It is a disappointing reality that arts education must somehow “prove itself” in order to be taken seriously and receive proper funding. The inherent value of the arts in schools has become more and more overlooked as budget cuts have been implemented in many school systems. The irony of it all is while arts education becomes increasingly threatened, more science surfaces suggesting the concrete benefits of such programs on brain development. Creativity remains a curious subject for the scientific community. Here are several facts and results of studies concerning the positive effects of art and creativity:
~ Japan, Hungary, and the Netherlands are the countries that rank highest in math and science, and all these countries have mandatory art classes.
~ Studies using functional magnetic resonance imaging (FMRI) scans, an advanced technique measuring and mapping brain activity, show activity and changes in every sensorimotor region of the brain during improvisation, such as freestyle rapping!
~ Creativity and art are some of the things that distinguish us most from other animals.
~ Neuroaesthetics studies the effects of arts on the brain using methods in neuroscience. This area of study has increasingly become of interest to many scientists.
~ Scientists have long been curious about both the evolutionary purposes of creativity and the reasons that every single culture throughout history has produced art.
~ The Federal Government spends about 250 million dollars on the humanities and the arts, whereas the National Science Foundation receives around 5 billion dollars.
~ According to many studies, students who take art are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement in school.
~ Sports and the arts are the two biggest aspects of school that keep youth who are prone to dropping out in school.
~ In a study by researchers from Johns Hopkins University entitled “Neuroeducation: Learning, Arts, and the Brain” found that arts education can actually help positively rewire the brain.
~ On the other hand, an interesting study to consider is that of Ellen Winner and Lois Hetland conducted in 2007. In their research they found very little improvement in the areas of math, science, and reading for youth they enrolled in art classes. The study was understandably met with much backlash. However the researchers stood by their study, writing that while the arts do not directly improve academic achievement they should be inherently valued.
With all this information readily available it’s hard to believe that arts education in the schools is a subject that still has to be fought for. There should not be a need to study the benefits of arts education. What other subject has to prove that it has a positive effect on other academic endeavors? The need to emphasize scientific studies to prove the value of arts education shows that we are not focusing on arts, but rather on how the arts can improve subjects that are generally thought to be more important. The standard for the value of arts education at times looks to be higher than for other school subjects.
Interested in finding out more about the benefits of arts education? These sources can provide a good start:
1. 10 Salient Studies on the Arts in Education – A brief review of ten studies on arts education.
2. Arts and the Mind – A two-part PBS documentary, “Arts & The Mind”.
Merav Eres is a senior at Sayre School in Lexington. She is doing her senior month-long internship with UnderMain. Merav is writing a series of pieces for us focusing on arts education and local high school artists and their work. This is the first post in the series. Merav will be attending Tel Aviv University in the fall. She plans to major in philosophy.