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Art Education Is a Stepchild

In an attempt to look good on accountability standards, school districts too often focus their efforts only on subjects being tested.  One of the first subjects to be left in the dust is art.  For example, 20 percent of middle and high schools in New York City lack art teachers ("Arts Education Lacking in Low-Income Areas of New York City, Report Says," The New York Times, Apr. 7).  Spending on art supplies and equipment alone fell over all by 84 percent between 2006 and 2013, with the absence of art instruction disproportionately felt in low-income neighborhoods.

What's so troubling is that in many cases art and music are precisely the courses keeping students in school.  When I was teaching English, I was always impressed by the passion that students had for these two subjects. They carried around with them at all times portfolios of their work in art, or sheets of their compositions in music.  With no background in either subject, I was unable to evaluate the products they produced, but I never forgot their intensity.

I wonder how many students today are being shortchanged by a policy that jettisons virtually everything that is not being tested.  We are throwing the baby out with the bathwater by treating art and music as nonessential subjects.  I submit that they are often what makes a profound difference in the lives of young people.

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