Art Should Be Included in Children’s Education

Scientific experimental skills, arithmetic and mathematical skills are commonly accepted to be the most important skills in building a child towards a bright and successful future whereas artistic studies are frequently classified as a mere interest or non main stream children education everywhere. However, it is a terrible mistake to judge the significance of art studies as above because art studies are actually very important in the growth and development of a child towards a better life and future.

First of all, artistic studies promote the attitude of expressing ideas and emotion effectively. Through art lessons, children learn to use a mystical combination of colours, shapes and geometries to illustrate and express certain emotions and ideas through painting or art works rather than resolving to violence and gore in expressing themselves. In other context, art education is also able to educate the children to express in a proper and responsible manner and also contributes to the betterment and peace of the society.

Besides that, art education also helps children to learn to be creative. During the art lessons, children will be given various subjects of art and illustration ranging from social issues, technology to the rich Mother Nature and biodiversity of the world. Instead of following a certain examples or samples and art works, children are strongly encouraged to explore the subjects creatively, conceiving unique and extraordinary ideas of art works. As a result, this art learning process will gradually develop and unleash the creative potential of the children and in fact, learning of mathematics and scientific subjects are more efficient if a child is able to think out of the box during the learning of facts and formulae.

Moreover, art education is able to address children towards the various social issues and happenings around them. For example, through art practice and experiments, children will be exposed to various issues such as environmental protection, wildlife conservation, family violence and many more issues. Consequently, children will have a higher social responsibility and will be more willing to contribute to the communal welfare of the society. In fact, this might be just the right solution towards the problems whereby teenagers are getting more withdrawn from the society and the public.

Last but not least, art education is able to strengthen the cultural understanding of the young generation. Through the learning of art, children are exposed to the vibrant culture of the world rather than only understanding the culture of own race or nation. As a result, this will cause the children to appreciate and respect the foreign culture which pave the foundation for a better cross-border communication and consolidate the human relationship around the world.

In conclusion, the role of art education in children’s life is undeniable anymore by any means. Therefore, it is vital for all the educational boards or directors to incorporate art lessons in children’s daily education to ensure to future generation will be more versatile and competitive.

The Fine and Performing Arts & Education

Education either functions as an instrument which is used to facilitate integration of the younger generation into the logic of the present system and bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom, the means by which men and women deal critically and creatively with reality and discover how to participate in the transformation of their world. (Paulo Freire)

I see too many public service commercials-today-exhorting us to support the Performing and Fine Arts in public education. We, as a nation, have evidently become so low-brow, or unsophisticated, that we can no longer see the need for Art education in our schools. So now, we have our children pleading with us, on television commercials, to keep Art education alive. This is a sad state of affairs for us and our children, because art is what truly separates us from the beasts and allows us to rise above the mundane drudgery of life. As many others, I believe art should be at the center of education and not just because it’s good for us. Art stimulates a child’s cognitive and affective domains, as well as their motor skills, which leads to learning, discovery, creativity and motivation.

Academics are very important, of course, but too often they only stimulate a very small portion of the student’s mind and heart. There are three, basic domains of learning: the Cognitive (mind), Affective (emotions or feelings) and Motor-Skills (hands-on). These three domains are key to our thinking/reasoning, learning, problem solving and creating. A healthy mind (Cognitive) is capable of taking in, retaining and processing information, which can then be applied, if retained and used, to the individual’s life. Emotions and feelings (Affective) are closely connected to an individual’s learning, because they aid in retaining and applying information, as well as stimulating the desire to learn more. Seeing, hearing, speaking, the ability to write, walk and run are all part of the individual’s Motor-skills. Without these three domains, learning, needless to say, would be impossible. Reading, writing, math and the sciences stimulate the cognitive and motor skills domains quite effectively, but the affective is too often short changed.

If we think back to our school days, then we should be able to remember that the memorization of facts and successfully spitting them back out on tests was our main concern as students. This is very much a part of the learning process, and I’m not denying that, but where does the Affective domain play a significant part in this teaching process? In much of this way of learning the affective is absent, and-therefore-much of the educational material, which has just been learned, has no real application in the individual’s life and is forgotten. I remember very little about higher level math, the periodic table and scientific jargon. Why is that? It didn’t relate to my life nor touch me in a deep way. This is not to say that I, or anyone else, shouldn’t have taken math and science classes, but what I am saying is academics are less effective than they can be, because they tend to ignore the Affective domain.

I contend that the Arts use all three domains effectively, and they can-therefore-stimulate the student to apply, as well as retain, what they’ve learned. Creativity is key in this process. The Performing and Fine Arts have a distinct advantage-educationally-in their ability to allow students to create as they learn. In painting, students are in the process of creating at the same time they’re mixing colors and learning brush techniques. The same applies to sculpting and photography students. Many middle and high school music directors are-now-using computer programs to stimulate their students to compose as they learn to play and sing. Dance and theatre programs are examples, as well, of applying skills as their students learn. This artistic, educational process employs the cognitive and motor skills domains, but it also stimulates the affective. The art student experiences the sense of joy and satisfaction that comes from successfully learning, and then being able to immediately apply this knowledge in a very personal way. The Arts can enhance a student’s ability to express their emotions in a very positive way. These students have ownership of what they have learned and are able to express this ownership through creativity. The Performing or Fine Arts student is motivated-educationally-beyond just memorizing facts and passing tests, because they’re using their newly-acquired knowledge to express what lies deep in their heart and mind.

Surprisingly, the arts and sports have much in common, educationally. The basketball or football player, as well as the long-distant runner, learn their skills while applying them. The learning of physical techniques and immediate application reinforces the athlete’s desire to learn and perform even more. In team sports, such as football, baseball and basketball, the student athlete learns to work with others to produce a product, or team. The young athlete learns that the whole, or team, is greater than the sum of its parts, or players, as do dancers, actors, singers and instrumentalists. As in performing ensembles, these young athletes experience the joy that comes from accomplishing something special with others. They learn, in a very intimate way, responsibility towards others and that the team is dependent on the very weakest athlete, as well as the strongest and most gifted. There’s really very little difference between a football player and a band member, when it comes to being responsible and understanding that it takes everyone-involved-to be successful. This is such a valuable and wonderful lesson, and it is learned primarily, through the affective domain.

Educational collaboration between artistic disciplines is a great way for young artists to learn while they create. The pairing of young instrumentalists with dancers and visual artists, or actors with singers, can open up a whole new world of artistic exploration, discovery and creativity. These collaborations can become a great vehicle for learning and motivation, as any arts teacher who has experienced this process will testify. The educational process becomes more important than the outcome, or testing results, because it is in the process of exploration, discovery and creativity where learning really occurs. The educational outcome is secondary, because it is only used, in this case, to measure curricular goals. The motivation for and enjoying of learning comes through the process of collaboration, exploration, discovery and creating.

In academia, the emphasis-today-is placed more on the outcome, or testing and grades, which, in my estimation, is a huge mistake. Academic instructors could learn much from their counterparts in the arts. The government and its politically motivated, educational policies, of course, stands in the way of any successful, corrective change to academic teaching methods. Political agendas, such as, “No child left behind” are meaningless and worthless to students and teachers, because they’re not concerned, as they so hypocritically claim, with the success of the individual learner. Instead, these agendas are merely an attempt to soothe the fevered brows of unsatisfied constituents.

I will agree with academic teachers that their process seems to be more set in stone than with the arts, and the only real way they can measure educational outcomes is through testing. There has to be a way-however-to allow a math, science, English or history student to become more involved in the process of learning. English teachers have a distinct advantage, since they could use writing essays and poems to instill a sense of ownership in their students. Their students-then-could use their essays and poems to collaborate with young composers, actors and dancers, as an example. Even though it would be difficult, science, language and math teachers could also seek these same avenues for educational exploration, discovery and creativity, which would-then-hopefully-lead to a student’s retention/application, ownership and motivation. This, of course, will be impossible, as long as we allow our government to force academic teachers to teach-solely-towards the outcome, or “standardized” testing.

American students, every year, fall farther behind their counterparts around the world, academically and intellectually, while their parents and teachers continue to buy into the educational propaganda, which is spewed out by the American-political machine in Washington. Every year, Art education becomes less and less important in our schools, because of it’s effectiveness in producing students who can think, reason, question, learn and create. Realistically speaking, Art education may be perceived as a threat to those who run this country and desire a race of middle-class, mindless, unquestioning and unsophisticated robots.

Education is the responsibility of the parents first and foremost, and if parents aren’t capable or willing to fight for their children’s education, then I guess America is doomed. If I were a parent-today-there would be no way I could allow my child to be intellectually molested by our current, public-education system. My child would either be home-schooled, at best, or in a private education system.

The Roman Empire was one of the greatest and long lasting nations in the history of the world, and yet, as the Roman government declined, then so did its human values and arts. There is only one piece of music remaining, one mere fragment, after one thousand years of Roman culture. Rome literally disintegrated from within, because of a corrupt government and decaying society. The United States is less than two-hundred and fifty years old, and we’re already starting the lingering slide into governmental corruption, cultural ignorance and decay. Perhaps, it’s too late to save our society, but if it isn’t, then it’s time to start rebuilding what we have allowed to be torn down for the last one-hundred and fifty years. If it isn’t too late, then we must begin to rebuild our values and education system. Our values and education system may not have been perfect, in the past, but they were worthy of being fixed, properly.

Most successful, world cultures, throughout history, have been measured by the quality of their philosophers and artists far more than their forms of government and technological advances. If we disappear as a nation, in another century or so, what will we be remembered for? What will be our legacy to the world?

Art does not solve problems but makes us aware of their existence. It opens our eyes to see and our brain to imagine. (Magdalena Abakanowicz)

In my estimation, art is an integral part of being human and-therefore-is integral to human education. If we die to our affective inclinations, then we cease to be human in any real sense, and the results of this can be seen on MTV and its “Hip-Hop” generation. Money, material objects, self-absorbed egos, low-life affections and brutal power will never make us more human, if anything these extrinsic motivators will simply and affectively dehumanize us. “The one with the most toys in the end,” loses! Art education can help us to see ourselves, the world and-yes-God more clearly. We are more than flesh and blood, and our affective, as well as cognitive, attributes are exhorting us to remember this truth. The arts should be at the center of our children’s education, and our children shouldn’t have to plead with us to give them what they need and desire!

Your Kids Need Modern Teacher-Educators, Not Teacher-Dictators (10 Distinguishing Traits)

In a separate article, titled “Is Your Child Learning For School Or For Life?”, I explain why I believe every parent needs to emphasize for his/her child, the acquisition of knowledge/skills that will enhance the child’s ability to succeed in the real world, OVER mere academic ability.

The traditional educational institutions of old (which were mainly geared towards feeding industries with employees), had teachers concentrate on “moulding” learners to meet employers’ requirements.

Teaching methods were generally rigid and rote learning was emphasized – with dire consequences for learners who did not have the “stomach” for it. One notable example which proved the inefficacy of that approach was Albert Einstein, whose failure to demonstrate “learning” competently via memorization made teachers call him “dull-witted”. How ironic, considering that today, the same person is regarded as one of the greatest minds that ever lived.

Incidentally, Einstein did have a few things to say himself about the “Old School” teaching method. Reports have it that once, when asked the question “What is the speed of sound?” by a reporter, Einstein replied: “I don’t know. I don’t carry information in my mind that is readily available in books“. THAT answer in my opinion effectively makes the case for exploration/use of other learning methods outside rote memorization etc.

Some Of Today’s Teachers Still Use “Old School” Methods

Thankfully, over the years educationists gradually realised that the instincts of learners needed to be allowed to play a more influential/leading role in the learning process. Schools consequently adopted new approaches (like Montessori etc) which allowed children freedom to explore and learn by discovery, experimentation through play etc. This change in approach has generally resulted in more long lasting and qualitative learning experiences.

However, despite all the progress that has been made, and the awareness created/reforms adopted, some (presumably) modern day teachers with us today, continue to employ obsolete and inefficient teaching methods from the past in their classes. In the process, their learners are being short-changed on a daily basis.

The difference between old, traditional methods and the modern approaches being advocated has to do mainly with the style of teaching employed by the teacher. To put it another way, the type of teacher determines the type of teaching/learning situation that is created.

Differentiating Between A “Teacher-Educator” And A “Teacher-Dictator”

In my assessment, the foregoing make it important to identify the characteristics of the two main types of “teachers'” I have referred to. This is so as to guide parents/decision makers and even teachers to ensure the RIGHT teaching behaviour is employed at all times. This will ultimately help to create the right learning situation, thereby producing the desired learning output.

Below I offer bullet point descriptions of what I consider distinguishing attributes of the “Teacher-Dictator” (or Traditional Old School Style Teacher) as compared to those of the Modern Teacher who I like to call a “Teacher-Educator”.

Important: Please note that even though I have used these two broad categories/groupings of teacher “types”, in real-life there will be cases of individuals who exhibit traits from BOTH sides of the divide. What is essential is that a person involved in teaching in today’s world be encouraged, to strive to exhibit MORE “Teacher-Educator” traits. This “style” has greater potential to EMPOWER learners to derive life-long benefits from their formal learning experiences.

Acronyms: For convenience/ease of comparison, I have used an acronym to reprensent each teaching style, so that the contrasting traits can be reviewed side by side.

a. The Traditional/”Old School” Style Teacher(Teacher Dictator) = TOSST

b. The 21st Century or MODERN “Teacher-Educator” = MODTE

TOSST – Trait 1. Very often TELLS (but seldom SHOWS practically) the learner how to do something.

MODTE – Trait 1. Frequently helps the learner to “Learn By Discovery” (guiding by example as necessary). Encourages use of natural learning instincts.

TOSST – Trait 2. Is often more concerned about presenting him/herself as the final authority/source of knowledge to the learners.

MODTE – Trait 2. Typically offers him/herself as a guide/coach/mentor who will point out possible directions for the learner to follow on the path to self-discovery.

TOSST – Trait 3. Frequently inadvertently makes (or wants!) leaner to remain dependent on him/her.

MODTE – Trait 3. Will be “popular” for empowering learners to be independent in thinking/actions from him/her.

TOSST – Trait 4. Sometimes recycles teaching aids/materials used, to the point that learners sometimes correctly predict likely “content” to be delivered.

MODTE – Trait 4. Continually exploring new areas of thinking/development as they occur, with a view to discovering better ways to achieve the results desired by his/her learners. There’s always something new/refreshing to learn from him/her.

TOSST – Trait 5. Not inclined towards formal self-development efforts to improve his/her competence. Often feels what s/he already knows will always be more than enough for the learners.

MODTE – Trait 5. Vigorously pursues Self-Development opportunities to acquire new/useful additional KAS (i.e. Knowledge, Attitudes & Skills) to deliver better value to learners.

TOSST – Trait 6. Often more concerned about being part of a teacher-group, and expressing similar ideas to its members.

MODTE – Trait 6. Values his/her independence in deciding what to do to help the learners – even as s/he abides by set rules/seeks input from colleagues to improve quality of learning delivered. Places emphasis on freedom to express his/her own ideas/convictions, and pursue them.

TOSST – Trait 7. Often not comfortable with learners who demonstrate keen desire to explore beyond what s/he has taught or is prepared to teach.

MODTE – Trait 7. Derives great satisfaction from seeing learners demonstrate improved competence based on “discovered” learning achieved via self-directed efforts in their spare time.

TOSST – Trait 8. Tends to emphasise theoretical concepts and classroom based situations. Spares little thought for showing learners how the what they learn can be usefully applied in the real world.

MODTE – Trait 8. Keen to make learning real-world relevant. Helps learners relate knowledge acquired to its application in the real world (E.g. What can we use an understanding of compound interest for in life? How does the nitrogen cycle sustain aquatic life?). This way, learners are better prepared to apply their knowledge PROFITABLY to productive purposes in life.

TOSST – Trait 9. Generally believes that his/her job ends in the classroom and that whatever the learners do outside of it is unlikely to require his/her attention or action.

MODTE – Trait 9. Demonstrates passion for “educating” others around (colleagues, parents etc) about how they can contribute to improving the learning experience for his/her pupils/students etc.

TOSST – Trait 10. Products(learners) turned out often display undue penchant for “rote” learning, with seeming aversion for independent self-expression, and creative thinking.

MODTE – Trait 10.Products(learners) turned out tend to be creative, and independent-minded thinkers – often expressing original ideas with passion, and pursuing self-improvement with enthusiasm.

Summary

Decision makers in educational institutions – especially those engaged in provision of early education for young children – in my opinion need to ensure their teachers employ the “Teacher-Educator” style as frequently as possible, if not at all times. The benefits (outlined above) accruable to the children, and the school itself (in terms of quality of learning performances the kids deliver ) strongly suggest there is wisdom in doing this.

Parents will also want to regularly discuss “school/class work” with their kids and possibly make out time to interact with their kids’ teachers to get a feel for the teaching style favoured by the latter. If necessary, they could then gently request needed modifications in the teacher’s approach or work with the kids at home to make up for any shortcomings they identify.

What is most crucial is that learning experiences be made as pleasurable/rewarding as possible for our kids. When they find joy in learning, their desire to continually seek new learning as they grow into adulthood will never diminish. They will, as a result, be able to explore/discover their full potentials over time to the ultimate benefit of the larger society.

FINAL WORDS: It goes without saying that all I have advocated in the article is my personal opinion, and you would be well advised to seek the counsel of competent persons in deciding what line of action to pursue.