SIMPSON STREET FREE PRESS: Save Our Arts -- Arts and Music Education Build School Success

This story appeared originally in Simpson Street Free Press. It was written by Annie Shao, age 17

"Did you make this?"

When I hear comments like this on the various vases and cups decorating my bedroom, I explain that I made the pottery in one of my high school's ceramics courses.

Memorial High School provides many unique and innovative art and music classes. Most students at my school have the opportunity to learn how to use a glass torch, handle a throwing wheel, create animations, sing in a choir, and play an instrument. Not only do these arts programs teach fine art and music, many studies have shown that arts education helps with overall academic achievement.

What a shame it would be if our public schools no longer offered these valuable programs.

With increasing budget problems, arts education is often the first thing cut. The art and music programs that do exist often lack proper resources. Some say this is a better than cutting academics, as they wrongly believe arts education is merely a luxury.

Exposure to the arts, however, correlates directly with the crucial skills needed for academic success. Improved critical thinking, motivation, creativity, concentration and confidence are just a few qualities developed and enhanced through arts education. Along with fostering these skills, the arts can be used as a model to teach other things beyond the art itself. For example, teachers can assign a drawing project to teach geography, or introduce Escher-like figures and tessellations to help explain geometry. Music can be written to teach any concept, like raps about history or foreign language songs that can teach vocabulary.

Although involvement in the arts may not magically boost math and reading skills, educators are beginning to see a trend of higher standardized test scores in students who are exposed to arts at school. Arizona's state superintendent Tom Horne agrees that "kids immersed in the arts do better on their academic tests."

Of course, improved grades are important, but our world is not a standardized test. There are many ways for people to succeed, and students should learn this reality. They should learn it from an early age.

Education should be more than just teaching facts and formulas; it should emphasize problem solving and the ability to respond to one's environment in an intelligent way. When creating artwork or playing music, a successful student learns to use many methods and techniques. And there are many ways to finish a piece or learn a song to performance level. Experiencing the arts can show children that there usually is more than one way to do something.

Many argue that children are often exposed to the arts without public schools, but unfortunately, not every family can afford to provide this opportunity. Eric Cooper, president of National Urban Alliance for Effective Education, explains that a rich arts program in schools offers "a more level playing field" for children of lower income families and children of more affluent families. A stronger emphasis on arts education could help close the achievement gap.

Just as important as academic performance, the arts play a major role in every culture. Most everyone loves music entertainment, viewing artwork, or watching a theater production. What many do not realize is how important it is for artists to develop these skills at a young age. For instance, people learn music much more easily at a young age because of greater dexterity and brain plasticity. Exposing young students to art and music will help create the future artists who will continually enrich our culture.

As a student, I have always been lucky enough to have arts education in my life. I cannot imagine school or life without the arts. And I feel strongly that every child deserves to have the same opportunities. The correlation with improved school performance is too crucial to ignore. Art and music education has the ability to open doors to students who otherwise could not have access to the arts makes public arts education too important to eliminate from the school system.

[Sources:, Chicago Tribune]