Why Arts Matter

What does art education have to do literacy, critical thinking skills, and math?

More than what most people think. As an educator, I’ve seen that most parents and teachers understand the connection. Unfortunately, education policy often dismisses the positive impact of arts teaching. Around the world funding for the arts is sadly declining, in some countries by over 25%. What may be an attempt to focus more on improving core subjects like language and mathematics is proving detrimental to overall performance especially in these areas.

So how exactly do students benefit academically through the arts? Multiple studies have pointed to a number of findings from the past 15 years.

Starting with the brain itself, neuro-researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that consistent study of an art form produced measurable changes in the internal structures of the brain. Specifically, these changes facilitated the application of motor skills and attention span to other areas of study, ultimately showing improvements in fluid IQ scores. In other words, students who are taught to be disciplined and focused in a subject like music, are more likely to be disciplined and focused in other academic subjects.

Exposure to fine arts studies has also been linked to greater scores on standardized tests. While important debates remain around the value of standardized tests, the evidence of these studies highlight greater cognitive abilities in literacy and critical thinking abilities, the relevancy of which should go without saying. Through education in visual and performing arts, students gain invaluable skills in motivation and analysis which may continue to serve them beyond their academic careers. Such programs are easier to build in through alternative education programs (link to independent study page) or extracurricular support.

Whether or not students see it, parents with access to the arts for their children can be thankful for opportunity in and of itself. When a student has access to explore areas such as music, dance, drama, or drawing, that student is able to view more facets of themselves as a whole. Some will go on to pursue these talents in higher education. Simply put, students with greater access early on typically have more opportunities in the future.

Even without the backing of official studies, shouldnt a more enjoyable learning experience and broader opportunities be reason enough to keep the arts alive in schools?

 What do you think? Let us know in the comments section!