This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
To the editors:
Over the past 25 years, a growing body of research has shown that music and arts study has a positive impact on general learning.
Especially for children with learning delays, music, visual arts and dance can provide a powerful supplemental way of experiencing, understanding, and expressing basic intellectual concepts like shape, pattern, repetition, and contrast.
At Settlement Music School, children in the Kaleidoscope arts-based pre-school program (an affiliate of the School District’s Head Start program) learn reading, writing, and math skills through a curriculum that uses the arts to reinforce academic learning. Although they spend half of their day in arts classes and out of the traditional classroom, Kaleidoscope children consistently outscore peers on tests of learning readiness.
Arts study gives students opportunities to learn to collaborate with others and to express themselves creatively and positively. The arts require cognitive, physical, emotional, and expressive coordination.
Schools do not require students to take physical education classes so that they will become athletes; they do it so that students will become physically fit. Similarly, arts study is not about making children into artists, musicians, and dancers; it is about making children into whole people, able to exercise all their abilities.
It is not hard to predict that the current fad for “teaching to the test” is doomed to failure. A school that has no time for music and the related arts is going to be a sterile and unproductive place.
On the other hand, no study has ever shown that taking time away from the regular classroom for arts study has had anything but a positive effect.
The writer is executive director of Settlement Music School.