During the Arts Education Partnership meeting in early May, the President’s Committee on the Arts and Humanities (PCAH) introduced its newly released landmark report, Re-Investing in Arts Education: Winning America’s Future. On-hand for the introduction were Melody Barnes, Domestic Policy Adviser and the Director of the Domestic Policy Council at the White House, and President’s Committee Vice-Chair Mary Schmidt Campbell followed by a panel of business, education and government leaders, including former President of AOL, internet entrepreneur and investor Ted Leonis, Acting Chancellor of DC Public Schools Kaya Henderson, PCAH Co-Chair Margo Lion and moderator, Gene Wilhoit, Executive Director, Council of Chief State School Officers.
The panelists provided a context for the new report by demonstrating how integral the arts and humanities are to a complete education that gives young people the capacity to innovate and meet the challenges of a global marketplace. Melody Barnes underscored this point in her opening remarks saying “education without the arts is an incomplete education.” Kaya Henderson enumerated the many ways that the arts build the necessary skills and habits to succeed. Among them, lower truancy rates because the arts engage students and a stronger work ethic because the arts demand repeated practice to master different skills. The arts aren’t just a vital part of the classroom they also shape entrepreneurs and companies. Ted Leonis offered examples of two companies driven by an artistic vision—Apple and Groupon. These companies are typical of the future marketplace and businesses that are driven by, in his words, “the creative class engine”, which enables the U.S. to compete with other countries.
In her introduction, Barnes outlined the genesis of the report, which began with President Barack Obama’s 2008 Arts Policy Campaign platform, which argued for reinvesting in American arts education and reinvigorating the American hallmarks of creativity and innovation. She pointed out that it had been more than a decade since any federal entity comprehensively examined arts education data in the United States. During that time, there had been important developments in arts education research, as well as major shifts in the landscape of American education—including the impact of “No Child Left Behind” and increasing economic pressure.
Barnes thanked the President’s Committee for taking on this challenge by conducting an in-depth review over the last 18 months of the current challenges and opportunities facing arts education. During the review, the President’s Committee sought out educational leaders around the country, visited schools, surveyed recent research, and talked to stakeholders all over the country working in this area.
The results from this process of firsthand observation and research clearly showed the effect of arts education on student academic achievement and creativity. Schools are improving test scores and fostering their students’ competiveness in the workforce by investing in arts education strategies, even in the toughest neighborhoods.
It also became clear that arts education provides a critical benefit to the private sector. To effectively compete in the global economy, business leaders are increasingly looking for employees who are creative, collaborative and innovative thinkers. A greater investment in the arts is an effective way to equip today’s students with the skills they will need to succeed in the jobs of tomorrow.
The value of arts education is often phrased in enrichment terms—helping kids find their voice, rounding out their education and tapping into their undiscovered talents. This is true, but as the President’s Committee saw in schools all over the country, it is also an effective tool in school-wide reform and in fixing some of the nation's biggest educational challenges.
The report sets out a series of strategies to achieve the over-arching conclusion from this 18-month study. To realize the potential of arts education, the report argues for a seamless marriage of arts education strategies with overall educational goals. To accomplish this requires a dynamic collaboration between arts specialists, classroom teachers and teaching artists to create creative environments that allow each child to reach his or her potential, using all the tools available to reach and engage students in learning.
View the panel on the NEAarts Ustream channel.