As supporters of a whole child approach to education, we believe that each student must receive equal access to a credible, comprehensive, and well-rounded education that includes instruction in all core academic subjects—English, reading or language arts, mathematics, science, foreign languages, civics and government, economics, arts, history, and geography—delivered at appropriate times throughout the school experience. Credible and comprehensive instruction should also apply to physical education and health education.
Each of these subjects is crucial to a student's learning in its own right, and no single subject should be considered more important than another. Indeed, the combination of the subjects and the interrelationship among disciplines enhances learning and understanding for each student. Moreover, a well-rounded education provides students with the academic preparation and knowledge to succeed in the increasingly global marketplace and in our own complex and ever-changing society.
In July 2010, ASCD and major education organizations representing a wide array of subject areas released consensus recommendations for how the federal government can better support core subjects beyond reading and math during a policy briefing on Capitol Hill. The policy recommendations are a response to the No Child Left Behind Act's singular focus on student performance in reading and math in addition to the Obama administration's Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) blueprint and FY11 budget request, which continue to prioritize reading and math over other subjects.
As part of her testimony, educator, artist, writer, theater maker, and mother Kate Quarfordt said:
I know that when we talk about the importance of ensuring every kid in America gets a well-rounded education, we're not talking about funding cute and cuddly side projects; we're talking about one of the crucial factors that determines whether we graduate healthy, engaged kids who are ready for college, career, and citizenship—or funnel kids into the dropout machine, into the welfare system, into our nation's prisons, and onto the street.
Now, I know that may sound extreme, but I'm here because I know firsthand that every time our nation's schools miss an opportunity to engage kids in broad-based and transformative learning that persuades them to stay in school, graduate, go to college, and participate meaningfully in the world, we lose them. When their experience of school is limited to cramming for standardized tests in a limited number of subjects, we lose them. As a nation, we are losing them at a rate of 7,000 kids every school day; 1 dropout every 26 seconds. And when we lose kids, especially in neighborhoods like the one I work in, most of them don't get a second chance. But when we offer them an education that is well-rounded, that engages them in multiple interconnected ways of seeing the world, that feels relevant to who they are and who they can become, great things happen.
Organizations continue to sign on to endorse the policy recommendations, but what can you do? Whole Child Partner Americans for the Arts asked why arts matter and one of the winners, Student Advocates for the Arts, answered.
"Every child should have access and have a well-rounded education. And they cannot have a well-rounded education without the arts."
—Richard Kessler, executive director, Center for Arts Education, and musician
Student Advocates for the Arts (SAA) is a grassroots student organization dedicated to educating on and advocating for public policy affecting the arts in the United States. Founded in 2002 by graduate students in the Arts Administration Program at Teachers College, Columbia University, SAA engages students in hands-on lobbying, workshops on advocacy and cultural policy, and discussions on the American system for funding the arts. Read SAA's guest post on Americans for the Arts' ARTSblog.
Act now! Sign the Whole Child Petition asking your state board of education to support policies and practices that ensure each student is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. When your state has reached its goal, we will deliver the petition to your state board of education.