Arts Education for Kids

Why the kids who most need arts education aren’t getting it

Drama_High(Correction: An earlier version placed a school theater program in Queens. It is in Brooklyn.)

By Michael Sokolove

Arts instruction in America’s schools is something that almost everyone agrees is a great idea. Just, apparently, not for all children.

Let’s say that you are thinking about enrolling your child in an exclusive private school and you visit several before making a choice. At each one, you’re likely to tour the music room, the visual arts studio, the well-appointed theater decorated with posters from previous years’ musicals. It’s a good bet someone will tell you, with great earnestness, that these facilities exist because the school cares deeply about educating “the whole child, ” which can’t happen without teaching the arts. Which, of course, is true.

But it is also true that as America has cleaved apart into haves and have nots over the last couple of decades, serious arts education – taught by certified, in-school instructors — has receded in many communities or even disappeared entirely. We’ve got some whole children that need nurturing, and then some half-children.

Students in private schools and comfortable suburban districts still get the whole robust menu – staples like foreign languages and social studies along with an opportunity, to learn to play the French horn or win a part in “The Crucible” or “Beauty and the Beast.” Less fortunate children have been on the receiving end of what I’d call an emergency-room approach to education —one that addresses only the parts of a child thought to be in most dire need of attention. Their curriculum may consist solely of reading, writing and mathematics – the subjects tested on high-stakes exams.

The shame of this is we know it’s wrong, and we do it anyway. Longitudinal studies have shown that students who receive sustained in-school arts instruction have better attendance, better grades and higher graduation rates. Neurological research suggests that immersion in the arts can cause an actual change in the structure of neurons and make the brain more receptive to other kinds of learning.

Quarry Books Art Lab for Kids: 52 Creative Adventures in Drawing, Painting, Printmaking, Paper, and Mixed Media-For Budding Artists of All Ages (Lab Series)
Book (Quarry Books)
  • WFC-37655
  • 9781592537655
  • Brand New Item / Unopened Product
  • Quayside Publishing
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