Family Friendly Cincinnati is pleased to welcome a new guest contributor to the site. Amy Dennison is the Director of the University of Cincinnati’s CCM Preparatory Department. I came to know of her while researching cello lessons for P. We are thrilled she was willing to submit the following, helping families understand how important the role of the Arts is in your child’s development and education. I’m certain Amy would answer any questions you might have, so feel free to leave them in the comments section and we’ll make sure she gets them and we’ll follow up with her responses here as well.
In the 1990s there was “Goals 2000”
In the first decade of this century there was “No Child Left Behind”
And now in 2010 we have “21st Century Learning Skills”
Finally! An educational directive that puts the arts front and center.
I have been an educator for 30 years. I remember the glory years of the 80s and early 90s when schools embraced the arts by programs such as “Arts Unlimited” and “Arts Connections.” Teaching artists would go into classrooms and help students explore the power of the arts by engaging students directly into arts experiences and then very naturally the experience would flow into something the students were learning in math or perhaps science.
And then Goals 2000 crept into our educational system. Specific learning expectations were prescribed by the federal government. And everything changed. Learning became narrower, and content became more important than discovery.
When then-President Bush proposed the No Child Left Behind educational initiative in 2001, it pretty well put the final nail in the coffin for creative arts experiences for children in the public school system. NCLB was a stellar failure. The focus changed from “how you learn” to “what you learn.”
Enter the newest initiative proposed by the Obama administration – “21st Century Learning Skills.” I am keeping my fingers (and toes) crossed that enough people near the top will recognize that the arts are a perfect educational tool to achieve the goals of this initiative.
Just this evening on the national news was a report that focused on students in Shanghai who were found to be succeeding in measures of creativity and innovation – thinking outside the box. These are the skills that are already front and center in 21st century learning. These are the skills of creators and inventors, not manufacturers. Even while the majority of factory jobs have gone outside our country, we have always prided ourselves on being the innovators and developers of new inventions. Well guess what, it looks like China is figuring this out too.
So we have our work cut out (and by the way, China is also producing record numbers of musical artists).
Broadly outlined, 21st Century Skills are:
Learning and Innovation Skills. Creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration are essential skills that students are expected to master in this area. Well, guess what? Engaging in the arts, be all require these skills, especially if your child is taking an acting or drawing class.
Information, Media and Technology Skills. Although a great deal of arts education is still taught in the traditional way – passed on in human form from teacher (master) to student, I have seen great teaching tools through these new communication forms via computer technology. At a recent arts education conference, I saw a great presentation from Google about creating poetry integrated with visual art created by computer. We all know how our kids are so savvy with technology – it can be used in infinite ways to stimulate creativity and thinking outside the box!
Life and Career Skills. To be a productive member of society and the workforce in the 21st century, individuals will be expected to possess the following skills: initiative and self-direction, leadership and responsibility, and social and cross-cultural skills, to name a few. If you’ve ever taken a private music lesson, participated in chamber music or band, performed in a play, or danced in a company, you’ve needed and honed these skills.
You could say it’s not what you know, but how you know. My 25-year-old daughter was an “unschooler” in her high school years. She chose how and what to teach herself. I am proud to say she is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate from University of Cincinnati and now works for Tulane University and is working on an online master’s degree. She loves the arts and took classes in dance, visual arts and music lessons. I am convinced her forays in experiencing the arts in a tangible, experiential way helped her shape her 21st-century learning skills.
You don’t need to take formal classes or lessons in the arts, although the community is ripe with lots of opportunities for your child to explore them. There are great websites where kids can be challenged to experiment with sounds and lines. Open up your kitchen cupboards and your kids can find their own soundmakers. Take a picture book, and as my dear friend, a children’s literature professor always said, “Create the story that isn’t told through words.”
And that, my friends, is why your child needs the arts.
— Thanks Amy for this great post! You can read more from Amy on her blog – OboeAmy’ Blog.