Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Arts in Elementary Education

Research indicates that the United States has fallen well behind other nations in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). The current economic climate also necessitates the re-prioritization of tax dollars. The resulting reaction at the school board level is to sacrifice programs viewed as “non-essential” such as the arts in favor of STEM. As a conservative, I can sympathize with this reaction. Tough decisions need to be made, however care must be taken to avoid making misguided, snap judgments.

All of us possess different talents, gifts, and skills. In my view, a key objective in elementary education is to help children identify what makes them unique as individuals and encourage an appreciation and further development of their distinctive gifts. I believe this is important to a child’s emotional development and self-esteem. Children guided by skilled educators along with involved parents will eventually gravitate toward fields of study in which they excel and have an interest.

My point is that children need to be exposed to all educational disciplines during their formative years. Elementary education is not the appropriate place for cutting any discipline be it STEM related or the arts. This is where a child's education needs to be well-rounded.

Not all of us can become scientists or engineers. Without a doubt, our way of life depends on these individuals. We need to encourage young people who demonstrate skills in the hard sciences to follow that path. On the other hand, not all of us can become concert pianists, best selling authors, or great artists. It is equally important for us to identify and encourage these children, too. For life would be empty without the arts.


T. M. Crone said...
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T. M. Crone said...

In the words of the great, Albert Einstein, "Imagination is more important than knowledge." The arts are grossly under-represented in the media, at schools and throughout the communities. Give a child a musical instrument or a canvas, paint and brush, then the door to a whole new world is opened, and there is no limit to the soul's growth. We have 12 musical instruments at my home: 1 drum set, 3 acoustic guitars, 1 classical guitar, 1 electric guitar, 1 violin, a flute, a clarinet, 2 pianos and 1 ukulele. They are all played badly, but at least they are played, and our doors are wide open.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I know you have children, Tina, and you write with the welfare of children in mind, Dennis.
As an educator, I've been feeling at turns angry and sad at the state of education and the attitude toward it. I predicted a few years ago when schools starting cutting time on other programs to teach kids how to pass the state-mandated testing that the generation of children in our elementary schools will be the first ever to have less opportunity to learn than their parents. I don't even blame the schools. If their students don't pass the tests, the schools are punished. Even core subjects like science and social studies let alone art or music are ignored in favor of more reading and math. It's shameful what is happening and I see no end to the downward spiral. I'm glad my own children are nearly all out of the public schools and soon I'll be retired from teaching.