Let’s Be Bold About the “Non-Academic” Benefits of the Arts

 

Written by Guest blogger, Neve Spicer, Founder and Director of We The Parents.

 

Make no mistake, Arts Education is wobbling perilously close to a cliff edge.

Schools are feeling more and more pressure to direct their dwindling resources toward academic subjects. It’s little surprise. After all, systemically, success and failure are being measured against academic outcomes. The upshot: Arts Education is often placed on the chopping block.

There has of course been a fight back. This has been led by arts educators and parents, who are well aware of the profound and wide-ranging benefits of learning arts.

The standard defence has been to argue that Arts Education enhances academic outcomes. But while this may be true, it is a flawed approach that doesn’t do justice to the arts. Indeed, it may even weaken the case.

Here’s why:

  • Many of the studies that purport to show that learning arts positively impacts academic results are either inconclusive or non-robust in their scientific method (eg, sample size, control of variables, elimination of bias etc). This is not to say that they are wrong; however, it does mean that they can be waved away by sceptics. When arts advocates cite these studies as evidence, they can (sometimes legitimately) be accused of bias and intellectual dishonesty.
  • The point of Arts Education isn’t just to boost academic achievement! Let’s not fall into the trap of framing it that way.

 

Learning arts cultivates cognitive abilities, nurtures positive character traits, and fosters critical thinking. It expands awareness, increases empathy, and develops an array of social skills. And that’s just the start! This visual guide by WeTheParents.org highlights an incredible 51 powerful ways that learning arts reward children and young people.

As Holly Donagh of A New Direction puts it:

When you ask somebody about the impact of the arts on their life and the relevance of the arts within their schooling they rarely talk about the fact that music helped them unlock maths or art helped with their English. They talk about finding a lifelong passion, developing a sense of self and identity, maybe they speak of gaining confidence and a sense of the world outside of their immediate environment. Which is not to say that arts engagement and academic attainment have no relationship, but perhaps it is time to reconsider what that relationship is and how does it work?

 

Life success, happiness and wellbeing are not solely determined by academic achievement. Far from it. But so long as scientific studies struggle to capture the subtle yet profound ways in which learning arts transforms lives, then it’s up to us (everyone who has experienced it first-hand) to share our stories and shout about it.

Let’s be bold and confident in proclaiming the vital importance of arts for both individuals and society at large.

Learn more about the benefits of Arts Education for children at We The Parents.

51 Benefits of Arts Education for Kids

 

18 Jun 2018


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