Swirls of Color or Standardized Dots? Keep Arts in Schools


What picture inspires you more.

This?

Or this?

If public school budgets continue to shave and slash away at the arts, the black and white dots of those “No Child Left Behind” standardized tests are all that will be left of our children’s public school education. Teaching to the test leaves no room for imagination, creativity, real thinking or problem solving.  What it has resulted in is burned-out stressed-out teachers and students.

This is according to an independent documentary called “Race To Nowhere” that is sparking a grassroots movement to reshape how we educate our public school students. I look forward to seeing a screening of this independent movie in Rochester, NY, at Nazareth College on April 4.  The movie screening is being sponsored in part by a private Jewish day school, Hillel Community Day School.

The film challenges parents, educators, and policy makers with this question: Are we doing right by our children? Is the pressure to succeed in standardized tests really preparing our children to become capable, inspired and motivated individuals ready to tackle college or the workforce?

When school budgets get tight, the arts are the first to get cut. In fact, schools in the Rochester area are seeking to reduce some of their arts budgets by 50 percent.

Is music, art and sculpture really that expendable?  Is painting, singing, and playing an instrument such a frivolous part of a child’s education that it should be considered a fluffy extra that can be easily eliminated from  his academic career?  

Absolutely not, according to Americans for the Arts.  Young people who consistently participate in comprehensive, sequential, and rigorous arts programs are:

  • 4 times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement
  • 3 times more likely to be elected to class office within their schools
  • 4 times more likely to participate in a math and science fair
  • 3 times more likely to win an award for school attendance
  • 4 times more likely to win an award for writing an essay or poem*

When was the last time your child stood at an easel and held a brush full of paint? Or perhaps, in the spirit of abandoning everything for creativity’s sake, she ditched the brush and instead joyfully found herself up to her elbows in paint, as her hands and fingers glided across the paper.  

Indeed, art is messy. When was the last time you let your kid get messy at home with some paint or clay? Overheard once in  a preschool hallway: “I’m so glad they paint here at school, because at home, we don’t let him do that.”

Might as well draw a dagger through a teacher’s heart.

Video games and television are not messy. But they don’t do much to fire up the brain neurons either.

Art on the other hand unlocks creativity in children that leads to story telling, pattern recognition, and understanding other cultures. It is simply the expression of life that makes life enjoyable.  Art enables quiet kids to tell stories. Art calms and centers otherwise boisterious kids.  It is a positive way for them to control the environment around them.  A blank piece of paper or a lump of play dough can become a whole universe that they can master.

The above picture was created by a very precocious preschooler who patiently sat, cut and created a composition. Imagine what that same child can do when she gets older in an art class?

If a child is not going to be exposed to the earts in their earliest school years, then where will they get the opportunities? If arts are cut in public schools, there are private arts classes that parents can enroll their chilren in most towns and communities. But they cost money. So, cut the arts in public schools, and access to arts will only be possible to the families who can afford them.

And the rest? GThe only drawing less priveleged kids are going to do in school are the dots and circles they create on a standardized test.

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About stacylynngittleman

I have been a public relations professional and reporter -- and always thought I would live in the New York Metro area - before my husband took a job in Rochester, New York. Most in Metro New York can't find Rochester on a map,and neither could I before we moved. I am now a columnist and a freelance writer for Rochester's only daily newspaper, the Democrat & Chronicle. I also am passionate about gardening, fitness and most of all, Jewish education and Israel Advocacy. Here's my perspective on Western New York living - the good, the bad, and the snowy.

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