A Case for the Arts in Education

A Case for the Arts in Education

How the arts prepare students for success and citizenship

93% of Americans believe that the arts are vital to providing a well-rounded education.
— Americans for the Arts (2005). New Harris Poll Reveals That 93% of Americans Believe That the Arts Are Vital to Providing a Well-Rounded Education. Media release

Children need a well-rounded education to prepare them for the future, and a well-rounded education includes the arts. The arts are a source of inspiration for students to become life-long learners and artists. The arts are more important than ever to students’ success in the workplace. As important is the role that the arts in education has in developing tomorrow’s citizens. Arts experiences through Act One Field Trips provoke the “ah-ha” moments of inspiration, discovery and belonging where learning begins.

An education rich in the arts helps students reach their academic potential. The arts offer unique ways to illuminate academic subject matter and stimulate learning. More than conveying a body of knowledge, an arts-rich education teaches flexible, innovative, and critical thinking. In other words, a well-rounded education teaches students how to think, not what to think. Field trips like Act One’s contribute to students’ intellectual development. In a major study of the educational value of museum field trips, students’ ability to think critically and understand historical perspectives increased from participation in just one field trip. 

Creativity’s domain is the arts, and it tops the list of skills students learn through the arts. Lisa Phillips, author of The Artistic Edge: 7 Skills Children Need to Succeed in an Increasingly Right Brain World, argues that the arts bestow skills of creative thinking, confidence, problem solving, accountability, relationship building, communication, adaptability and dreaming big! The skills students learn from the arts prepare them for careers in the new economy.

"Creativity is important to top CEOs. In the creative economy, you have to deal with ambiguity." -- Steven J. Tepper, Dean of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, Arizona State University

72% of business leaders say that CREATIVITY is the number one skill they seek when hiring.
— Lichtenberg, J., Woock, C., & Wright, M. (2008). Ready to Innovate: Are Educators and Executives Aligned on the Creative Readiness of the U.S. Workforce? (Research Report 1424). New York: The Conference Board

It’s been said that “hard” skills get you the interview but “soft” skills get you the job. Innovation is in high demand in today’s workplace. Innovation requires an open, inquisitive mind, respect for each team member’s contributions, and the ability to approach problems from various angles. An education with the arts nurtures these “soft skills.” For example, a key finding of the museum field trip study is that students gained a higher level of tolerance for different perspectives.

A well-rounded education is interested in the development of the child and of the citizen. The arts have a prominent role in raising up young people to be actively engaged in civic life and become leaders. The skills students learn with help from the arts equips them for democratic debate and consensus-building. Citizen development encourages young people to embrace the local institutions of the community and care for them as their own. This is especially important for disadvantaged students who are excluded by the institutions of society.

At-risk students with access to the arts—inside or outside classrooms—do better academically, aim higher in their career goals, and become more civically involved.
— Catterall, J. S., Dumais, S.A, & Hampden-Thompson, G. (2012). The Arts and Achievement in At-Risk Youth: Findings from Four Longitudinal Studies. Prepared for the National Endowment for the Arts Office of Research & Analysis

Act One Field Trips prepare students for civic participation as adults by introducing them to the arts. Act One’s arts partners are cherished institutions meant for everyone in the community to enjoy. The unfortunate reality is many children do not have access to the arts because their schools or families do not have the means. Too many local citizens do not feel the arts institutions belong to them, and it’s important to change this perception in the next generation. According to the museum field trip study, students had an increased interest in art museums after attending a field trip. Act One works with Title 1 schools to give their students field trip experiences to the arts. Act One Field Trips convey the message “this is for you!”

Teachers frequently acknowledge that their field trip experiences go beyond field trip day and have a lasting impact on students. Amy Hardgrove, a teacher at ACP High School, took students on an Act One field trip to see Southwest Shakespeare's production of Hamlet.

"This was a life changing experience for all of them," Hardgrove shared. "I really appreciate all you [Act One] do to extend the opportunities for students to go see art that normally would not have a chance to. You are truly doing a service in the name of art and equality."