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November 3, 2009

Are the arts here to stay or on their way out?

by Chris Lindholm

The arts are critical to brain development and to raising youth who are in touch with their senses, emotions, and inner self.  Josh Lehrer, in a recent post said,

The current obsession with measuring learning certainly has some benefits (accountability is good), but it also comes with some serious drawbacks, since it diminishes all the forms of learning, like arts education, that can't be translated into a score on a multiple choice exam. That's why the research cited above is so important: it helps us appreciate the "soft" skills that we tend to neglect.

But I think that even this clinical evaluation of arts education misses an important benefit: self-expression. I shudder to think that second graders, at least in most schools, are never taught the value of putting their mind on the page. They are drilled in spelling, phonetics and arithmetic (the NCLB school day must be so tedious), and yet nobody ever shows them how to take their thoughts and feelings and translate them into a paragraph or a painting. We assume that creativity will take care of itself, that the imagination doesn't need to be nurtured. But that's false. Creativity, like every cognitive skill, takes practice; expressing oneself well is never easy.

Are we teaching children the essential 21st century skills of self expression, creativity, and design?  How do we "double the time" for reading and math skills to make AYP and still deliver on what is presented in Lehrer's post as critical learnings for all kids?  What are your thoughts?

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