Teacher Tales: Art Is Life
This past weekend, my wife Julie and I were invited to attend an art exhibition/ dedication event for a local artist whose latest piece was installed at the entrance to a new library in downtown Aurora, Il. The artist, Jim Jenkins, is someone I met through a mutual friend. This was the second exhibit of his I was fortunate enough to see. The artistic vision (and execution!) Mr. Jenkins possesses is nothing short of amazing. His work is museum quality, and not more of the tired, overdone “art’ we are usually subjected to on the local level.
If you are wondering why I’m sharing this with you, it is because the American art scene will shortly be dead. With budgetary cuts across hundreds of school districts nationwide, the arts and music education programs will suffer even more, or as in many places already, will become extinct. Imagine the day when the Old Masters’ works crumble into dust, and there won’t be anything to replace them. I’m betting you agree with me that this is indeed a bleak outlook. Sadly, if this happens, it will be our own fault.
Somehow, in the midst of worrying about higher standardized test scores, college preparedness, and the pressure of everyday living, we have forgotten that the schools are there to educate our children; and I mean educate them in as many subjects to help them become well-rounded people. Just as no person is an “island”, education cannot be transmitted in a vacuum. A truly well-rounded student has at least a cursory understanding of art and music, as well as the “essential” subjects like mathematics and reading.
Although the Common Core Standards have generally been vilified, one part the creators did “get right” is how they managed to tie reading and writing into the standards for each subject, including the STEM areas of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. While at first glance this might not appear necessary, any research findings, lab results, mechanical advances, and a multitude of other refinements must be clearly transmitted to the larger society in order for humanity to benefit from them.
Art and music are no less important when considering how to best transmit, or broadcast our culture and creative ideas. Research has proven, for example, that softly playing Classical music has the wonderful effects of not only relaxing the listener, but also of helping the listener “lock” information into his or her memory. I have had students tell me that once they tried to study while listening to soft music, they did, in fact, retain their learning longer and more completely. Surely, if we want to keep our students competitive in our new world economy, we must provide them with every opportunity to succeed.
If I have managed to convince you, my gentle reader, that art and music are at least as important as reading and writing, then I’m sending you a call to action. Please write your Representatives and tell them you don’t your kids to miss out on an integral portion of his education. Get involved with your school board. Tell your child’s principal that art and music ARE important, and shouldn’t be cut. If those strategies don’t affect some changes, become your child’s best teacher and introduce them to majesty and beauty… teach them about art and music.