Home Education Art education remains controversial despite benefits

Art education remains controversial despite benefits

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With sequester cuts to education likely to take effect later this year, funding for arts education programs remains controversial, causing one organization to take matters into its own hands.

The Ohio Alliance for Arts Education (OAAE) recently announced a challenge grant campaign in partnership with the Greater Columbus Arts Council (GCAC). According to an OAAE press release, “Proceeds from the fundraising campaign will support OAAE’s Community Arts Education programs. Every dollar donated to OAAE’s Community Arts Education programs up to a total of $50,000 will be matched one-to-one by the Greater Columbus Arts Council for a total of $100,000.”

Supporters of funding for arts education programs in schools hold strong in the fact that although art has been long hailed as a creative process, evidence suggests that an artistic education can benefit students academically as well.
For example, studies show that students who learn music develop a higher level of critical thinking as well as advanced problem solving skills; however, funding for music and other arts education programs remains a source of controversy.
Milton Butler, an associate professor in Ohio University’s music education program, said that from his perspective, a lack of support for arts education funding is due to the fact that the general public does not understand how significant musical education can be.
“From my perspective the major problem with funding is because the general public does not understand the significance of the study of the arts. They [the public] cannot readily see the immediate results from the study of the arts and since there is no current standardized test for the collection of data to measure the development of the human heart.  The awareness of student’s humanness is not at a premium in our systems.  Therefore, funding of the arts is not as important as that of the ‘basic’ subjects,” Butler said.
He added that arts education can help prepare students for future jobs, even if students do not want to pursue an artistic career.
“In terms of attention to process, there are businesses that are giving us feedback as to the preparedness of the students currently graduating.  Specifically, they cannot think in a creative way. The study of music, by its very nature, is the creative process and teaches students how to think in a creative way,” Butler said.
Butler and others who have studied music education argue that some musical skills can be applied to everyday life as well.
“[Music] teaches time management skills to the students and that it takes time on their own to learn the material to apply for the whole ensemble and if their part lacks then the whole ensemble lacks,” said Sam Miller, a first-year music education major at Ohio University.
Scientific evidence seems to be on the side of music and other arts education programs as well.
The National Assembly of State Art Agencies has reported that in 2005, “students who took four years of arts coursework outperformed their peers who had one half-year or less of arts coursework by 58 points on the verbal portion and 38 points on the math portion of the SAT.”
Additionally, Athens High School band teacher Brandon Lias cited a Loyola University study that showed how music students scored an average of 10 percentage points higher on standardized tests than students who had not studied music.
“Including the arts at every level is very important,” Lias said. “Funding music education will help increase those [test scores].”

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