To determine what happens inside arts classes, we spent an academic year studying five visual-arts classrooms in two local Boston-area schools, videotaping and photographing classes, analyzing what we saw, and interviewing teachers and their students.As a former band geek and debater, and as a current English teacher and debate coach, I don't need any more proof about the value of the arts. But sadly, more and more policymakers do.
What we found in our analysis should worry parents and teachers facing cutbacks in school arts programs. While students in art classes learn techniques specific to art, such as how to draw, how to mix paint, or how to center a pot, they're also taught a remarkable array of mental habits not emphasized elsewhere in school.
Such skills include visual-spatial abilities, reflection, self-criticism, and the willingness to experiment and learn from mistakes. All are important to numerous careers, but are widely ignored by today's standardized tests.
Winner and Hetland argue that arts defenders, by selling the arts as worthwhile inasmuch as they boost learning elsewhere, are selling them short. Read the entire article--I come away thinking they're right.
Now, as long we don't start standardizing the arts...