The Only Constant is Change

The Effect of Arts Education on Academic Performance

bertolt-brechts-quotes-3A 2006 report, Are our new students really ready to Work?, Business leaders’ acknowledgement the importance of “Basic Knowledge/Skills” to educating students who will eventually move into the future workforce and recognize those to include:

English Language (spoken);
Reading Comprehension;
Writing;
Mathematics;
Science;
Government/Economics;
Humanities/Arts;
Foreign Languages;
History/Geography.

However, employers interviewed in the study also value “Applied Skills” as critical to success… including:

Critical Thinking/Problem Solving:
Teamwork/Collaboration;
Leadership;
Creativity/Innovation;
Lifelong Learning/Self Direction;
Professionalism/Work Ethic, and Ethics/Social Responsibility.

In fact, employers in the survey indicated their belief that over the next five years, applied skills will surpass basic knowledge on the combined list of skills that respondents say will increase in importance—with Creativity/Innovation ranking among the top five.

Dr. Arnold Packer, Executive Director of the U.S. Labor Department’s Secretary Commission on Achieving Necessary Skills (SCANS) wrote “Arts Education for the 21st Century American Economy” for the American Council for the Arts 1994, a conference on citing ways in which the arts contributed to the “workplace know-how”. The US Department of Labor determined that 
experiences in the arts teach skills that can be transferred to the workplace, among them interpersonal skills such as teamwork and working with other cultures.

Knowledge of the arts enhances effective communication, and communication is more effective when it draws on the power of the arts to convey meaning. In the information age, ideas and information can profitably draw on visual, dramatic, musical, and bodily elements. An “artful approach” improves problem solving. High-performance firms strive for quality work and search for the kind of creative solutions that an arts education helps students understand and work toward.

Educating for the 21st Century Global Workforce

Historically, America has held the reputation for producing highly imaginative and innovative minds. In the creative as well as scientific and high tech industries. With new technology and global economy advanced industrial nations like India, China, and many European countries have begun producing high quality engineers, scientists, and technological innovators—and, at significantly lower operating costs.

The crucial question, posed by the American Management Association is, “Will U.S. companies be able to attract top talent from abroad in coming years? And, even if they can, will it be less expensive and more efficient to just create innovation facilities in other nations and utilize the talent there?” The answer? America must be able to do things other countries cannot.

In 2001 the U.S. government has responded to the education dilemma with No Child Left Behind (NCLB), which mandated arts as a core curriculum (but didn’t fund them), and in 2007 The America Competes Act (reauthorized by President Obama in 2010), which focuses on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects. So what’s the problem? While improved academic achievement is positive, schools are complying with the law by spending more time on the “required” (i.e., nationally tested) subjects, they are reducing instruction on other subjects by an average of 31 percent.

The results? Effectively, this narrows the skills taught in schools that, consequently, may not even be the most valuable for employers in the new economy. What are the experts saying? A tipping-point is potentially close at hand, with factors increasingly converging on the importance of the arts in workforce development, and in creating arts-rich educational systems that support it.

2006-2007 MetLife Foundation National Arts Forum Series suggested studying effective models for integrating disciplines, engaging legislative and policy, making entities to affect pro-arts change, and electing strong arts candidates to school boards. Why? The best employers the world over will be looking for the most competent, most creative and most innovative people on the face of the earth and will be willing to pay them top dollar for their services.
Daniel Pink argues that we have moved to a Conceptual Age in which “mastery of abilities that we have often undervalued and overlooked marks the fault line between who gets ahead and who falls behind.” Who is Daniel Pink you ask? Just another artist trying to get the world to pay attention to his importance? Far from it. Daniel Pink received a BA, with honors, from Northwestern University, where he was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, and a JD from Yale Law School. He wrote articles on business and technology that appear in many publications, including the New York Times, Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Wired, (where he is a contributing editor), has provided analysis of business trends on CNN, CNBC, ABC, NPR, and is an X-speech writer for Al Gore.

Daniel Pink also wrote, “A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers will Rule the Future“. Daniel Pink’s book suggests that the abilities that matter most for this new economy are artistry, empathy, passion, seeing the big picture and the transcendent—right-brain skills that we have always associated with learning in the arts. Pink describes the six essential right-brain-directed aptitudes that creative thinkers should master:

Good Design;
Narrative;
Symphony;
Empathy;
Play;
Meaning.
Why? To be prepared for the jobs of the 21st Century.

Effects of General Education vs. Arts Education on Arts Participation

An analysis was made of:
the relationship between arts education and education,
the independent effect of each type of education on arts participation after taking the other into account, and
the contingent effects of education and arts education; that is, the effect of one depending on how much of the other one received. (AES)

The results?
Overall, education is generative
More education in the arts also shows higher levels of general education and vice versa. (AEP)

Independent Effects of Arts Education and Education on Arts Participation

So, what should students know or not know? James Catterall says, “When all is said and done, education is at least about preparation for effective living”. What does that mean?

Generally, more arts education or education (hence, arts/education) meant:
more arts consumption (attending, listening to, watching, or reading) and
more arts creating (writing, composing, drawing, painting).
Indeed, arts education had a much stronger impact than did overall educational attainment, even after taking personal background and socioeconomic status into account. (AEP)

Which came first….?

It could be that getting a solid arts education has a stronger effect on students who have a strong educational background in general, so that arts education simply adds on to the effect of other schooling. On the other hand it could be that arts education is more important for students with less overall education. Put another way: If schooling partially compensates for a lack of an education in the arts, then the specific influence of arts education may only show up for students who have had limited schooling.

But isn’t STEM the wave of the future?

What is the benefit of arts education?
Do we measure academic enhancement?
Do we measure esthetic value?
With NCLB do we really have time to measure?

Elliot Eisner.professor of Art and Education at the Stanford Graduate School of Education, and one of the United States’ leading academic minds wrote The Arts and the Creation of Mind to dispel the idea that the arts are somehow intellectually undemanding, emotive rather than reflective operations. “Most of the most complex and subtle forms of thinking take place when students have an opportunity either to work meaningfully on the creation of images – whether visual, choreographic, musical, literary, or poetic – or to scrutinize them appreciatively”.

Perception is, in the end, a cognitive event! “To be able to create a form of experience that can be regarded as aesthetic requires a mind that animates, or imaginative capacities, and that promotes our ability to undergo emotionally pervaded experience”.

What world will our students live in?

A world riddled with:
Ambiguities
Uncertainties
They’ll need to exercise judgment in the absence of rule
Feeling will be a source of information for making difficult choices

Can’t measure that!

But the arts can:
Develop thinking skills in the context of an art form
Develop expression and communication of distinctive forms of meaning – meaning that only artistic forms can convey
Develop the ability to embrace conflicting emotions (cognitive dissonance)

Jobs of the future will require people who love to learn. Do our students love learning? Children pursue activities that promote satisfaction. Experiencing the aesthetic in the context of intellectual and artistic work is a source of pleasure. Will students become lifelong learners if they find no pleasure in it?

There seems to be different answers to the natural inclination of people to learn, and it can be suggested in the new generational memes of Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z and of course the older generation of Baby Boomers.

Meet the generations!

BABY BOOMERS (1943-1960’s)
The Baby Boomers are the generation that was born following World War II, generally from 1943 up to the early 1960s, a time that was marked by an increase in birth rates.
The term “baby boomer” is sometimes used in a cultural context. The baby boom has been described variously as a “shockwave”[24] and as “the pig in the python”.[25]
In general, baby boomers are associated with a rejection or redefinition of traditional values; however, many commentators have disputed the extent of that rejection, noting the widespread continuity of values with older and younger generations.
In Europe and North America boomers are widely associated with privilege, as many grew up in a time of affluence.[24]
One of the features of Boomers was that they tended to think of themselves as a special generation, very different from those that had come before them.

Generation X (born 1960s-1980)
What do you want from a job? Money, rise, promotion, office with a door, window, want ‘your’ job, respect
What do you want from the boss? Stop trying and making promises that can’t be delivered, want truth
If the job doesn’t deliver? Negotiate with you. I need you to … focus on work life balance (have young children and old parents). If don’t deliver will stay but will start looking elsewhere. Have to spend $ on them – talk is cheap

Generation Y (1980s to the early 2000s)
Pursue personal satisfaction
More entrepreneurial savvy and less concerned with permanence
Not as influenced by authority and role models
Peer group is important – learning how to operate in a group, connected to friends
More visual, kinesthetic learners who want to avoid information overload (especially print)
Not compartmentalized (partitioned) a mosaic of expectations – all parts of their lives are woven
Values and self esteem need to be met in a workplace and in their learning

Generation Z (2001-2021)
“Also known as generation 9/11 because generation z starts with everyone born between 2001-2021. It’s just in it’s infancy right as I type this, but this generation will face many things including: the aftermath of the war in Iraq, the effects of the decisions made TODAY about politics, and will be on the edge of the next predicted revolution.” (Urban Dictionary).
Most of the traits that will define this generation have yet to emerge. However, many are highly connected, having had lifelong use of communication and media technology like the World Wide Web, instant messaging, text messaging, MP3 players, mobile phones and tablets;[11] this earned them the nickname “digital native”.
Who knows????

So we have a variety of generation that are motivated by a variety of “carrots”. We live in a world that is changing fast, so the jobs of the future are not as easy to predict. Today computer programmers are in demand, however the ability to speak between disciplines has required a unique “storytelling” ability be present for new programmers; ie: data scientists. “Data scientists’ most basic, universal skill is the ability to write code. This may be less true in five years’ time, when many more people will have the title “data scientist” on their business cards. More enduring will be the need for data scientists to communicate in language that all their stakeholders understand—and to demonstrate the special skills involved in storytelling with data, whether verbally, visually, or—ideally—both.” Communicating Science is a major created with the help of Alan Alda through at Stony Brook University because Mr. Alda was, “convinced that many researchers have wonderful stories to tell, but some need help in telling them.”

Everything done with passion, innovation and creativity is an art form. Education in the arts provides a common language between disciplines. Our time has come. Rigorous arts education is a core need for jobs of the 21st century. The institutions that recognize this will thrive as we continue our journey towards innovation.

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