Take it to art

Get kids into the arts for a leg up in flexible thinking.

By Susan Dichter


Susan Dichter wears many hats—mother, writer, former teacher, museum director and librarian. Her books include Teachers: Straight Talk from the Trenches (Contemporary Books, 1990).

When budgets are tight, local school boards often drop arts programs and parents usually think they are right to do so. After all, aren't art and music mere frills compared to basics like math and science? Right? Wrong! As Charles Fowler, author of Can We Rescue the Arts for America's Children? persuasively argues, "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 explore."

Why then do the arts get ditched first? Maybe it's because people have trouble with the nonlinear and non-quantifiable. Schools emphasize logical and linguistic skills, and people forget that many kids learn best in other ways. Some kids, for example, blossom when an abstraction is made visible, and almost all kids benefit from an effective arts-education program.

Still not convinced? At the University of California at Los Angeles, a study of 25,000 kids showed that those involved in the arts outperformed others across the board in grades and standardized tests. Turn your kids on to the arts. It's an exposure to creative, flexible and nonlinear thinking—the very skills our high-tech world needs!