The Role of the Arts in Educating America

Posted by Marete Wester, Apr 29, 2011 1 comment

Last fall, 30 top-level decision makers and thought leaders from government, business, education, and the arts gathered at the Sundance Resort and Preserve for the Fifth Annual Americans for the Arts National Arts Policy Roundtable, to discuss this year's theme - The Role of the Arts in Educating America for Great Leadership and Economic Strength.

Their conclusions are profiled in a new report issued this week by Americans for the Arts that calls for individuals across the public and private sector to recognize the arts as the transformational tools they are for making schools stronger and students more successful.

The recommendations offer insights from this cross-sector group on how we can better work together to ensure policies and practices are in place to increase arts in our schools.

The business and public policy communities are building consensus that if the nation is to succeed, an education steeped in the 4 “C’s” (Creativity, Collaboration, Communication and Critical Thinking) is not a luxury, but a necessity.  

Missing from the consensus however, is the connection between the acquisition of these skills and the study and practice of the arts in schools.

The 2010 National Arts Policy Roundtable convening examined how to more effectively draw this connection so leaders in business and government, as well as the general public, could be motivated to support the arts in the education reform movement as a critical tool to our national success.

The consensus was forged by a diverse group of individual leaders and representatives from organizations and agencies, including The Conference Board, the U.S. Department of Education, and the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, along with the American Express Foundation, YoungArts, and the CAA (Creative Arts Agency) Foundation.

The recommendations arrive at an important time for arts education advocates as Congress considers education reforms later this year. The report provides additional ammunition for arguments as to why the arts must be part of our nation’s priorities in education.

Recommendations were developed in four areas:

(1) engaging in more effective messaging to highlight that the arts aren’t only for aspiring artists, but are necessary to develop critical 21st century skills and for motivating students to achieve;

(2) calling for new research that examines how the arts prepare creative and innovative thinkers and compares the United States to other countries in its commitment to developing globally competitive workers;

(3) strengthening strategic alliances among business and philanthropic leaders alongside proponents of arts education in concerted efforts to influence positive change in schools, and;

(4) identifying key opportunities to reform federal public policy that supports the arts in education down the state-to-local pipeline.

The need for increased federal research cited in the National Arts Policy Roundtable recommendations will be answered, in part, by two new federal studies being released this month:

•    the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics study on the national status and condition of arts education in schools throughout the United States (released May 2 - the full report is due by the end of 2011), and;

•     “Reinvesting in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future Through Creative Schools” by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities which has identified successful arts education models and best practices across the country (available from PCAH on May 6).

For more information, download/play the podcast at the top of the page to hear Americans for the Arts President & CEO Bob Lynch discuss the work of the National Arts Policy Roundtable.

For more information on the National Arts Policy Roundtable, visit our webpage.

*For an update to this story - and the latest about all 3 arts education reports, visit this post.

1 responses for The Role of the Arts in Educating America


May 04, 2011 at 4:48 pm

Some of us are calling the next economy the 'design economy'. While Canada and the UK have been teaching design in K12 classrooms and out in local communities since 1995, only 3 states have art and design standards. Design demands investigation of place, its history, its people and its artificial and natural systems. While art budgets are being cut to strengthen teaching to the test standards, many children are offered alternatives to succeed. Many children are not motivated to memorize and need other learning opportunities. Project based learning offers alternatives to test assessment in development of critical thinking, creative propositions, testing and reflection.

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