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Art Education in Public Schools

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Essay title: Art Education in Public Schools

Art Education in Public Schools

One morning, a fifth grader took in her hand a violin, and it changed her life forever. Her fingers grasped the bow, and drew it across the strings creating a beautiful sound. She developed the patience to learn to play and continued to play the violin for the rest of her life. The girl had found something, not only in the instrument, but in herself. Ever since that day, her test scores improved, her grades rose, and she had something to take pride in. Like that young girl many individuals have found in music the desire to learn that they failed to find in any other class. Unfortunately, due to insufficient funding, many students never have the opportunity to experience this motivation. Art education should be a part of the core curriculum, because art education helps students develop thinking, social and personal skills that help increase responsibility and integrity in everything they do.

Arts education has vanished from many of the nation’s public schools over the past fifteen to twenty years. School districts often cut art, music, and drama programs as expendable trimmings to solve a budget crisis. Arts education is not mandated in the states, however, most state laws maintain that if schools teach arts, districts must adopt standards for arts that meet or exceed the state standards. Officials at state or city levels may feel the need for art education is not as significant as the need for more academic based programs like mathematics, history and science. School officials believe that students must prepare and become accustomed to standardized testing to prepare them for higher education and their future. "History is basic, and art history is part of history, but, by itself, art history is not to be considered a requirement" (McLennan, 2003).

At a School Board meeting in 1988, Mr. Whyte (1996) first heard an argument against art education in schools:

“A well-dressed, well-spoken woman stood to complain that children graduating from schools were inadequately prepared to take their places in an ever more demanding labour market. Too many resources and too much instruction time, she maintained, were wasted on frills like music. Not enough attention was being paid to math and the sciences, computers, and technology, which she cited as the future keys to employability (p.13).”

The emphasis on academics is indeed important. Preparing students in certain subjects helps them achieve the standards set by school or government officials. Standardized testing has become the "golden rule" of school systems in the curriculum taught. Children are required to learn the curriculum and pass these tests in order to meet the standard of knowledge, or even to graduate. By funding these teaching methods and standardized tests, schools become accredited and therefore eligible to receive more funding for the school.

Educators worry that students are growing up without appreciation of art and music. Many educators, teachers unions, parents and community leaders are making a case that the arts should be considered the “fourth R” in a child’s education. In 2002 president Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB). This law is intended to make schools responsible for improving the academic performance of all students. The NCLB Act gives arts education a defined role in national standards as dance, music, theater, and visual arts have equal billing with math, science, and other basic subjects. But because the law does not require testing or provide a consequence related to arts education, some educators are not adding arts education back into their core curriculum.

Some states are taking the NCLB Act seriously and have been capitalizing on the money offered. For example, “in Arizona, state Superintendent Tom Horne’s “content-rich curriculum” initiative is investing $4 million in comprehensive-school-reform funds under the No Child Left Behind Act to support arts education improvement efforts at 43 schools throughout the state (Paige and Huckabee, 2005, p52).” According to Paige and Huckabee (2005), the Education Commission of the States is embarking on a two year task to ensure access to arts education in our nation’s schools (p.52). This study will put arts education at the front of education agenda and provide a set of objectives vital to increasing the importance of arts in education.

In a study done by the National Assessments of Educational Progress, eighty percent of eighth graders do not receive any arts education. While only three present of eight graders take dance three or more times per week.

(National Assessments of Educational Progress)

James Catterall, an education

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