Our View: Art education shouldn’t play second fiddle

/ 21 October 2012 / eunice

Mankato Free Press, Editorial, October 21, 2012 – Minnesota has relatively high standards for art education compared to most states. But as schools are pressured to increase student test scores in math, science and reading, arts education is often pushed aside.

According to a new survey by the Perpich Center for Arts Education, fewer than half of all middle and high schools, and only 28 percent of elementary schools offer all of the required arts, drama, music and dance classes.

And school officials and teachers admit that even in districts that push hard for the arts, the pressure is nudging art out of the way.

The problem is just one more reason for state lawmakers and the governor to require longer school years and more time in classrooms.

President Obama has said American schools’ short calendar, compared to other advanced countries, puts the country at a competitive disadvantage.

Students in most other industrialized nations spend a month more in school than American students.

And while many states, including Iowa and Wisconsin, require schools be in session a minimum of 180 days, Minnesota only requires 170 days.

Meanwhile, Finland is in school 190 days, Australia 200 and Japan 243 days.

Schools are, reasonably, expected to raise the bar when it comes to math, science and reading. Without a mastery of those subjects, students are ill-prepared for employment or for post-secondary education. And if students are behind when they graduate high school, problems carry over to colleges and universities where too much time is spent on remedial work and overall college expectations fall.

Ensuring competence in math, science and reading should not relegate arts education to second-tier status.

The only way to accomplish all the goals is to give students more time to learn.