Putting the Arts in the Picture: Reframing Education in the 21st Century

From 1971 to 2002, the amount of weekly instruction in the arts for the average elementary school student dropped from 2 hours to 45 minutes. The editors of this new study of arts education also describe the "arts gap" in American education: arts education has been severely eroded in low income school districts but became more established in wealthy districts and viewed as a core value in elite private schools.

The importance of arts in the curriculum and in children's lives is not a new idea. But this book raises the question of whether "art for art's sake" —— field trips, art and music lessons ——— is enough. The authors feel strongly that arts education, to be effective, must be completely integrated into the curriculum ——— or "art for learning's sake."

In the opening chapter, education journalist Dan Weissman makes the case that integrated arts education improves education and learning. He describes his experiences and impressions after visits to integrated arts programs in Chicago, Minneapolis and Boston. Weissman uses examples from these programs to demonstrate how arts integration can strengthen education overall in these urban districts.

The second chapter, written by Madeline Grumet, a curriculum scholar and former dean of education schools at Brooklyn College and University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, examines arts integrated programs and the relationship of this strategy to positive outcomes in education.

Cultural historian Michael Wakeford focuses in the third chapter on the history and trends of education and the arts. In chapter 4, Shirley Brice Heath, a linguistic anthropologist and researcher, and Sir Ken Robinson, an internationally recognized expert on knowledge and creativity, discuss youth arts programs from an international perspective.

The editors wrap things up in the final chapter. Nick Rabkin is the executive director of the Chicago Center for Arts Policy at Columbia College; Robin Redmund is the associate director. They report on research studies over the last 15 years that have shown significant correlations between arts education and student achievement. In order to test their hypothesis that arts integration maximizes the benefits of the arts for students, they reviewed evaluation studies of almost a dozen substantial arts education programs and selected six to investigate further. Their evaluation results are summarized in an appendix. Each chapter ends with a list of cited materials.

This book is an interesting look at how the arts can be integrated into every aspect of education, and it makes a good case for the benefits of doing so. It is very readable, especially the first chapter. Mr. Weissman's description of the impact of integrated arts education programs in those urban districts is mesmerizing. Anyone who is interested in improving education in our schools would do well to take a look at this material.

For citations to additional materials on this topic refer to the , using the subject heading "Arts education."