Another point of view: For the sake of our children, let’s give meaning to the arts

The report also states that “almost all students encountered mental health and wellness issues during the pandemic and many lost access to school-based services and supports.”

The specific effects of the pandemic will only be understood with time, but it is clear, even at this early stage of research, that children in our country have suffered greatly. Even those who have not contracted the virus or have not experienced its most immediate horrors will need new opportunities for community rebuilding, self-expression and healing as they return to their academic lives. and more traditional social.

Creativity is a skill. It is fundamental. So much can be built on the creative writing, visual arts, music, drama and dance that will allow children not only to survive our tumultuous times, but also to thrive. So it is a particular misfortune, therefore, that the pandemic struck during what could be a historic low point in arts education.

The most recent National Endowment for the Arts survey of public participation in the arts found that after a steady trend of increasing arts education in the 20th century, access to arts education has declined. over the past three decades. In another national survey, more than half of educators said the arts received less teaching time and resources. Only 12% and 10% reported similar declines in English and math instruction, respectively.

In 2018, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences convened an Arts Commission to examine the state of arts education in the United States and assess the need for increased support.

We were delighted to have been invited to chair a distinguished community of 38 other artists, scholars and activists, all of whom contributed their time and expertise to this multi-year effort.

While we didn’t predict a pandemic, we understood from the start that the arts, and by extension the skills and abilities they teach, were at risk. We looked at dozens of reports and all the available data and focused our discussions on the challenges of accessing arts education in public schools.

The resulting report, ‘Art for Life: The Case for Arts Education’, offers ample evidence of the attributes, values ​​and skills that flow from arts education, including social development. and emotional, better academic engagement and more vital civic and social action. commitment. It also offers concrete recommendations for improving education policy at local, state and national levels.

While 88% of Americans agree that arts education is an essential component of a well-rounded education, the arts remain underestimated among policymakers, who tend to treat them as a supplement to other subjects, such as elective courses or as frills. They are none of those things.

Most disturbing is that the decline in arts education continues to reflect persistent inequalities in our education system. Students in high-need schools and historically underserved populations have been hit hardest.

Although white students have seen virtually no decline in arts education since the mid-1980s, African American students have seen 49% reductions and Hispanic / Latin students have seen 40% reductions. Numerous local audits have found that schools serving low-income students often either offer no arts education or lack an art teacher.

Solving these problems, so deeply rooted in the education system, will not be easy. Our report sets out a set of six ambitious goals:

  • Make the arts an essential part of the education of every child.
  • Elevate the role of the arts through data, research and accountability systems.
  • Ensure that funding for arts education is adequate and equitable.
  • Recruit, develop and support artistic educators.
  • Expand arts education collaboration and partnerships within the arts education ecosystem.
  • Restore federal leadership in the arts.

Each of them will require a renewed commitment from educators, policy makers, parents and other partners, to ensure that future generations will have the same educational opportunities as previous generations, if not more, and better opportunities.

Even if the pandemic were eradicated tomorrow, our nation would still face a variety of persistent crises and competing priorities. Arts education may seem like an unlikely topic to make it to the top of this list. But we believe few things are as important to the emotional and intellectual health of our young people, who have been confined and held back by the containment of COVID-19.

Arts education, properly supported and accessible to all, can play a vital role in our recovery and help usher in a new day in America, especially for children in our hardest-hit communities.

John Lithgow is a Golden Globe, Emmy and Tony Award winning actor and author whose recent credits include HBO’s “The Crown” and “Perry Mason”. Deborah Rutter is president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Natasha Trethewey is Professor of English at Northwestern University and a two-time Poet Laureate from the United States.

© 2021 Chicago Tribune
Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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