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Blue Dog says, "Support the arts in education!" Hump Day Hmm for January 16, 2008

(photo credit to Backflip) In elementary school, we had music class every day. I looked forward to that period most of all. In music class it was okay to sing and hum---in fact it was encouraged!---and we got to stand. Plus sometimes the teacher organized little bands and somebody got to bang a tambourine or the sticks, and somebody may even have gotten to pipe on the recorder. We learned sad songs, slow songs, fast songs, and funny songs. My favorites were Waltzing Matilda and Senor Don Gato was a Cat. I sing these songs with my kids, now. We learned about rhyming and meter and prose---well before official language arts classes. We learned about fractions, timing, and scales---well before official math classes.

In fourth grade, if you so chose, you could select an instrument.

I did so choose and I selected the viola. I'd wanted the cello but arguments ensued and the viola was the compromise. I knew I wanted something with a rich and deep tonal potential, not a squeaky violin, and I also knew I preferred string to wind. I rejected piano because piano was not an was required.

Not only did I learn about art, music, history, and culture in my music and instrument classes, but I got a break from seat work. When I returned to class---after learning an essential lesson such as how to work with others in a duet, trio, or orchestra---I was refreshed, ready to engage in class again.

My creativity had an outlet.

My creativity had other outlets, too, through creative crafts projects and later art class. In gym class we had a dancing segment, but I took ballet above and beyond that.

I made friends, gained confidence, augmented my academic lessons, discovered new information, and developed my creativity and talent through art, music and dance. I've carried it with me through life.

The arts drew me out of my shy shell and gave me confidence; a voice. The arts taught me to use my words to paint the picture my hands couldn't draw from my mind.

In junior high, a friend from early elementary school (four schools past) contacted me. We'd stayed in touch, and one of our bonds was our love of music. She was entering a competition and wanted to do a duet with a viola...was I interested? I was eager to pair up again with this girl, but concerned about whether I was good enough to accompany her. She assured me I was, so we entered the competition. I would never have had the confidence to do that. She knew a music tutor who agreed to help us get ready for the competition, and she and I had many fun get-togethers preparing and practicing. Our music tutor encouraged us, and built up our ability to believe in ourselves. As it happened, we performed wonderfully, got compliments, and the highest score. From that, I learned to take risks and believe in myself.

I've written before about the importance of arts in education: "Blue Dog and Art Education: Does putting the arts at risk put kids at risk, too?"

I'd like to reiterate a few key points I cited in that post:
Did You Know?

Young people who participate in the arts for at least three hours on three days each week through at least one full year 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

Young artists, as compared with their peers, are likely to:

* Attend music, art, and dance classes nearly three times as frequently
* Participate in youth groups nearly four times as frequently
* Read for pleasure nearly twice as often
* Perform community service more than four times as often

Source: Americans for the Arts ("Living the Arts through Language + Learning: A Report on Community-based Youth Organizations," Shirley Brice Heath, Stanford University and Carnegie Foundation For the Advancement of Teaching, Americans for the Arts Monograph, November 1998)

Opting out of the arts and putting more emphasis on academics (aka "teaching to the test") isn't preventing our children from being left behind. In fact, it is leaving our children behind.

Some of my best memories of school involve the arts, and some of my best and life-lasting lessons learned came from the arts.

The arts are essential and I am beginning a campaign to not just support them in the schools, but expand them.

Tell us about your experience with the arts and where you believe they fit with education...

Copyright 2007 Julie Pippert
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Melissa said…
So is the alternate title this week "Are you smarter than a seventh grader?" :)
SciFi Dad said…
My arts exposure is based primarily in music, so I can't speak for the other disciplines. However, music theory in particular has so many applications to other studies, particularly mathematics and literature (specifically I'm thinking of poetry, but general language flow applies too).

Great subject this week.
Anonymous said…
My experiences with music were not so positive, and I didn't really enjoy art classes in school. So now here I am at 32 futzing around with paints and pencils trying to figure out what I could have learned then, if art had been taught properly.
painted maypole said…
oh wow. i may have to write a post about this... let me think on this. But YES, YES and again I say YES. Art is so important, and it teaches so much more than art.

beautifully said, and a great topic.

now I must get to thinking if I am up for post writing today. I hadn't been planning on it...
Mad said…
We spend so much time in our society trying to justify an arts education when, to my mind, it is something we should simply know. We never question the importance of speaking languages. Art is as fundamental as language--which is why I went wordless.
Anonymous said…
We cut programs then end up with fewer students going on and becoming music teachers then we don't have teachers, so we don't have a program then....
We could never afford musical instruments when I was a kid but I was a huge fan of art classes and writing. My teachers in those areas made a huge impact on me. In fact, I'd say those classes were probably the most helpful ones I took all through high school.
Michele said…
We send our daughter to a private Jewish pre-school and even at 18 months, she attends a music class several times per week. How is it helping her? Only time will tell but I know she and all the other kids really love that time.
Kellan said…
"Opting out of the arts and putting more emphasis on academics (aka "teaching to the test") isn't preventing our children from being left behind. In fact, it is leaving our children behind." - I couldn't agree more!! Nice said, Julie. See you soon. Kellan
Gwen said…
Our school has a very enthusiastic music teacher (3x a week) and a very talented art teacher (3x a week). But wouldn't you know Charlotte's favorite class is gym? lol.

The more I read about other public schools, the luckier I feel about mine (it's really too bad our air isn't cleaner ....).

I don't remember having art at all in school, although I did love to paint as a child and still have my old art work, now framed and hanging in my daughters' rooms. Any art we did was taught by our classroom teacher, the very teacher who kept spanking me for holding my scissors the wrong way. Obviously, she was quite enlightened and I'm sure imparted all kinds of valuable art knowledge. Yup.
Anonymous said…
I had music every day in elementary school too. My teacher from the first school taught us to read music. She introduced us to all of the different genres of music, including jazz. We studied composers and learned to recognize at least one important piece of music from each composer. When I transferred to an open concept school every kid had to buy a recorder. We played songs together that taught us more sight reading as well as how to keep time with the music. Fridays were for music appreciation. We were allowed to bring one song on vinyl (45s) and play it. We had to learn to listen to the music that others liked and they had to do the same. My kids have never had ANYTHING like what I had. And that's just really sad.
thailandchani said…
It seems that education has become so utilitarian here. Just teach the kids enough to prepare them for the workplace. "We don't need only bread.. we need roses, too".
anne said…
Having done a 12 year tour of duty in Catholic schools, the one thing I can say is that the nuns took their music very seriously. And I'm glad for it. We not only had a regular music class once a week, but we also spent time each week learing to sing songs in three and sometimes four part harmonies for mass. When I think back about it now, it amazes me.

Fortunatly, the public school my children attend(ed) hasen't given up on the arts yet. The high school band is the pride of the town and very much supported. And my daughter is currently doing an independent photography study. I'm pretty happy with what they have to offer.

It will be a sad day when the arts are stolen away from our children. It may sound a little "conspiracy theory" but it almost seems like a perfect plan for raising a nation of non-questioning-go-to-workers.

"A culture is only as great as its dreams, and its dreams are dreamed by artists." L. Ron Hubbard
le35 said…
I feel that the arts are one thing that helps kids do better at other subjects. I also feel that as soon as we leave the arts, we lose aesthetics in our society.

Aesthetics is the opposite of violence. When we look for the beauty in things, we don't look for the evil or ugliness. The more people look for the beauty, the more beauty comes into the world.
I'm such a believer in this -- nurturing these elements with the realization that the effects will be far-reaching.

I grew up with music. My mom was the pianist for our church. We all learned to play. I joined several school choirs, while my middle sister joined the band.

(Have to confess, memories of her 7 a.m. practice sessions still make my blood run cold. The FLUTE? At 7 a.m.? ARGH!)

My oldest loves to draw and create. And I'm so glad her teacher encourages this, even saving certain scraps of oddly shaped paper that she knows the kid will be able to use in some very specific way.
Anonymous said…
This topic is so close to my heart it's hard to even start writing about it without getting all passionate and overbearing. :) My biggest frustration is the constant cutting and underfunding of the arts in schools. I have one more kid to get through 4 years of high school and we're done. Her opportunities are about half of those her brother had, and he just graduated last year. His were about a third of those his brother had -- he graduated in 1999.

By the time my grandkids are in the school system they'll say "What arts?".

Daisy said…
Fabulous. When I decided to get a masters degree, I took a program in the arts. I now integrate the arts everywhere I can in my curriculum, and my students really benefit from it. I have more fun teaching, too.
Lawyer Mama said…
I so agree. And I finally got around to posting my thoughts.
Gunfighter said…
"Senor Don Gato was a cat!
On a high red roof Don Gato sat!
He was there to read a letter...."

Thanks for the memory of third grade!

I was involved in music (vocal) from elementary through high school... I think that education in the arts is important... no, it is essential.

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