Despite the fact that the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) went through a reauthorization process by the Senate more than six months ago, one of my friends on Facebook recently shared an article about the decision, bringing the issue back to my attention. The ESEA has always included arts and music education in its core curriculum, a specific group of subjects required by the government for every child in public school. Through the reauthorization process, the Senate questioned the need for art and music education in elementary and secondary schools. In my opinion, the need these age groups have for these subjects is a no-brainer, but for certain educator and representatives questioning the act, art and music seem to be thought of as unimportant, even trivial.
During the reauthorization, “more than 14,000 letters were sent to Capitol Hill” (NAfME) and the final act (Every Child Achieves Act) includes arts and music education as part of the essential curriculum. I cannot agree more with the decision made by the Senate regarding these subjects. It is impossible to avoid the fact that education in the arts as a child, particularly in music, “changes the anatomy and function of the brain” in a way that lasts long into adulthood (JNuerosci). It is now a lot easier to appreciate the years of classical guitar lessons I suffered through as a child when I consider the long-term benefits I gained from reading music and playing an instrument.
Personally, the arts education I received in elementary and middle school had a much greater impact than the years I struggled through guitar lessons. The art teachers I had had encouraged creativity from myself and my fellow students, engaged our imaginations, and taught us how to focus and have patience with whatever painting, sculpture, or craft we were working on. All of these qualities are more than applicable to my current academic life. More importantly, I grew up with a great love and appreciation for art, and I still enjoy visiting museums and working on my own art from time to time. My exploration in all different medias of art started in middle school and lasted until I graduated, allowing me to become more aware of myself as an artist and a person. During my senior year of high school, I was fortunate enough to have four periods of class a day in the art room, working away at some drawing or painting. Art became an important part of my life for dealing with stress in a healthy and expressive way, and I owe this to the art education I received from the very beginning of my schooling.
In addition to spending so many hours in the art room working on my own skills during my last year of high school, I was given the opportunity to intern in the art education program at the same elementary school I attended. During my time there, I experienced the important effect art can have on elementary school-aged children from a completely new and different perspective. The kids would light up as they entered the art room and saw paints, or glue, or rainbow paper carefully set up at their desks. For them, art class was a much needed break in their otherwise strenuous schedules. Working with the kids allowed me to see their creativity, imaginations, and patience all develop through art in the same way mine did so many years ago.
Art and music education have played such important roles in my own life, and continue to do so in the lives of many others. I struggle to imagine a world where knowledge in these subjects is seen by all as insignificant and unnecessary, and thankfully, because of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act and the Every Student Achieves Act that were passed last summer, I don’t have to.