Washington D.C. recently adopts comprehensive art education learning standards for its students
In its recent report, “Tough Choices, Tough Times,” the National Center on Education and the Economy wrote compellingly about future skills that will be needed by America’s workforce, and the transformation that is going to have to occur in our nation’s schools in order to compete in the global economy.1 Reports continue to document that “United States leadership depends on creativity and innovation and not technology alone in order to compete in the global marketplace. Strong skills in the arts are essential qualities needed for success in the workplace: “creative and innovative, self-disciplined and well organized team players who are flexible and adaptable to change and facility with the use of ideas and abstractions."2 The arts enable students to develop the capacities to create, perform, use critical judgment, problem solve and appreciate many forms of art.
One goal of arts education in Washington, DC (District) is to prepare our students to be vibrant participants in a creative economy and positive contributors in our democratic society. Americans for the Arts, a leading nonprofit organization promoting the arts in America, estimates that the economic impact of the arts in the greater Washington metropolitan area is $2.1 billion, and that they contribute $144 million to the region’s tax base. The industry supports almost 12,000 jobs in the District of Columbia alone, 45,000 in the greater metro area.
High quality, sequential education in the arts, along with interaction with cultural organizations and artists, contributes in multiple ways to the development of workforce skills and the capacity to learn. Time dedicated to the study of the arts does not work to the detriment of other academic subjects. The arts reinforce learning, motivate and engage students, reduce dropout rates, defuse school violence and help retain teachers. The arts provide meaning to academics and to life.
Those in the arts community often talk about the “intrinsic” and “instrumental” value of the arts. Whether being awed by a dance performance, moved by music, captivated by the theater, or enthralled by appointing, art for art’s sake, has a powerful inherent value. For the District’s school children to compete in today’s world, the arts must play an instrumental role in the overall curriculum. We cannot ignore the growing body of literature that relates art education to the learning of other subjects like social studies, mathematics and reading. In March 2008, the results of a major, scientific three-year study, The Dana Consortium Report on Arts and Cognition: Learning, Arts, and the Brain, stated that training in the arts has positive benefits for ”more cognitive mechanisms.”3 For example, the study found correlations existing between music training and both reading acquisition and sequence learning. Training in acting
appeared to lead to memory improvement. Eliot W. Eisner, Ph.D., one of the nation’s leading education thinkers, believes that among many positive outcomes, the arts teach students to make valuable judgments about qualitative relationships, recognize that problems in life can have more than one solution, celebrate multiple perspectives, understand and recognize that small differences can have large effects and say what cannot be written or spoken.4
1 “Tough Choices or Tough Times: The Report on the New Commission on the Skills of the American Workforce” (National Center on Education and the
2 “The Imagine Nation: Moving America’s Children Beyond Average imagination and the 21st Century Education (Poll conducted by Lake
Research Partners and released by AEP The ImagineNation, January, 2008
3 “Learning, Arts, and the Brain.” Report released by the Dana Foundation on March 4, 2008. The Report was based on a three-year scientific
study conducted by seven major universities across the United States.
4 Elliot W. Eisner, PhD., Stanford University, works in Arts Education, Curriculum Studies, and Qualitative Research Methodology. See “The Arts and the
Creation of the Mind,” Chapter 4 (Yale University Press, 2002).
It's great to see this taking place on a large scale. Let's hope it continues to take hold and gain traction throughout the country. It's also nice to see that many of the points made in this introduction are similar to those made on this blog.