Valuing the Arts Page

Arts Are Literacy—A view through the Anenberg Grant – By Jill D. Bittinger

Recall a favorite memory from your own education and chances are high that it involves a time in which you created something. Understanding the value of JOY in Education helps one to appreciate the essential role for the Arts and the creation process.  When individuals engage in creative acts, they deepen in their being, become more cultured, interested and interesting. Social Emotional and Intra-personal learning (within the self) takes place naturally.  The experience imprints in a lasting way, along with the new perceptions gained.  When able to see him or herself as an artist (which all young children do), there is an enthusiasm and an ability to be fully engaged in each moment.

As a teaching and performing artist in the New York area for ten years, I was privileged to witness this enlivening process first-hand.  I was thrilled to see the Joy that lit up the children’s faces as they participated in the Creative Dance programs we facilitated. Later, as a classroom teacher, Arts became a regular part of the classroom experience. I never failed to see the children light up by the opportunity to move, to paint, to draw, to make or listen to music.  Illiciliting this creative expression has truly been a joy in my teaching career.  One teaching residency under the Annenberg Grant said it best, “Arts ARE Literacy.”

Erica Zigelman, another Dance Teacher, and I facilitated an Arts Retreat for Teachers in New York; Creating Connections: Dance and the Core Curriculum. Through participation, we demonstrated the pathway and interrelationship to incorporate the arts in an ongoing way. Here are some of the points made:

Creating Connections: Dance and the Core Curriculum

  • Dance transforms ideas, feelings and movements into something significant both personally and socially. It is both a way to self-express and a way to respond to others; a natural means of communication. Dance provides children the skills and knowledge for celebration of humanity.
  • Students that express thoughts, feelings, and ideas through movement are exploring the creative process through selecting, combining, refining, and presenting movement. They are given a safe space for risk taking and it results in confidence. It allows dialogue about the selection process.
  • Creative Dance invites imagination, cooperation and interconnection
  • Through appreciating dance in the cultural context, children can become aware of Movement and Rhythm  as a self-expression of people all over the world.

Excerpts from

Strong Arts, Strong Schools – by Charles Folwer

Educational Leadership, 11/’94

The arts humanize the curriculum while affirming the interconnectedness of all forms of knowing.  They are a powerful means to improve general education.
Fowler examines and demonstrates why the arts are one of the hallmarks of excellent schooling. The following are excerpts from his article.

Arts offer a More Comprehensive Education

Ideally, the best way to study the world is to experience it firsthand.

The arts provide a more comprehensive and insightful education because they invite students to explore the emotional, intuitive, and irrational aspects of life that science is hard pressed to explain.

We are creatures of feeling as well as thought, and schools that recognize this basic fact and address it are better schools.  The arts tend to our spirit. Our spirit needs as much nurturing as any other part of our mind.  Schools that ignore it are cold and desolate places. Remember: If we fail to touch the humanity of students, we have not really touched them at all.

The Arts Are Our Humanity

The arts provide a more comprehensive and insightful education because they invite students to explore the emotional, intuitive, and irrational aspects of life that science is hard pressed to explain.  Humans invented each of the arts as a fundamental way to represent aspects of reality; to try to make sense of the world, manage life better, and share these perceptions with others. The arts therefore enrich the curriculum by extending awareness and comprehension while affirming the interconnectedness of all forms of knowing.  This is why an education without the arts is an incomplete education.


As processes for distilling certain kinds of personal meaning, the arts are vehicles for imaginative learning.  As self-enablers, the arts involve students in exploring the

 life around them, past and present, and instruciting and inventing the future.  Through the arts, students see the common bond they share with

 people across different cultures who also express themselves and communicate through their indigenous artistic expressions.  In these ways, the arts enhance the capacities of students to participate significantly in their world.

The  arts are our humanity.  They are the languages of civilization through which we express our fears, our anxieties, our hungers, our struggles, our hopes.  They are systems of meaning that have real utility.  This is why schools that provide students with the means and the encouragement to explore these realms provide a better education.

(Extracted from Charles Fowler’s keynote address at ASCD’s Annual Conference in Chicago, March 1994.)