Several decades ago, the ability to play the piano was a requirement for becoming an elementary teacher in California. By the end of the twentieth century, however, the pendulum had swung in the opposite direction, and a singleminded focus on literacy and math skills had become the hallmark of good teaching. The arts have virtually been ignored.
Tragically, the arts have been absent from the schools for so long that many teachers have little awareness of the enlivening, humanizing influence that an active arts program can exert on school and classroom culture. A decade into the twenty-first century, an increasing recognition exists that a test-driven focus on literacy and math has not resulted in the anticipated academic benefits. Student achievement has improved only marginally, while skills that are basic to the maintenance of a healthy democracy have received little attention. As Goldberg notes: “The arts and physical education…teach students much more than disciplinary content. They teach lessons that enable students to look at their world with a more complex lens by building critical thinking skills…and they engage students in learning how to play well together, to be team players, to be responsible, and to take risks.” (2008)
Liane Brouillette (2010), “How the Arts Help Children to Create Healthy Social Scripts: Exploring the Perceptions of Elementary Teachers,” Arts Education Policy Review, 111(1): 16-24