The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed. – Albert Einstein
My eldest is almost fifteen and is beginning the process of planning his high school and college “careers”. This proves to be a rather stress-inducing experience; apparently very different from the casual way I approached high school. Late the other night he admitted he was worried about choosing classes for the upcoming years. So, in the spirit of facing our fears we curled up together right then and went the through the high school graduation/college entrance requirements. The school had provided worksheets and lists which we dove into. Amongst scads of science, math, and language requirements I learned that of the 230 units required to graduate only 10 of those need to be in arts education.
This made me start thinking again about the lack of value we place on arts education and the consequence of this devaluing. This is evident in the currently proposed national budget; some members of the House of Representatives have proposed deep cuts or even total elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts. This represents a huge loss nationally. On a more local level our school systems face severe budget crises and are viewing arts education as expendable – Leaving it acceptable to require only 10 units out of 230 for a young person to graduate from high school and enter college.
What is the cost of this devaluing? Put differently – what is the value in teaching kids arts? We teach art and teach about art because doing so:
- sharpens critical thinking skills. Cassandra Whyte is credited with early work showing that artistic experiences develop creative and independent thought processes that are important throughout an individual’s lifetime
- teaches innovative thought
- widens perspective, encourages acceptance of generational, cultural, social and geographic diversity
- teaches empathy and sensitivity to other’s experiences by exposing them to other world views, brings about a deeper understanding of the world
- Therefore, teaching the arts nurtures skills that improve our kid’s future ability to work successfully in the global marketplace
- calm the soul and brings beauty to daily life
Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life – Pablo Picasso
- preserves our cultural history and heritage; preserves our collective memory
My son and I filled in the worksheet with lots of science, language and math. And art? Well, not so much. He moaned at my suggestion of various art classes let alone art history. His groaning made me realize that I had before me, fodder for another great dinnertime conversation. Tonight I am going to ask them why I talk so much about the arts. Why I drag them to museums? Why we have lots of paint, pastels and paper? Why are our walls covered with art? They may generate some new ideas from my list above. I’ll get back to you with them.
If you want to help promote arts education yes, of course generate your own dinner table conversation. You can also look at the work of the Americans for the Arts Action Fund.