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An Argument For The Arts: Robert Hovermale
by Robert Hovermale
Arts education is inarguably instrumental in helping students succeed in academics and their personal lives.
What is so important about arts education, and why should it be part of an increasingly over-crowded school day? Educators and politicians continue to debate over which essential skills should be taught in our schools. Daniel Pink, author of “A Whole New Mind,” explains that it is more important than ever to educate our students with the abilities to prepare them for a world unlike we have ever seen, and to give them the tools to be successful in work, college and life. In short, he says, “We need to prepare kids for their future, not our past.” His beliefs arise from the assertion that a definitive shift is taking place in the advanced world, one from a logical, technical age to a conceptual age, which places a premium on knowledge.
The Partnership for 21st Century Skills — a coalition which aims to bring together educators, the business community, and policy makers — recommends the following skills to be successful in this new world: critical and creative thinking; dealing with ambiguity and complexity; integration of multiple skill sets; and the ability to perform cross-disciplinary work. Among these skills, The Partnership identifies creativity and innovation as key learning skills to prepare students for the future workforce. The arts integrate functions of logic, symbolism, and linear and sequential thinking while stressing the functions of intuition, spatial and nonverbal communication, concrete applications, and global problem solving. They ignite creativity and provide students with opportunities to critically interpret the world around them. Arts education also provides a critical introduction to, and reinforcement of, such academic and personal skills as problem-solving, concentration, responsibility, memory retention, self-discipline, appreciation and awareness of different cultures, and cooperation with others in order to achieve shared goals. This arts education has the power to engage students while providing an alternative means to view reality and expand the way students perceive the world.
In the last several years, the startling results of a number of studies have built an abundance of evidence that instruction in the arts is not only inherently worthy, but that it also helps young minds grow and thrive. Multiple independent studies have shown increased years of enrollment in arts courses are positively correlated with higher SAT verbal and math scores. But education should not just prepare students for college and the workforce, it should also help them succeed and be fulfilled in their lives, including being active members of their communities and our democracy.
The arts are not a “quick fix.” To experience all of the benefits of the arts, our students need to be involved in the arts throughout their life. A quick “appreciation” course while interesting and informational barely scratches the surface. They guide us, push us and teach us the true meaning of being human. Arts education is quite simply, life education.
Robert Hovermale is the principal of the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts. He received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees in Music Education from Towson University in Baltimore. He received his Administration and Supervision certificate from Frostburg University. He is currently finishing his doctorial studies through University of Maryland in educational leadership.