Coreen McClellan: Focus on fundamentals
November 24, 2009
To the editor:
I found it ironic that you published an article praising the Moffat County High School musical in Saturday's paper right next to an article where Mr. Allen suggested the arts programs in our schools be cut in order to meet next year's budget cuts.
I would guess the combined wages of the 10 or 12 arts-related teachers, along with all the money spent on their various programs, wouldn't total the $1 million that needs to be cut, so eliminating the arts programs won't balance next year's budget.
I agree we need to focus on the fundamentals, namely language and mathematics.
What Mr. Allen may not realize is that a clear correlation between arts and these fundamental skills has been documented repeatedly (for starters, see "Learning Improved by Arts Training," by Gardiner, Fox, Knowles, and Jeffrey, Nature, May 23, 1996).
In addition, research has shown a correlation between music education and IQ scores. Several studies have shown arts programs to be even more effective than computer instruction in developing abstract reasoning skills in students (see Shaw, Rauscher, Levine, Wright, Dennis and Newcomb, "Music training causes long-term enhancement of preschool children's spatial-temporal reasoning," Neurological Research, vol. 19, February 1997).
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Studies have also shown students in arts programs are less likely to be substance abusers. A Texas study specifically tied high school participation in band, choir, or orchestra to the lowest lifetime use of all addictive substances (Texas School Survey of Substance Abuse Among Students: Grades 7-12, 1994).
In light of all this information, it seems if we want intelligent, well-educated, drug-free children we need to promote the arts, not cut them.
Wouldn't it make more sense to keep the arts programs and slash the budgets for extracurricular activities, non-essential transportation, and behavior-modification programs that don't focus on fundamental educational skills?