Commentary: Celebrating the importance of arts education in Arizona

The unfortunate reduction of arts curriculum funding in Arizona provides an underlying assumption that an arts program is an extra—not an essential.

Leo P. Dressel

Leo P. Dressel

The reduction attempts to negate the social and developmental relevance of these disciplines in the minds of children, suggesting that they are somehow less important. When, in fact, the skills cultivated through arts education allow young people to push the creative limits of this world; whether it’s creating jobs that do not yet exist, or finding a cure to a common life threatening disease.

Arts education not only facilitates and encourages critical thinking skills and a strong work ethic in students, but also serves as a model of celebrating children who learn differently. Any school that claims to educate the whole child provides a high level learning experience in art, including music and theater.

Abby Coll

Abby Coll

The arts depend on the ability to be resourceful, to work collaboratively, and think independently; to express yourself in a personal and vulnerable way; to accept the diverging opinions of others and still remain confident in your own ideals.

Muscles in the body, if only exercised in one way repeatedly, will not grow stronger or see their full potential. Likewise, the child’s mind needs varied stimulation and activities which encourage deviations from the learning styles they experience in the majority of their academic classes. The arts encourage learning from within, self-reliance, and self-expression.

Art and academics are, in fact, branches of the same tree, which require discipline, resilience, persistence and the learning and application of a new skill set. Often times, those who are comfortable expressing their ideas aloud will likely carry this confidence over into other areas of their lives; voicing their opinions and yet with the understanding that others will not always agree.

Paula Humpage

Paula Humpage

A particular part of All Saints’ Episcopal Day School’s mission is to help each student find his or her voice, and the arts are a perfect pathway for finding and expressing that voice. All Saints’ students are encouraged to explore art and to discover his or her own preferred form of creative self-expression through an arts curriculum that includes instrumental and vocal instruction, performing arts, and a visual arts program.

The pride in seeing one’s work publicly displayed or in a performance cannot be measured. Even in the shyest of children, we have seen it have a positive impact on their self-esteem. They are able to make their art, play, or musical performance for no other reason than to delight in the hard work they have put into it—not for a grade or a prize, but for the sheer enjoyment of the process.

Art is a universal language that offers a global perspective and allows young children to conceptualize not only how vast the world is, but also the broad spectrum of human creativity. In short, the arts celebrate those who think differently, thus creating an everlasting bond to those in generations past and those yet to come.

Leo P. Dressel is head of school at All Saints’ Episcopal Day School. Paula Humpage is the music department chair, general music teacher at All Saints’ Episcopal Day School. Abby Coll is the art department chair, art teacher for All Saints’ Episcopal Day School. For more information about the arts education programs offered at All Saints’, call 602.274.4866 or visit http://www.aseds.org/.

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