Op-Ed: Arts Education Is Critical to Student Success


Have you ever wondered what the world would look like if there were no artists? You would not have clothes, furniture, jewelry, electronics, transportation, cell phones, buildings, toys, or websites. The list goes on and on, yet art is often absent from our daily thoughts.

I teach a commercial art class. Last year I had a mother who took her daughter out of my class. She thanked me for teaching her daughter a nice hobby, but she wanted her to be able to get a real job.

Many people do not understand that art is a crucial component to a well-rounded education. Art education develops critical thinking, problem-solving and hand-eye coordination. It provides a vehicle to explore the possibilities and limitations of materials, and encourages children to use their imaginations. It is an outlet that lets children express how they feel, think, and view the world in ways they may not be able to say with words.

Visual arts teaches students that problems can have more than one solution, and questions can have more than one answer. Unlike academic curriculums in which correct answers and rules prevail, art is based on observational judgment rather than a scantron.

The National Art Education Association published the report Learning in a Visual Age: The Critical Importance of Visual Arts Education. It states, “Art education opens the possibility for creating new worlds, rather than simply accepting the world as it is…students learn a great deal in high-quality visual arts classes that is not captured on standardized tests… teaching students to be creative is a deliberate process, much like teaching students to be literate or to be able to solve mathematics problems.”

Years of research show that art education stimulates and develops the imagination and critical thinking, and refines cognitive and creative skills.

Many people in academia, and the business world, still may think that art is a cute hobby for old ladies and not see it as benefiting other subjects. As an art teacher, I know and have seen how art benefits my students. In one art lesson, I can teach mathematics, language arts, history, and world culture before any student picks up a paintbrush. I tell my students that drawing and painting is easy; it is developing the thought process that is challenging.

Many people know of Da Vinci’s famous Mona Lisa or The Last Supper, but they don’t know that he was also an architect, engineer, and a scientist.  Think about what inspired Da Vinci’s inventions and how he translated them through his artwork.

A blog post on Psychology Today raised a question about the benefits of the arts in other subjects: “Let’s see what happens when we start throwing out all the science and technology that the arts have made possible. The fact is that the arts foster innovation…almost all Nobel laureates in the sciences actively engage in arts.”

Art education has many obstacles to overcome, not the least of which is how it’s devalued by often not being required for graduation. It will continue to face these challenges until it becomes a necessary part of school curriculum. 

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