Fighting the Good Fight… But Better

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by Jen Oleniczak @TheEngagingEd

 

I was ready to start addressing #EduTues next week – then remembered it was National Arts in Education Week. Museum Education Bat Signal, especially with this week’s topic. Queens Museum asked the everlasting question “What’s the value of Arts in Education and how would you convince a non-believer?” While the value is discussed constantly, can we ever really answer this question? And is it worth the soapbox?

To all of us reading this article and supporting museums, of course the arts are important. We exist in a world where art and art education is imperative to development, creativity, advancement and existence. The #edutues conversation reflected this – the art and non-art educators (me included) hopped up on their soapboxes, made statements how important the arts are in education and went back to fighting the good fight. But what about the second half of the question? How do we convince the non-believers?

The first step – know what we are fighting. We are fighting budget cuts, people who think art education isn’t necessary, people who think art museums should be hands off places of worship. The people we need to convince are not the people already teaching art history, working at museums, showing students of all ages how to create. We need to convince the people outside of our art nerd world. And we need to convince them that art education isn’t just an elective or a ‘fun’ class. Through integration, it can enhance core subjects, increasing the value of education as a whole.

STEM to STEAM is the idea of arts integration within the STEM model – and not just tacked on to the side, dead in the center.  Some cities are already embracing the trend, but all – even NYC, a city based in the epicenter of art – need work. Art shouldn’t just be another elective and add on class, it should be integrated through every subject. By integrating art into subjects like science and math, subjects whose value hasn’t been questioned, its’ worth becomes exponential, especially in reaching a wider range of students.

Museums and universities are teaming up to contribute to the ‘proof’ that the arts are essential to all fields. The careful observation required in art looking is being used to increase observational skills in medical professionals. Spending time with an art work indefinitely flexes critical looking skills that are not necessarily developed in other areas – and it’s amazing to think that doctors are using masterpieces like Rembrandt’s Self Portrait to help them diagnose patients better. It’s also creating an appreciation of art that people didn’t necessarily have before they started med school. And don’t we all want our doctors to pay more attention?

I usually shy away from politics, but business guru turned NYC Mayoral Candidate Jack Hidary has got some great views about arts and education. In his conversation with ArtsEdTechNYC last week, he talked about how companies are looking for employees with creative problem-solving skills. His statement of “I urge us to think beyond arts education as secondary,” made me want to jump on his political bandwagon and fix the $2 spent per student (down from $65!) on arts education. While he’s quietly maintaining his under-the-radar philosophy, he’s a force to watch in our fight. A believer in arts education and Bloomberg-esk businessman sense? Watch the whole conversation to make your own choice, but I’m sold.

Ignorance isn’t the answer. I was talking to a friend of mine about the Times article on museums that-must-not-be-named. He’s a museum lover and told me not to pay attention to the nay-sayers, just keep on dancing my dance. While there is merit in not letting critics get you down, being aware of the argument and the other side is imperative. If we aren’t listening to the critics, why should they listen to us?

So what of the rest of us? Aside from continuing to fight the good fight – we need to continue to raise awareness of the good that comes from art education. Contribute to the proof. We need to tweet, Instagram, blog about amazing teaching moments – we all have them and we talk to one another about them ALL THE TIME, but we need it to go further than our community. Find those brilliant cross connections and don’t let art just be an additional perk – ingrain it.

Any other amazing examples of art integration? Share away!

One response to “Fighting the Good Fight… But Better

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