Many school districts throughout the Country are experiencing budget issues. When cuts are made, it's often those programs that are the least valued that are eliminated. Perhaps I'm wrong on this next point but it seems to me that the arts are most often the first programs targeted for cuts. Cutting the arts out of the school curriculum is like cutting one's hand to spite one's face. Research is clear that the arts are invaluable to a well-rounded education. Some research strongly suggests that students who participate in music and visual arts programs do better in other subject areas than do students who don't participate in an arts education. Additionally, many students who don't do well in other disciplines, shine in the arts. For many students, the visual arts can significantly contribute to their motivation, work ethic, and self-discipline.
We've all known students who might not otherwise have a strong commitment to school and learning but, are motivated when it comes to the arts. Often that motivation can encourage students to stay in school, and even to excel as they develop a strong desire to learn and participate in the arts. According to Jensen, students who might normally drop out of school, will stay in school rather than drop out providing there is an attractive arts program available to them.
I have some art students who don't always do so well in their regular classroom. They either have academic struggles or issues with peer relations. Many of these students seem to excel in visual arts. It's not that they are gifted, it's that they seem to really enjoy the process of creating. I have observed many "problem" students work quietly and focus on the task. Others can be off task around them, but they stay focused. It's like they are captured by the art activity. A couple of my former students were known for having behavior problems in their regular classroom. But when they come to the art room, it's like they change into a new student. They are focused, creative, and have a positive attitude toward their classwork. Often they will bring in art work that they created on their own at home.
To explore these ideas further check out the following links. Also, your thoughts and comments are always appreciated.
Arts in Education
Americans For The Arts
Learning Through The Arts
Teaching Basics Through The Arts by Mona Brookes