Arts Education Advocates Speak Out

A block of marble reveals a secret

I am sharing some insights by a few profound thinkers on the subject of arts education.  I hope you will find these ideas though-provoking.  Please let me know what you think.  If you have a quote that should be included, share it in your comment.

The Disappearing Arts

“In America, we do not reserve arts education for privileged students or the elite. Children from disadvantaged backgrounds, students who are English language learners, and students with disabilities often do not get the enrichment experiences of affluent students anywhere except at school. President Obama recalls that when he was a child ‘you always had an art teacher and a music teacher. Even in the poorest school districts everyone had access to music and other arts.’

Today, sadly, that is no longer the case.”

– U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan, April 9, 2010


The Integrated Arts

“The arts in the schools do not, cannot, and should not exist in isolation.  They necessarily must operate in the framework of general education.  When they are part of the curriculum of American schools – and this cannot be taken for granted – inevitably they are there because they give students an indispensable educational dimension… The arts are affiliated with the schools’ important responsibility to pass on civilization.”

-from Strong Arts, Strong Schools by Charles Fowler
1996 Oxford University Press


The Arts Equation

“Education minus art? Such an equation equals schooling that fails to value ingenuity and innovation. The word art, derived from an ancient Indo-European root that means “to fit together,” suggests as much. Art is about fitting things together: words, images, objects, processes, thoughts, historical epochs.

It is both a form of serious play governed by rules and techniques that can be acquired through rigorous study, and a realm of freedom where the mind and body are mobilized to address complex questions — questions that, sometimes, only art itself can answer: What is meaningful or beautiful? Why does something move us? How can I get you to see what I see? Why does symmetry provide a sense of pleasure?”

-Jeffrey T. Schnapp is director of the Stanford Humanities Lab at Stanford University, a prominent cultural historian of the 20th century, and a frequent curator of art exhibitions in Europe and the United States.


The Squandered Arts

“All kids have tremendous talents and we squander them pretty ruthlessly… We (educators) stigmatize mistakes… We are educating people out of their creative capacities… We don’t grow into creativity, we are educated out of it.”

-Sir Ken Robinson, PhD is an internationally recognized leader in the development of creativity, innovation and human resources.


The Teaching Arts

“Learning to think within the affordances and constraints of the material is one of the things that the arts teach… we can look at the arts as tasks which develop the mind because of the kinds of thinking that they evoke, practice and develop… What we need in American education is not for the arts to look more like the academics… but for the academics to look more like the arts.”

-Elliot W. Eisner, Lee Jacks Professor of Education and professor of art at Stanford University, speaking in September 2006 on “What Do the Arts Teach?”

4 thoughts on “Arts Education Advocates Speak Out

Add yours

  1. I was tutoring at a high school today and nowhere is there a place that needs arts education more than this place. It is already rich with culture, but there is a malaise or an attitude of desperation there to save this school from the recent upheaval at the TPS School Board. They say there is no money to keep this school running and that they have to fill seats or the school will be closed or subject to their three complex solutions. No other school in town deserves being saved more than this one–even the building is historic with a structure that parallels some of the most beautiful architecture in Tulsa. The kids are lively, outspoken and deserving of a well-rounded education (which includes a solid arts education as well). They need someone//their community to be fully committed to them with regard to getting this education. I heard a teacher say this today, “they just need to let us alone; we have almost gotten everything we were struggling with (academically) turned around, but now it seems like they are giving up on us.” You know that saying, “darkest before the dawn.” That is what I see in this valiant group. I sincerely hope the School Board’s recent conglomerate of solutions really do work this time. All these kids and their extremely dedicated teachers deserve everything we can give them, even if it comes from the larger Tulsa community, not just their district.


    1. I agree Sheila. We think kids in difficult schools just need more technical training. Often what they need is the critical thinking skills and opportunities to test the limits of failure that arts classes provide.


  2. Every school or school system advertises or highlights their arts program when they solicit support, but when the financial hard times come the arts are the first to go.


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