Art and music have been integral parts of human civilization since its inception. Today, while artistic endeavors still play a large role in our society, many of us have developed a sort of duality in our way of treating them. Arts based instruction has become frowned upon in many academic and professional circles, even though we all consume the arts on a regular basis (see: movies, concerts, art galleries, musicals, street performances, etc).
High schools and universities might reduce or cut off funding for art and music programs while increasing spending on athletics and the sciences, the core belief being that human progress relies more on scientific advancement than artistic expression. In the U.S., federal funding for humanities and the arts is around $250 million, which pales in comparison to the near $5 billion that the National Science Foundation receives. Investing in the sciences is undeniably noble and necessary, but reducing educational opportunities in the arts might prove unwise.
So why are the arts important, anyway? The answer is more layered than you might expect. Certainly the arts are important for human happiness, catharsis, and community, but what else? It turns out that the arts also play a key role in cognitive development and academic achievement. Americans for the Arts reports that children and teens who participate in the arts regularly are on average four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement than those who don’t participate in the arts. They are also more likely to compete in math and science fairs and win awards for creative writing contests (poetry and essays).
So why is there a link between interest in art and music and success in school? For one thing, most children enjoy learning (and tend to learn better) when they’re free to experiment and try new things. When toddlers are given the opportunity to be creative, they are developing important problem-solving skills that will later apply to any field in the future. Additionally, they are enjoying the experiencing of learning since they are being encouraged to play and be themselves, not simply absorb and regurgitate information.
Preschool and After School Programs
Parents can get their kids involved in the arts in many ways. Perhaps one of the best ways to stimulate your child’s creativity is by enrolling them in preschool and/or after school programs. While these programs have long been seen as optional and even negligible, studies have shown that preschool attendance can have a significant impact on future development. For instance, college students that attended preschools on average tend to graduate 30% faster than those students who did not.
The reason for this trend may relate to the increased stimulation children receive when surrounded by peers in a creative and positive learning environment. The creative and fun activities provided by these preschool and after school programs (such as finger painting, paper construction, and musical activities) open the minds and horizons of the kids who participate in them.
So perhaps we shouldn’t take the arts for granted, or deem them less important than the sciences. Both the arts and sciences further our growth as a species, yet they depend on each other. When people are exposed to artistic media at a young age they are more likely to develop skills that the sciences depend on, like problem-solving, reverse-engineering, and hypothesizing. Our future depends on people with creative minds.