Art Education in the 21st Century


I attended the ScienceNow talk about art education last week and got a chance to listen to some interesting questions and answers.

Dr. Daniel J. Levitin talked about the importance of structured art education (that is currently missing on so many schools) – and that benefits of these programs (with engagement-by-doing) are seen with as little as 10 minutes a day. He talked about importance of playing music in building character, teaching turn taking and paying attention to what others are doing… and about a study which showed that people who read a lot of fiction had much stronger empathy than others.

For me, the most important question was – How can arts education help teach creativity and other important life lessons for a 21st century America?

When I was going to school we had to memorize a lot of useless information. Sure, it helped us to exercise our brains but I do not remember almost any of the dates and formulas I was memorizing 15 years ago… on the other hand, the creative work that I did – researched and presented, I remember very vividly. Which is not surprising – but it makes this point even more important.

Daniel Levitin said: what we need to teach our children now is (a) how to evaluate information to be sure it is accurate; (b) how to think logically; (c) how to think creatively – the most difficult problems facing the world such as global warming and peacekeeping, require creative solutions.

My question is – how can we nurture creativity – if kids do not really see it around them? There are many benefits of teaching art in schools… and they seem to be getting more and more important in the Internet age. We should strive for a balance between creativity and logical thinking… after all, even Einstein said: “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.” Isn’t THAT something we should want for us and our kids?

Creativity without Doubts



Never let any doubts stand in your (or your kids’) way… to creativity. Schools teach our kids that there are right and wrong ways of doing things. That’s true and valid – but not when it comes to art. Unfortunately, may teachers (and students) do not see the difference and feel that they are bad at painting because they cannot replicate the picture their friend did. That is not art. That is not creativity… and it is certainly not an easy to express yourself when you constantly fear failure.

Do not praise your kids for the picture they did. Praise their effort, the colors they selected or the time they spent working on it. If you say: It is the best picture ever! Why would they try to beat it? It may make them feel like the bar is so high they will never reach it again, so why bother…? Try saying: I love the colors you selected. Those are really long lines. Wow, your brushstrokes are full of energy… and see if it frees them to express their creativity in new ways. It certainly can’t hurt it.