Posted by Lindsey Corter

           I’m a huge believer that art is not only an essential part of life, but feel it is extremely important for children to have art play a role in their lives as they grow.  It’s been proven that art helps kids and young adults in many ways.  I’ll discuss these over a series of blogs. 

          So you ask, what are the arts good for?  This can be answered in a variety of ways.  I believe Dana Gioia, poet and national endowment chairman for the Arts said it best.  “Art is an irreplaceable way of understanding and expressing the world.  There are some truths about life that can be expressed only as stories, or songs, or images. Art delights, instructs, consoles. It educates our emotions.”  I personally believe art brings intelligence, acceptance and joy, plain and simple.  It seems the stress level has grown greatly in the school system today, at least from when I attended.  You can call me old if you’d like, but I’m only 33!  Today, students not only have to worry about all the required standardized testing, taking AP classes and the competition of aquiring a GPA over 4.0 "perfect", but college is spoken about to kids very early on.  When I went to school, we didn’t start thinking about college or even discussing it until the age of 15!  My mother is a teacher in the lower school at Cape Henry Collegiate.  She started an enrichment program there for the entire lower school.  In discussing the pressure in schools today and the positive effects of art on children, I found it very validating that when asked about how art class makes her feel, one of my mother’s students at the age of 10 said, “It cools kids down after all the other hard stuff they have to think about.” 

          Making it essential to encourage art in schools may just be my opinion, but there are now facts that prove this should happen!  Scientists have used sophisticated brain imaging techniques to examine how music, dance, drama, and the visual arts might positively affect cognition and intelligence. Such work, the researchers claim, is a crucial first step toward understanding whether art can actually make people smarter in ways that can be measured.  In 1990, researchers from the University of California looked specifically at college students.  They concluded that 10 minutes of Mozart before taking certain parts of an intelligence test improved their scores.  This was referred to as the “Mozart Effect.”  Fast forwarding to 2007, another group of researchers who studied at Harvard Graduate School wrote an article that appeared in the Boston Globe.  From their studies, Hetland and Winner said, “It’s true that students involved in the arts do better in school and on their SAT's than those who are not involved,”   Working in high school art classes, they found that arts programs teach a specific set of thinking skills rarely addressed elsewhere in the school curriculum.  They call this “studio habits of mind.” One key habit was “learning to engage and persist,” meaning that the arts teach students how to learn from mistakes and press ahead, how to commit and follow through. “Students need to find problems of interest and work with them deeply over sustained periods of time,” write Hetland and Winner.

          Researchers also found that the arts help students learn to “envision”.  That’s a skill that offers payoffs in many different areas of life, not just the arts.  We need the arts because they remind children that their emotions are equally worthy of respect and expression.  The arts introduce children to connectivity, engagement, and allow a sense of identification with themselves and others.  Elliot Eisner, professor of art and education at Stanford University said, “The arts, like no other subject, give children the media and the opportunity to shape and communicate their feelings.” 

          In conclusion, it is clear to me, that the arts benefit children today by bringing expression, confidence, intelligence and joy, just to name a few.  What do YOU think the arts bring to the school system?  I’ll discuss this topic further in my next blog.