It was Albert Einstein who said in 1932: “I believe the most important mission of the state is to protect the individual and make it possible for him to develop into a creative personality. . .”
More recent visitors to Asia often return feeling as though we, as Americans are falling behind as a society. They are impressed by advances in arcitecture and technology in what used to be, poorly developed countries by American standards.
Advances have been especially contrasting over the past few years and I have had friends return from tours of Asia who were exasperated over the shock of how far behind we seem to be. I propose that our losses as a culture correspond with the devaluation of arts classes and the decreasing cultivation of creative problem solving skills in education.
Taking a look at the excerpt from goals of education as reported to a UNESCO Regional Conference on Arts Education in Asia from May 2003. In this description we can take a look at how the arts are emphasized in curriculum.
Asian countries, like India, Thailand, Laos, South Korea and the Philippines, tend to request arts education expecting it to play a role in fostering children’s well-balanced personality, including teaching of ethical and moral values.”
In most Asian cultures, as children progress, time in arts classes increases. “Since integration of established subjects is a characteristic ..., “Arts and Humanity,” one learning domain among eight, is integrating holistically visual arts, music, and drama/dance performance.
This “Arts and Humanity” aims to foster children’s artistic intelligence, to encourage them to actively participate in artistic events, to enhance ability to appreciate arts, to cultivate a hobby in daily life, to enlighten artistic potential, and build healthy personality.
In general, “Arts and Humanity” classes are provided for first and second grade students for 3 – 4 hours per week, 3.75 – 5 hours for third and forth graders, 4.05 – 5.4 hours for fifth and sixth, 4.2 – 5.6 hours for seventh and eighth, and 4.5 – 6 hours for ninth graders.” (Arts Education in Asia Prepared for the UNESCO Regional Conference on Arts Education in Asia May 2003). When was the last time you checked how much arts time your child gets in school? I don't mean the 10 minutes that might be alloted during social studies. Please check in with your arts teachers, especially those who have been teaching for several years.
During a time when Asia has increased arts education time in schools, US schools have drastically cut back arts time. Perhaps the current trend to continue chopping away at arts education is the wrong direction for our children.
Rosemary is a tutor and licenced NYS educator. She teaches English as a Second Language classes in Northern Westchester, Putnam and some regions of Connecticutt. She holds an MS in Art Therapy.