The Arts Dynamic in Education

San Antonio Arts in Education Task Force

The following piece was excerpted from The Arts Dynamic, a report of the San Antonio Arts in Education Task Force (see review on page 36), published earlier this year. The study's principal funder was GIA member, the Kronkosky Charitable Foundation.

Why the fine arts in education are vital

Ramon C. Cortines, executive director of the Pew Network for Standards-Based Reform at Stanford University, comments:

Since the early 1980s, education in the United States has undergone a sea change. Reformers have come to espouse a systemic perspective, viewing the different components of the education system as fundamentally interrelated. The challenge for educators is to create schools that help students acquire the knowledge, skills, confidence, and motivation to succeed in the increasingly sophisticated workforce and as parents and citizens.… Because the arts possess the power to play a role in meeting this challenge, an arts education must be fundamental, not incidental.1

The fine arts, taught by themselves in schools, linked to other curriculum areas, and experienced within the family, have a dynamic, positive impact on a child and on everyone involved in a child's education. Dance, music, theater, and visual arts strengthen a child's education on at least two levels: first, as art forms experienced for their own intrinsic value; and, second, as media with the unique ability to enhance learning in other areas of the curriculum. The most flexible curriculum components available for teaching students, the fine arts work on multiple levels with multiple intelligences.

Too often teachers are employed to teach the curriculum, not to teach children. To teach children we need to start with a view of what their natural capacities are. That isn't just a question for the arts; it's for the arts in combination with science and humanities and physical education and the rest. The arts need to be at the center of the new forms of education that are emerging.2

For many educators, teaching the fine arts or integrating the fine arts with other curriculum areas requires a re-examination of their teaching strategies. This re-examination ultimately serves to benefit the child.

Schools with strong arts often report a rise in test scores. Why? One possibility is that the same schools that treat the arts seriously institute other kinds of innovations that are favorable to academic learning. These schools may be¬come more inquiry-oriented, more project-based, more demanding of high standards, and more focused on processes that lead to excellence. Educators and policy makers need to understand what comes along with the arts.3

A common goal for each person involved in a child's education – parents, teachers, principals, school boards, funding sources, and students themselves – is the development of educated, literate citizens able to contribute to our society in a meaningful and productive manner. The Goals 2000 committee reinforced the value of the arts in education by stipulating that "All students will leave grades 4, 8, and 12 having demonstrated competency over challenging subject mater including…the arts."4

The world of today's youth often challenges traditional ways of learning experienced by the adults around them.

Today's school gatekeepers think of arts education as they experienced it, as holiday art or as recreational, not as a cognitive process. The major shift in arts education…has been that the arts contribute to intellectual capacities that may complement, but are different from, traditional subjects.5

What then are the intellectual capacities that the fine arts, experienced for their own intrinsic value, contribute to? Moreover, how can the arts complement and reinforce other curriculum areas?

…the arts engage students and activate mental intelligences beyond the logical/analytical ones to which schools almost exclusively cater. The arts awaken an excitement about learning from experience and observation, which are in addition to traditional study, and thus are able to transform the learning of an entire school.6


  1. Ramon C. Cortines, "Making the Case for District-Wide Arts Education," Gaining the Arts Advantage: Lessons from School Districts that Value Arts Education (President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities and Arts Education Partnership, 1999).
  2. Ken Robinson, "Arts Education's Place in a Knowledge-Based Global Economy," Learning and the Arts: Crossing Boundaries, meeting proceedings, January 2000, p. 6. Retrieved June 2001, from
  3. Ellen Winner and Lois Hetland, "The Arts and Academic Achievement: What the Evidence Shows," The Journal of Aesthetic Education 34 (3/4, fall/winter 2000), Retrieved August 17, 2001, from
  4. Goals 2000: Education America Art 8. Retrieved from the Goals 2000 Web site.
  5. Leilani Lattin Duke, director of the Getty Education Institute for the Arts, as quoted by Karen Rasmussen, "Arts Education – A Cornerstone of Basic Education." Retrieved August 17, 2001, from Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development Web site
  6. Eric Oddleifson, "A Fifty School Arts Education Demonstration project," On the Beam, New Horizons for Learning XI, 1 (fall 1990), 4-5:251. Retrieved August 17, 2001, from