When today’s adults were in school, reading and math were major subjects. It was thought that reading helped children communicate and master their native language while math helped kids think conceptually and sequentially. Math and science were practical and applied curriculums while reading helped children think creatively. However, there is much debate on whether today’s students should shift focus from the traditional subjects and make more room for art and music education. Advocates believe that art and music develop and foster creativity, which is the foundation of innovation.
United States and England Consider the Arts
As mentioned, math, science, and literacy traditionally has been the core focus of schooling but the House of Lords recently asserted that the arts should be a part of that core curriculum. Advocates see the arts correlate with the development of creativity, critical thinking, and self-confidence, skills that are related to success and innovation. The United States doubled down on the core subjects following the No Child Left Behind Act. However, some people in American academia believe that too little emphasis has been placed on the arts as a result.
The American recession caused a lot of schools to diminish or completely eradicate arts curriculums. When it came to making cuts, visual arts, music, and creative writing classes were some of the first to be lessened or eliminated. While the arts was considered a part of a well-rounded academic, such classes were the first to be excluded. Unfortunately, along with cuts, the recession would cause a student’s home life to be affected; some students who desired to learn more about the arts or take music lessons were not able to do so due to parents’ inabilities to afford such ‘extras.’
Opposed to the Core
The core subjects include language arts and mathematics yet some schools and communities don’t deny the importance of the finer arts. For example, teachers in a number of districts in California use art to inspire students to make keen observations and think critically. For instance, by peering at a piece of classic art by an esteemed painter, students aspire to the same ends pursued by the core subjects. The approach was developed 20 years ago by a nonprofit called Visual Thinking Strategies. The organization provides training in schools and art museums. In recent years, the national trainings of educators has doubled and trained teachers in more than 70 schools in San Francisco, Northern California, and Los Angeles.
Research shows students of such classes showed a better understanding of visual images as well as acceleration in math and reading. Students are asked what’s going on in a given picture and then must explain how they came to such a conclusion.
Middle and high school students who participate in instrumental music scored higher than their peers on standardized tests. University studies based out of Georgia and Texas found correlations between the number of years a child practices an instrument and academic achievement in math, science, and language arts. Moreover, Northwestern University scientists found that learning and playing music actually changes our brains. Learning to play music stimulates new neural connections. It also prepares the brain for other forms of personal communication. Music training helps those who are otherwise deficient in certain areas of the brain and those with developmental dyslexia. Due to such studies, quality piano lessons for beginners and advanced students are a topic of interest for parents.
STEM and STEAM
STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. STEAM includes an A for the arts. A 2014 study peered into the characteristics of quality STEM programs. For example, students are encouraged to fail and try again while teamwork and communication is a major focus. However, not all students are inclined to readily understand STEM subjects. Proponents of STEAM believe that the arts can serve as a bridge to a better understanding of STEM subjects. The arts provides an opportunity for more diverse teaching and learning. STEAM proponents do not deny the importance of STEM yet believe that the arts leads to not only a well-rounded student but a well-balanced citizen.
The Continued Debate
Despite evidence that the arts help children progress in school and as people, the debate of whether to align related hobbies and topics with as much value as core subjects continues. To date, school curriculums aim to create well rounded students, yet budgets and full-fledged devotion to the arts is limited. However, parents who are increasingly aware of the relation between the arts and innovation, creativity, and excellence in school, do their sons and daughters a service by introducing the arts at home regardless of school curriculums.
Magi Dizdari (BM,MM) is a versatile concert pianist and a successful business woman. In her music career, she has combined two important passions, performing and teaching. In 2003 she founded DEA Music and Art Schools and has since expanded this community-based idea into a successful business opportunity, from a small and local project to a global brand with three branches in US and one in London, UK. It is her innovative philosophy of making music, art and performing, central to the kids education that sets Magi apart from other community projects. Her passion for excellence, knowledge of the performing arts, and need of dreaming big has ensured the success of her business. Her students are award winners and have performed in all major concerts halls around the country, including Carnegie Hall. With her inexhaustible energy, she is a driving force for introducing creativity into the lives of young people and making a real change in the way communities explore the arts.