I read a blog post today that questioned many of the ideas used to promote music ( and arts) education. It was not against arts education, actually totally for it. It condones the arts for art’s sake because they enhance the quality of life. It promotes the need for creative expression. I wonder if it is necessary to question if the use of music and the other arts enhances learning. Of course it enhances learning. Anything cross curricular that uses higher level thinking skills will positively affect other learning.
The reason these connections (such as music enhancing mathematics skills, my personal fave) are made is in part good, persuasive advertisement. You tell someone they will lose weight and they will do anything—eat broccoli, walk 5 miles a day, whatever.
Of course the arts should be a part of learning and education. They contribute to the human experience. They contribute to the quality of life. It is self-expression, and we, as humans need that. Perhaps we shouldn’t have to sell the arts as we do, but the truth is, we do.
Arts instruction is not taken seriously in most schools. It is fluff or arts and crafts. The connections that it offers in interdisciplinary learning for experiential and project based learning is invaluable. The arts should be assessed like anything else. There are truthfully no great models out there to do this. Why would we not want a viable and attainable curriculum for the arts? Why shouldn’t we measure its effectiveness and results? I don’t get it. Arts and crafts are fun, but how many things do you need to make from Popsicle sticks?
The blogger makes good points for arts and music education. The post is here. I have written about this topic at length and I agree. At the same time, I would not fault those who want to make learning connections that have some validity. Does it make you smarter? I say who cares—there are really very few things that will make you actually smarter. Perspective, opportunity for inquiry, and the ability to reason can be improved and should be improved. Along with creative expression, the arts offers these opportunities.
Music is a universal language. Almost everyone likes some kind of music. It is an open door to understand the past and a variety of cultures. The performing and visual arts offer similar possibilities. Why can ‘t we just do it and take it seriously? Music does help the understanding of fractions—I have seen it. And even if it didn’t, there is intrinsic value to life experience of which music and the arts should be a part. Let’s just get it done.
The arts have a significant contribution to learning. How this information is presented needs to be addressed. The arts as academic/core subjects have depth and the curriculum and how it is presented needs attention. It seems to me that the reasons have become obvious. Someone is writing, blogging or publishing research daily that the arts are needed to improve academics. We need the arts as an integral part of public school education. They can be used to explore innovative ideas – design and engineering for the future. Why do we need to argue about it? Is there another proposal on the table? No arts?
The arts for art’s sake is a valid reason to have it included in any school curriculum. The idea that promoting arts education and its diverse learning possibilities as negative is unnecessary. We’re on the same team. Competent research eventually will right or wrong any attributes given to arts education. Advertisement for positive gain is the American way.