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The Not-So-Rosy Picture of Arts Education in the U.S.

Why is arts education in the U.S. so increasingly an afterthought? It often seems that the folks at the helm of doling out the funds don’t grasp just how vital the arts are in creating a whole child. 

After all, the arts can introduce students to a wide range of subjects in a way that’s interesting and engaging. Arts academy schools have long known the benefits of teaching disciplines such as math, history, and science through art.

Yet the arts are overlooked or even derided in conventional schooling these days. And it’s too bad. Especially for creative and artistic-minded children who are being left behind.

Arts Education in Europe… and Beyond

We’re not going to say that arts education in Europe is perfect across the board. But in general, they do seem to place an importance on the arts that is lacking in the U.S.

Finland is a prime example. At the elementary school level, the arts are interwoven throughout the curriculum rather than taught as an individual subject. In middle school and high school, the arts are taught as separate subjects. Yet they hold the same value as academic classes. Recognizing the importance of educating the whole child through play and creativity, Finnish schools are well-funded by the government. 

Meanwhile, schools across the EU are more open to adopting programs that encourage learning through the arts. A music program utilized in many schools brings students together to play modern and popular songs by listening to and reading the music in real time. Songs are adapted according to classroom size and the instruments available. 

Students can also use their instruments at home. And because the program is so popular and enjoyable, many kids go on to create their own bands. Given its success in Europe, the program is now beginning to flourish in Asian countries as well. 

Arts Education in the U.S.

Meanwhile, the picture across the pond is a little different. Could a program like the one in Europe work in the United States where arts education is steadily declining? 

The truth is, the presence of arts education in the U.S. varies from district to district. Funding is awarded first to test prep and academic subjects. Schools with plenty of funding have more arts education than those that don’t. And in many schools, programs are generally funded by special grants. When those grants run out, the arts programs are on the chopping block.

It’s far from an ideal situation.

And the research from this music program shows that students not only improve motor skills and spatial reasoning through stellar music education, but they experience higher test scores and less aggression. In fact, elementary students scored 22% higher in English and 20% higher in math compared with students who weren’t provided this opportunity.

It’s not just music either. 

Subjects like dance and drama are increasingly considered electives and not required as part of any curriculum (as stipulated by No Child Left Behind). Yet both are seen in Europe and beyond as playing very important roles in the development of students. So what’s an art-minded parent in the United States to do?

Stressing the Importance of Arts Education in the States

Fortunately, there are arts-integrated educational institutions whose curriculums are built around learning academics through the arts. These are a viable solution for parents seeking a more well-rounded educational model.  

Short of that though, it’s really going to be an uphill battle to change the mindset. The following three actions need to happen: 

1.  Less Importance Placed on Standardized Testing

Much less.

Sadly, education budgets continue to get cut at both the federal and state levels. And since art cannot be assessed, it does not get addressed. 

In other words, subjects such as math, reading, and science will keep getting funding because they have measurable results. Music, art, drama, and dance take the necessary time away from these subjects. So they’re eliminated.

2. Making Arts Integration a Bigger Priority

It’s tough to be an elementary or secondary school teacher these days. When the arts are cut, teachers are asked to integrate them at some level into academics. 

Because they do not have specific training in this area, they are left flailing and overwhelmed. Especially since they’re already strapped with teaching multiple subjects. So they need more support.

3. Focusing on the Whole Child

This is really what it comes down to. 

And yes, there are schools that are placing some emphasis on social-emotional learning (SEL) and mindfulness programs like yoga and meditation in their curriculum. While these certainly lend to a more well-rounded education, they’re not a replacement for the arts. Plus, these aren’t really available to the lower-income districts.

They’re at least a step toward focusing on the whole child, though. And that’s the mindset the U.S. needs to adopt in order to bring back reverence for the arts. 

Give Your Child the Best in Arts Integration Education

For now, arts education in the U.S. is not a high priority.  

At arts integration schools, however, this isn’t the case. So if you want your child to get a well-rounded education, then contact us today to take a tour of our school. 

And you’ll see the benefits of students being exposed to subjects in a creative way that keeps them engaged.


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