This week we are discussing Chapter 25: In Defense of the Arts. Laurie Greeninger will provide insight and lead our discussion this week. Just joining us? Get all the book study details HERE.
In Chapter 25, In Defense of the Arts, Rae starts out the chapter with a recent article in the Washington Post about a school that cancelled their Kindergarten show because somehow it made sense, considering all the demands on schools today. This takes me back to when I first started working as an art teacher in Southern Minnesota in the late 80’s. I quickly realized that art teachers and art programs were “hit and miss” in many schools and if you had your own classroom and an adequate budget for materials, you were considered quite lucky. It was part of our professional responsibility to speak loudly regarding the arts and get involved to advocate locally and beyond, or you might find your own art program and position reduced or eliminated entirely. So are we really still having these conversations twenty-five years later? Haven’t we gained any more respect? Yes and yes.
I believe that we have gained ground, however, I also believe that the arts will always be part of the conversation when it comes to school budgeting and increasing curricular demands. We just have to make sure that we have someone at the bargaining table that can continue speaking out and making sure that the arts are part of every child’s education. Teachers have a voice too and leadership in the classroom to offer the most captivating educational experience possible. In order to do that, they must include the arts in the school day to reach children of all ages, all learning styles, left-brain or right-brain learners, and children from all cultures, backgrounds, and abilities.
There is no question that the arts in all disciplines benefit children of all ages, especially the early childhood classroom. Rae lists many of those benefits in Chapter 25. Valerie Strauss, in a Washington Post article dated January 22, 2013, lists the Top 10 skills children learn from the arts. Elliot Eisner’s 10 Lessons the Arts Teach, printed by the National Arts Education Association in 2002, provides ten more good reasons to offer arts programming in your classroom and get parents and administration on board at your school.
But the arts also benefit people of all ages. Research is showing that creating art benefits older adults in numerous physical and emotional ways, offering an opportunity to stay active, engaged and social. In the last year, I participated in a professional development course with a nonprofit organization in Minnesota called Artsage (www.artsagemn.org) where artists of all disciplines received training to work with older adults in independent living, senior centers, and care centers around the state. Dr. Gene D. Cohen, an American psychiatrist who pioneered research into geriatric mental health, argued that “the brain would continue creating new cells at any age so long as it was engaged in new and challenging intellectual activities.” He paved the way for more creative opportunities for older adults and a tremendous need in the years to come. There is certainly a correlation between creative art activities and lifelong learning skills. French painter Georges Braque said, “With age, art and life become one.” Abraham Maslow believed that “creativity is a characteristic given to all human beings at birth.” Doesn’t it make sense to nurture that part of us that is innate in all of us?
So how important is creativity now and do we really need it in the Information Age? We have witnessed the evolution of technology in daily life and the modernization of information and communication processes and yes, it has changed our classrooms. But the importance of creativity now is quite astounding. From my graduate studies, my thesis happened to be called, “Creativity in the 21st Century” and my research showed that creativity was the number one skill needed in the 21st century. Mark Batey’s article in Psychology Today on February 7, 2011, entitled, “Is Creativity the Number 1 Skill for the 21st Century?” agrees. In this article he states, “Leaders will need to be creative (solve problems in new and useful ways) to stay abreast of rapid change. Further, they will need to orchestrate and encourage creativity across all the levels for which creativity is important. They will need to identify and develop creativity in individuals, build and nurture creativity in teams and set the culture and align processes to promulgate creativity throughout the whole organization.” These are skills that are practiced and nurtured in a typical arts class. So please do not cancel the shows, the plays, drawing and painting, storytelling, singing and dancing from your school day because we need the arts now more than ever! What are your thoughts?
Laurie Greeninger is a K-12 art instructor and arts advocate in Minnesota who holds a M.A. degree in Arts Administration and a B.S. degree in Art Education. Laurie’s teaching style is one that encourages creativity and innovation by using instructional practices that stimulate critical thinking, combine interdisciplinary learning, and connect with the individual child. As a volunteer and arts advocate, Laurie has served on the Board of Directors for the East Central Arts Council, Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Council and the Art Educators of Minnesota. She was awarded a Middle School Art Educator of the Year Award from the Art Educators of Minnesota and a Leadership Award from the Minnesota State Arts Board.
Please share/retweet this post! Let us know that you’re participating in this study. We’d love to hear from you about your thoughts regarding Chapter 25 and the commentary that Laurie has provided. Your voice matters – participate in the dialogue and share your ideas here! (Comment below) If you’ve chosen to blog about what you’ve read on your own site, link back and share your post with us here. Perhaps you have a burning question about something that you read in one of these chapters… we have a feature for that – Ask The Author! That’s right, Rae Pica will be available throughout this live study to answer your questions. #AskAuthor
What to read next: Chapter 27: Bribes and Threats Work, But… and Chapter 28: Time to Give Time-out and Time-out (11/23/15).
*If you’re a MN participant seeking training hours, please visit this link to access to requirements.