In 2010, Congress declared the second week of September as National Arts in Education Week. As we usher in a new chapter of American educational policy, the idea of the arts in education could not be more important.
Late last year, Congress adopted the Every Student Succeeds Act to replace No Child Left Behind, which tragically lowered standards of our educational system and practically eliminated arts from public school curriculum.
The Every Student Succeeds Act involves the arts as part of a “well-rounded” education and embraces the arts as an essential component. It will take many years to turn around decades of failed policy and rehire all of the arts teachers who were let go, but a new foundation and hope is in place.
Despite No Child Left Behind, educators and performing arts centers like the Count Basie Theatre continued to fight for a place in the classroom, as we understood how the arts can impact young peoples’ lives.
We have been in the trenches and witnessed shy students become verbal, or overactive children find an outlet for their expression. We have seen teams form, complex problems solved, and respect, support and trust garnered.
Students engaged in the arts have demonstrated higher grade point averages and standardized test scores. We even know that an arts-rich curriculum leads to lower dropout rates – simply because students find a new love for school.
These things do not happen in a conventional math class – yet math classes would never be cut from the public school curriculum. Those of us who work in the arts and have been impacted by its power feel lucky to have a career that is immersed in creativity. Recognizing Arts Education Week is important to the very fabric of our society.
So during this celebration, I urge you: Attend a museum, exhibit or festival. Take a few minutes to paint with your child, or use the occasion as a time for arts-related resolutions – starting an instrument, seeing a play, teaching your children the history of rock and roll or jazz. Use this week as a time to tell stories about your own appreciation for the arts – your first concert or love song.
And make sure our leaders know about the impact the arts have on young peoples’ lives, and that they must support the arts in every district and every school in America. Creative communities lead to creative schools! The arts do matter.
CEO and President
Count Basie Theatre