The Arts and culture are the contemporary currency of America
By Dr. Reginald Templeman, MindShift Professor
The Arts – music, acting, dance, drama – are largely the domain of schools in the United States. Historically, schools have been rigid in their approach to programming for the arts. Teachers, at the front of the class, work to get their students aware of each art form, and – in some cases – have seen a decline in creativity, innovation, and critical thinking. Now, schools are learning to incorporate creativity into the instructional process and to increase the artistic disciplines as a priority.
Thinking beyond the four walls of the traditional school set design
“The Arts are for everyone. They have been so long the province of children that I rarely see educators – parents and teachers included – move from framing and fashioning the field as one for those with talent, to one where age-old barriers to inclusion are first dismantled, and replaced with one for students who have the potential for excellence in the arts,” explains Dr. Nickie Davidson-McGowan, a former educator, educator’s collaborator, and one of the co-founders of LEARN.
The curriculum surrounding the arts, including class design, approaches, is a major change for U.S. schools. Since the start of the recession, teachers have faced the challenge of providing their students with a wide array of academic subjects to learn. Increasingly, teaching methods involve listening, learning, assessment, instruction, and creativity, among others. This approach means students are engaged in a type of activity that may be quite new to them.
A recent report from the National Endowment for the Arts found a connection between lack of interest in the arts, lack of a postsecondary plan, and a high number of children in low-income families receiving attendance passes to the arts. So far, efforts to bring the arts to schools have not matched the level of content mastery for which U.S. students aspire.
Is your school up to speed on increasing participation in the arts?
Still, there are people who insist that arts integration is required as a way to make schools thrive and to create more effective schools. The struggle to involve students in the arts stems from what Dr. David Carson, who co-authored the Leavenworth County School District’s Impact Plan, refers to as the “movement” of various arts disciplines. Carson and his fellow co-authors recognized “a newness in preparing students for a world in which the connections of communication via the arts and the communication methods of the arts will become increasingly important for social relevance.”
The Huffington Post reports that the only way to effectively integrate the arts into the classroom, according to Carson, is to do so for two years. A multi-pronged approach includes “longitudinal assessments to understand the effects on academics and behavior, adding curriculum in non-traditional ways, strengthening communication among arts and classroom specialists, drawing arts into literacy and language arts programs, and building an arts-related professional development pipeline.”
You don’t have to travel far to find examples of innovative arts integration. For example, the Ohio Department of Education reports that “Cleveland Public Schools partnered with the Cleveland Orchestra for the Downtown Zone Education Partnership” that “gives teachers working in Cleveland and the surrounding communities opportunities to experience and share the excitement and pride of the Cleveland Orchestra with their students.”
What’s your take on arts integration in the U.S.?