As we enter yet another school year, we take time to reflect on the role of education in our lives and how it has contributed to making us the people we are today. The research is undeniable: when schools and communities embrace the arts – dance, music, theatre, visual and media arts – students benefit, educators are more effective and learning communities are revolutionized.
Designated by Congress in 2010, National Arts in Education Week is a celebration of the transformative power of the arts in education. This year, we will be celebrating in Boone from September 10-16 and I encourage all supporters of arts, culture and education, as well as our elected officials and education leaders to join with us!
As we have seen in the news lately, our country, our state and our community are facing challenges unlike any we have seen before. When intertwining the arts in and through education, research shows that we are better preparing our future leaders to face these challenges. According to a decades-long study, students who participate in the arts during their middle school years are more likely to be civically engaged than their peers who did not have arts education. This means they are more likely to vote, more likely to volunteer in their community and more likely to sit on the board of a nonprofit organization as an adult. Similarly, we know that when schools are arts-rich, educators are more interested in their work and believe they are more equipped of teaching critical thinking skills.
Additionally, we know that the arts also help our young people facing the greatest challenges. For over a decade, states and communities across the nation have been using the arts as an intervention in Title I schools to great success. Additionally, data shows that English Language Learners, students with intellectual and developmental disabilities and students facing school discipline benefit greatly from arts learning.
As we celebrate National Arts in Education Week, we should take pause to cheer for our artistic accomplishments, but we should also remember the work we have to do. National data reveals that access to arts education and its benefits are often limited to wealthy communities. So often, disadvantaged young people, particularly students of color, have no access to arts education. How can our district help provide equitable opportunities for all of our young people? How can we use the new law to create arts-rich schools? How can we support parents, families, and the community in providing more opportunities for engagement?
It’s up to us, the arts education community, to take a stand and take the lead, and we can start during National Arts in Education Week.
The John M. Blackburn
Distinguished Professor of Theatre