Opinion
Education Letter to the Editor

Arts Education Is a Core Subject in the 21st-Century Classroom

January 21, 2009 1 min read

To the Editor:

In their recent Commentary “The Productivity Imperative” (Jan. 7, 2009), Marguerite Roza, Dan Goldhaber, and Paul T. Hill suggest that schools could get better bang for their budget buck if they cut back on “arts electives.” The insinuation is that the arts are not core content for today’s schools and students. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Across the nation, school, policy, and business leaders are focusing on 21st-century skills. Chief among them is creativity—the ability to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, and interpretations. Instilling such skills in our students begins in the arts.

Arts education is very much a core subject in the 21st-century classroom. Yes, we need to ensure that school dollars are being spent wisely to raise students’ basic competencies. But the arts are at the center of effective instruction. If anything, we need to redouble our commitment to arts education in the classroom and to the integration of the arts into other curricula. We should measure school progress on arts competencies. And we should use Title II to get certified arts teachers into classrooms and form relationships between such teachers and those in other core areas.

It is imperative that schools focus on productivity and the return on educational investment. The arts provide such return, including substantial evidence that high-quality arts education motivates students who might otherwise be at risk of dropping out. The research has also clearly demonstrated that art and music instruction boost student achievement in other core subjects.

The answer to budget troubles is not to cut back on the arts—or, in doing so, to narrow the purpose of education and the possibility of human potential. Instead, we need to ensure that children have the best opportunity for the most comprehensive education possible, one that includes music, visual arts, and the opportunity and access these bring to the educational process.

John Mahlman

Executive Director
National Association for Music Education
Reston, Va.

Deborah Reeve

Executive Director
National Art Education Association
Reston, Va.

A version of this article appeared in the January 21, 2009 edition of Education Week as Arts Education is a Core Subject in the 21st-Century Classroom