It’s generally accepted that involvement in the arts – theatre, music, visual art – has shown to increase student’s test scores and overall scholastic performance. A rash of studies in the late 1990s and early 2000s, including the well known University of California, Irvine experiment that coined the “Mozart Effect,” resulted in parents playing classical music to their newborns.
Unfortunately, with the enactment of “No Child Left Behind” and subsequent focus on test scores, in-school arts education has become a luxury many schools can not afford. Additionally it can come as no surprise that national funding for arts organizations and arts education has seen a large and rapid decrease. (Funding for the National Endowment for the Arts dropped $9 million over the last 5 years alone.) As the nation’s schools continue to focus on standardized test scores, it becomes increasingly important for our young people to experience arts related events outside of the classroom.
Luckily recent studies have shown that simply attending arts events can have a measurably positive effect on students. Research published in the journal Education Next found that students who attended live theatre exhibited a greater knowledge of the play and vocabulary than those simply reading the play or watching a film. Even more importantly, perhaps, students who attended live theatre performances were more tolerant, empathetic and better able to read the emotions of others.
Jay Greene, a professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas and a member of the research team, stated “We don’t just want our children to acquire work skills from their education, we also want them to develop into civilized people who appreciate the breadth of human accomplishment.”
Another valuable benefit of cultural activities on young people was revealed in a 2014 study by The Center for Public Education. It showed that cultural extra-curricular activities help to keep high risk dropout students from leaving school.
In our own region of SE Minnesota, there are several cultural outlets offering arts related activities for students and their families, including the Total Day Arts Camp (through Rochester Art Center), the student-friendly programs and performances at the Commonweal Theatre in Lanesboro, The Minnesota Marine Art Museum in Winona and Rochester Civic Theatre. That names just a few of the opportunities available right in our own backyard to enhance to education of young people across the region.
When the National Endowment for the Arts was established in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson stated, “Art is a nation’s most precious heritage. For it is in our works of art that we reveal to ourselves and to others the inner vision which guides us as a nation. And where there is no vision, the people perish.”
By the Marketing Team, Commonweal Theatre.