I've been harping on the benefits of art and I thought I was tooting my own horn. So when I bumped into an article the other day written beautifully by Lisa L., a teenager from Wisconsin, I thought it was absolutely great. The article was titled "Benefits of the Arts." While her article also discusses the benefits of music and dance, it speaks of all the arts and her words were more than perfect.
Her essay begins with "The arts are an essential part of public education." That sounds like someone would like to do more dancing and singing in class. But, what it says to me is that Lisa understands that art benefits the students in ways few people realize. Lisa goes on to list all the ways in which art helps students develop. But, she mentions one sad fact that for some schools is already true. She is worried that the schools will cut art from the curriculum because of budget cuts.
Art helps students express themselves in ways they normally are not allowed. Classrooms do not offer much discussion and when they do, discussions still have to be monitored by the teacher. But, art allows a student to say what she wants to say. After all, why do you think Lisa wrote her essay? The art of self-expression through writing allows her to put concerns into print where others can understand her and possibly change what will be cut from the school curriculum because of her influence.
In our industrialized nation, we push the maths and sciences. We constantly make those subjects seem more important than all the rest because the political figureheads are convinced that math and science will solve all of our problems. We give scholarships out left and right to college students claiming a math or a science as a major. Other majors are forced to fight for the scraps. But, math and science are process skills.
When I wrote the "Art's Most Fun Aspects" I wrote about the left and right brain conflict. Art introduces different cognitive abilities that help us solve complex problems. It activates the part of our brain that works without words, but thoughts that can not be expressed in words. It activates the imaginative and creative side, the spatial and intuitive side. While math and science activate logic and analysis, process skills that are basically trial and error, art activates a way of thinking that surpasses normal thinking paths. Not every gap has to be filled. Not every "t" has to be crossed nor "I" dotted.
That's how important art is to academics. Because of how it reaches into the brain, kids get better grades. They enjoy school more. They understand concepts with greater ease. They are more helpful to others who are struggling in school. Art solves problems and Lisa was trying to tell us that.
With money issues facing our schools, parents and teachers alike often find themselves battling uphill battles. As art is pushed to the backburner, parents will see a change in their kids' attitudes toward school. Teachers will feel more challenged to meet their demands. But, there is a solution. If art is cut from the schools because of budget issues, parents will only be doing their kids a service by making sure they still have art in their lives.