One of the most common debates to hear about public education is where funding goes, particularly when art and music programs get cut.

A lot of schools end up in tough spots when it comes to budget slashes and funding decisions, and certain types of programs end up under a microscope in terms of their value to education.

A Brookings Institute study found that students in a control group who were provided arts experiences had a 3.6 percentage point reduction in disciplinary infractions, an improvement of 13% of a standard deviation in standardized writing scores and showed an increase in compassion for others involving wanting to help people and having more of an interest in other people and their feelings. An Education Week study found similar results, showing that cultural or artistic experiences improve student knowledge about the arts, as well as desire to become cultural consumers in the future.

Harrisonburg City Schools students have a chance to reap all of those benefits and likely more through the expansion the popular summer enrichment program and a new offshoot called the Art Institute, according to an article in Thursday's edition of the Daily News-Record.

In conjunction with the Summer Enrichment Program, the Arts Institute offers students opportunities in music, dance, drama and visual art, according to the article. And more than 500 students from city and county schools are getting a chance to take part in these opportunities.

We commend Harrisonburg City Schools for taking on this expansion and hope officials get the support needed to continue this and similar offerings in the future. Every child is an individual and can benefit from diverse learning opportunities and exposure to the arts.

Some of the children who attend the Art Institute may discover a passion or skill set they may never have experienced otherwise. Finding that passion and having artistic experiences can and likely will strengthen their other educational endeavors.

(27) comments

Donald

I would think that the effect of the arts on a person’s approach to other areas in life would depend to an extent on what art is being presented and, probably just as importantly, is it simply presentation or is it participation in the sense that the individual actually engages in an artistic endeavor or at least attempts to analysis the meaning within the work. I can only speak from personal experience, subjective as that may be, but as I think back to my school days I do not first recall a day in biology class or geometry class, but instead recall days spent in English literature. This is not to say that I am not enamored of the sciences, technology, and math (though with math it has always required effort from me, not having a natural bent for it). The precision of these areas (basically a “yes” or “no” approach) is reassuring and has contributed mightily to the advancement of civilization. Art, again just my opinion, is a “what if…”, or a “how about…”, or a “well, from a different angle…” type of thing where it lacks precision but presents a window on another view of our world. In other words, art, to me, is overwhelmingly based on a creativity freed from the constraint of assumed logic. To what degree does this lend itself to an engineer’s ability to create a technique, a product, or a new way of doing something that he or she may not have otherwise envisioned? I do not know, but I suspect the more creative a mind becomes the more effective it will be in most areas including the sciences.

prodigalson

I must admit Donald, I never really though of it that way, but what you’re saying makes a lot of sense. Great post.

Donald

I share your interest in and use of hand tools, Mr. Prodigalson. Especially quality made used tools that can be had for pennies on the dollar compared to the inferior product sold in today’s large box stores. I am not faulting them for the inferior quality of their product compared to tools made in a bygone era. The quality tools of yesterday were built to last a craftsman’s lifetime and be handed down to the next generation, whereas today’s box store tool is simply meant to serve the occasional use of the homeowner. I must admit though, I recently broke down and bought a new skill saw for use in bulk cutting – a tool I last used in a BeforeTime life when I was a finisher of concrete and a rough carpenter of forms. It works as well now as they did then. I also agree that the passing down of knowledge and skills should be a priority whether at schools or at hearth of home.

prodigalson

You are absolutely correct about the quality of tools. I have tools in my toolbox that have been used hard for many years, and are as good today as they were the day they were manufactured. Again Donald, I appreciate your posts.

sbsheridan

I love your thought process here, Donald. Thank you. Instruction has indeed changed; I witnessed some of the evolution when teaching middle school math and science. We were trained to give students a problem situation or a hands-on activity, and ask them to draw on previous learning, develop a problem-solving method, manipulate data, discuss results with one another, and come to a conclusion. Projects were not solved with one number or a “yes” or “no,” and no project was complete until each student could explain the reasoning he/she used to arrive at an appropriate solution. These students are becoming the creative thinkers and problem-solvers of industry today, and they owe some of their mental agility to art and music.

Mike Muterspaugh

LVW-You obviously did not work art or music into your curriculum. That explains a lot as per brain development. [wink]

DANT

Two studies that no one on here posting knows who or how they were done but yet they are willing to accept them as pure truth with no bias! Can you say gullible? How about fake news?

LVW

Two reputable studies versus zero studies at all ... who is being gullible?

prodigalson

I don’t need a “study” to tell me the obvious LVW: Art is playtime, pure and simple. Again, nothing wrong with it in the “fun and games” sense. But let’s keep it in its proper perspective. The weightier issues in life should take precedence.

LVW

Just do an internet search for "art and music develop the brain" and see what you find. Bottom line: studying art/music develops part of the brain that might not otherwise develop, making you better at other things, things that even you would find useful. That's the point.

sbsheridan

So now you're an expert in art? You just know that climate science is fake news and art is playtime. This is not a good way to make decisions. At least read over the evidence!

prodigalson

LVW, in my spare time (of which I have very little because I work for a living), I enjoy listening to music. I even know how to read music and play several musical instruments. I also know how to use hand tools, I know how to weld, am somewhat mechanically inclined, etc. I can’t say that I enjoy art or poetry very much, but have no objectiion to those things. I believe that art, poetry, music, etc., are wonderful gifts that God has given us so that we may more fully enjoy life. I don’t even have a problem with making these things part of the curriculum at some basic level. What I do have a problem with is giving these things priority at parity with, or in some cases, assigning those things a higher priority than the marketable and useful skills that I posted about earlier. If I’m not mistaken, the editor was writing about spending tax payer dollars for either summer time or after school programs designed to promote these things. In my mind, that money, and that time, would be better spent on things that really matter. While I personally love music, for example, I can’t think of a single example of my knowledge of music benefitting me in the areas of weldimg, using hand tools, etc. I’m sorry, I just don’t see the connection.

LVW

prod: Fair enough. Thanks for clarifying. (I have some musical chops as well!)

prodigalson

Amen to that Dant!

sbsheridan

There are far more than 2 studies. Search on “art and music in K12 curriculum,” and you get pages and pages of studies, including analyses from state and local boards of education, foundations, and the Phi Beta Kappan (a journal for professional educators). Then, widen your thinking a bit. Art is more than drawing; it teaches principles of shape and space, perspective, and creativity. Music is a great reinforcer of collaboration and cooperation, and the importance of hard work to maintain your contribution to the group. The editorial, I believe, did not discuss the relative need for music and art in a school’s curriculum. However, it correctly identified the importance of music and art for all – even those who become welders or users of hand tools.

prodigalson

I’m sorry Mr. Editor, but you’re wrong on this one. The last thing that our nation needs is more “artists”. What we need is more adults with actual marketable skills that will benefit society and provide that adult with a good, honorable living. We need more electricians, plumbers, welders, mechanics, carpenters, and machinists. We also need to raise our kids in such a way that they are willing to work for a living once they graduate from high school, college, or trade school.

mattnamyj

Very well put Prod... Too many touchy feely people and not enough hands on working types.

prodigalson

Thank you mattnamyj.

LVW

The point is that students who are exposed to art are better students overall, no matter what they end up studying, not to increase the number of art majors in the world.

prodigalson

No, they aren’t.

LVW

prod: Well, the editor provided some factual evidence to support the point of the editorial. What do you have to support your denial, other than wingnut say-so?

sbsheridan

Yes, on average they are.

prodigalson

I have no problem with “art”, or with “artists”, provided that they are placed in their proper perspective. Whenever I meet someone who claims to be an “artist”, I find that they don’t tend to be very well grounded in the things in life that really matter. In other words, they aren’t serious about life. Again, I have no problem with “art”, provided that we understand that it is a hobby, a game, if you will. If taxpayer funds are going to be spent on summer programs, those funds should be applied to the sciences, math courses, etc.

sbsheridan

Try re-reading the editorial. It is not advocating that students become musicians, artists, or poets. Instead, it cites evidence that studying the arts helps students succeed in school in other ways. I could always tell which students in my math class were in the band or orchestra -- they were the ones who understood fractions from day 1.

Mike Muterspaugh

Ah, I played in the school band from 4th thru 11th grade and in the church band. No wonders I'm brilliant!

prodigalson

Mike, I’ll agree that you’re brilliant. I would prefer, however, to believe that it is because of superior conservative intellect rather than the fact that you played in the school band. 😀

bknjholl

I agree with SB. It's the process and pattern of thought learned by studying the arts that enhances quality of life in all pursuits. This is not a new idea, nor is it in any way unusual. "I would teach children music, physics, and philosophy; but more importantly music, for in the patterns of music and all the arts are the keys to learning." -Plato, 410 B.C.

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