Mains also stated, ‘When these standardized tests are the absolute gauge in a school’s accountability, there is a natural tendency to concentrate on the tested subjects to the detriment of more creative activities.’ Main’s statement showed that students are taught solely on testing ability and are lacking hands-on experience in school. If test scores are the main focus of a teacher’s curriculum, the teacher will not focus on the content they are teaching. Teachers will focus on the memorization of how test questions need to be answered, not the art education or hands-on learning that may benefit the students. This keeps students from retaining the information they learned and applying it to other endeavors. Many students deal with test anxiety and poor test-taking skills, and test scores are not an accurate way to track their progress. Perpich studies stated, ‘[r]esearch finds that students who experience arts integrated curricula meet or significantly exceed state and district standardized test averages, even in schools with high populations of at risk students.
In addition, a notable study finds that arts integration programs do not lower test scores, suggesting there is no negative impact on academic achievement in core subjects from an arts integrated curriculum.’ This shows that test scores are not affected negatively by arts education and can actually increase test scores. If test scores are not negatively affecting children’s test scores and are actually increasing the quality and quantity of content learning, then why discontinue arts education? Arts education can be used to aide lessons, not complicate them. Arts can be used in many ways, schools can utilize them to enhance lessons. Another wayarts education promotes academic confidence is by causing less disciplinary issues and being a way to prepare students for their future careers. ‘Research on students involved in arts education shows that they learn how to communicate effectively, practice constructive criticism and listen better.
In a large scale study, arts programming helped to prepare youth to apply their skills directly to employment opportunities. Another study showed that students who participate in arts education as youth stay in their local communities as adults and contribute to economic and civic growth.’ Preparing students for their future in their community as an active member of society should be the sole purpose of education. Arts education is being used to prepare students for employment opportunities and is actually increasing employment and graduation rates in general public schools. Research shows, ‘4 out of 5 employers agree that all students should acquire broad knowledge in the liberal arts and sciences.’ and 93% of employers agree that candidates’ demonstrated capacity to think critically, communicate clearly, and solve complex problems is more important than their undergraduate major.’
This is direct proof that arts education is beneficial to student employment after graduation and can help the students find jobs due to excellence in creative thinking, problem-solving, and communication skills.The next major benefit of arts education is the promotion of critical thinking, problem-solving, and creative thinking. The ability to be able to critically think, solve problems, and use innovative thinking can lead to many opportunities and enrich STEM education in schools. Maeda claimed of that innovation has been taken over by STEM (science, technology, engineering, and maths.) The claim is that we should use IDEA (institution, design, emotion, and art.) as much as STEM if not more to help the development and education of children. Innovation being taught in schools is mandatory for the future of idea development and new inventions. Maeda stated, ‘STEM needs something to give it some STE(A)M- an ‘A’ for art between the engineering and the math to ground the bits and bytes…’ (2017, p.990).
Maeda believes art is being shadowed by STEM also but supported this claim with the concept of IDEA education being used equally in elementary education settings. Maeda also stated, ‘there is a disconnect between the words ‘innovation’ and ‘art’ that needs to be resolved if the United States is to prevail as the most creative economy in the world.’ (2017, p.987). Maeda said this to prove to Americans that we (Americans) are known for being creative and for constantly creating new products and reinforcing ideas of others. If creativity is not taught in our education system, who will create in our future generations? Teaching innovation in schools will promote creative thinking and provide creative outlets for children. Maeda and art educators have very similar views on the separation of art and education. They both see how technology is shaping and affecting our education system.
To support Maeda’s claims, statistics express that over time, the education system has evolved to a technological peak. According to blog.practutor.com, 98 percent of schools have one or more computers per students and 77 percent of teachers use the internet for instructional purposes. This evolution is decreasing art to increase the STEM curriculums in the education system. Technology is rapidly increasing the innovative side of education and is decreasing the creativity in schools, just as Maeda claimed in his argument. One other major benefit of arts education is aiding students with self-expression. Forms of self-expression are confidence in performance, good mental health, and to be able to express your own ideas, opinions, and emotions.
An example of confidence in performance is displayed by authors, Wright, Watkins, and Grant as they talk about a case study created by Ali. A woman named Ali, an elementary teacher, conducted an experiment in her classroom to find out how art influenced how the kids interacted in class, and how they were changing behavior. Ali had her students create an idea for an art project they wanted to do, then they collaborated with other students to gather more ideas from their peers, and finally articulated their plans. Ali analyzed what they did with their time and materials. She then saw that the students were successful with their drawings and many students found confidence and pride in their creations. This showed how art can influence students minds in the classroom. Ali explained, After an hour and with at least two drawings each, the 65 children came inside with their drawings. In the classroom Ali asked everyone ‘how did you feel doing the drawing?’ and the children made comments, such as ‘When I started to draw I didn’t think I’d complete it. I kept working at it and I finished it’ and ‘When I started to draw I felt frustrated, but it got better.
Art can give students’ academic and social confidence. Art education is a way to combine creativity and inquiry in the classroom to enhance hands-on learning. If used properly, maybe art could help the current curriculum. These authors used a case study and observation to prove the effects of art education. Another way art education can impact students emotional is through art therapy. Many schools and rehabilitation centers are using art therapy for their students who are emotionally, academically, or physically disabled. These options help reduce anxiety, perfect motor skills, and give hands-on learning options for lessons usually taught in different methods.
Overall, art has many proven benefits as technological advancements do as well. Art is very relevant in our education and can be very useful if used efficiently. America doesn’t have to use innovation over art nor art over innovation. These sources all gave an example of how this is possible. Though this method could have disadvantages, the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. It depends on how it is taught and what kind of inquiry is used. Art is used in many forms to give visual examples, hands-on learning, inquiry, and even charts in math classes. Art is a tool, a potentially essential tool in education as expressed in these three sources. Americans may not focus on art enough, causing a decline in the success of education. Although art education is being overshadowed by STEM education, arts education is vital because it promotes critical thinking, academic confidence, and aides’ students with self-expression.
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