Recently on TC Daily Planet, Sheila Regan wrote about the disheartening phenomenon of music being dropped from the school-day curriculum at EXPO elementary. Unfortunately, it’s not surprising that this is happening and it’s not entirely new. Arts education historically has been underfunded and valued, particularly in the 13 years since No Child Left Behind, where testing of reading and math have drawn focus away from other subjects.
Perhaps as a way to combat the trend, arts educators have come up with their own assessment models and ways of measuring the value of arts education through various means. The Perpich Center for Arts Education (PCAE) has been leading this charge, particularly in the realm of arts integration, where academic achievement is bolstered by art-making. For example, visual arts might be used as a way to understand geometry, or dance might be used as a way to understand molecular biology.
Metrics are one way to show the value of art in the classroom. You can look at various studies that show direct correlations between, say, music education and academic achievement. Even more directly, when you break art education down into rubrics, the value becomes evident. In a theater class, a young person learns skills that aid them in public speaking, confidence and collaboration. An art class teaches self-expression and communication, not to mention coordination skills. Whatever the arts activity, you can pick out skills that a student gathers along the way, whether its critical thinking, emotional intelligence, abstract thought or physical fitness.
I do believe these measurable skills can all be attributed to arts education, but for me, there’s something missing when you break it down so much. There’s something inherently unquantifiable about art. There’s magic to it, something that you feel physically when you experience it, that you sense in your stomach and at the back of your neck.