Although our education system seems to be catching on to the fact that the arts are crucial to the development of all children since I first wrote this post in 2014, there is still along way to go. Art is not just an outlet for our visual learners, but a pathway to creative thinking for our more rigid auditory-sequential learners. Adding the arts back into the curriculum will boost test scores and school performance.
There is a rather critical matter at hand in education and I want to speak very directly about it. The arts are being eliminated from our schools and testing is on the rise. There is a prevailing notion that we need less of the arts in order to make more time for the subjects that are being tested and for the tests themselves.
This line of thinking actually results in lower test scores and disconnected, discouraged, under-achieving students. Why? Because the arts, the very thing schools want to eliminate, are essential to the majority of the student population; not because art is a fun way to relax or express oneself – but because the arts actually fuel the brain. The majority of the student population are visual-spatial learners that NEED the arts to think effectively.
Two sides are better than one
There are two sides to every brain, the linear, logical LEFT and the visual-spatial RIGHT. Our schools are designed to teach the left side of our brains. Standardized tests are designed to measure how well we’re teaching to the left. So what about the right side of our brains? What about the majority of students that use the right side of their brains to learn? Schools without art are not reaching those students and standardized tests are stressing them out, not testing their capabilities.
Fish need to be in water
What happens to our right-hemisphere kids when so much emphasis is put on measuring their left-hemisphere skills? They feel like fish stuck in trees.
“Everyone’s is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it’s stupid.” Albert Einstein
Right-hemisphere kids need water to swim in. The arts are their water. Yes, they are going to need to take tests and they need to be able to use the left side of their brain effectively, but they have to do it while swimming. These kids need to operate from a place that is natural, comfortable for them, a place that positions them for success. It’s critical that they continue to participate in the arts – while we teach and test the left side of their brains.
Art matters to everyone
The right side of our brain is visual, spatial and holistic in design. It sees the whole before the parts. It sees patterns, relationships and multiple solutions to a problem. Right brain, visual-spatial kids need to see to think. They need to draw out their learning and be visually involved in the learning process.
The arts are visual, spatial and holistic by design. They are hands on, multisensory experiences that provide tremendous opportunities for creative, holistic, multidimensional thinking. The arts come naturally to our visual-spatial kids. It’s where they thrive, where they swim best. To expect them to live, learn and even test – without art – is a grave injustice.
The need for children to be involved in art programs is a yearlong, life long need. But during this season of standardized testing, be sure your kids stay involved in the art programs that have been feeding them.
If you have your child in music, theater or dance class – keep them there.
If your child is in an art class – keep them there.
Keep the water level high so your kids thrive.
Get my book, Being Visual: Raising a Generation of Innovative Thinkers, to find out why the arts are so important and how you can help the visual thinkers in your life.