With shortfalls in education budgets, the arts — visual art, music and theater programs — are first to be eliminated from school curriculum. Sadly, they are considered “non-essential” as they cannot be tested in the same way as other subjects. School funding and teacher performance evaluations are based on student test scores. In a desire to increase these test scores, teaching is focused on math, science and reading because those subjects provide quantifiable results. All of this testing and measuring has led to an educational culture focused on test performance rather than learning outcomes.
However, as Albert Einstein once put it, “Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”
Not all children are effective test takers. Not all learning can be measured by standardized testing. Children are equipped with a variety of learning styles and not all of them are well-suited to test taking.
- Auditory-sequential learners are linear, logical, “one right answer” thinkers. They‘re our strong test takers.
- Visual-spatial learners are holistic, conceptual, big picture thinkers that need to see to learn. This constitutes the majority of our school population.
- Kinesthetic learners need to touch, move and manipulate to learn. These students do not learn effectively by doing worksheets in math class.
The majority of children need to see, move and do in order to learn. The arts are the subjects that provide these visual, tactile learning opportunities. Participation in the arts can have a profound effect on learning outcomes by increasing a child’s ability to understand and process academic subject matter. The arts also provide much needed opportunities for the development of personal identity, communication and self-expression.
Elliot Eisner, professor of Art and Education at Stanford University, credits art as the subject that helps children “see there are multiple solutions to a problem” and “make good judgments about quantitative relationships.” The arts are also subjects that help children develop critical learning and social skills that reinforce school success.
Art can no longer be considered a disposable subject. Art class is a critical must-have for an education system preparing children to compete in a global marketplace. It’s critical that we train children in the technical skills of art, providing them tools for continued creative endeavors, while developing visual acuity and mental processes that undergird essential thinking and learning functions.