Aside from letting leftist indoctrination take over our public school system, the biggest mistake we conservatives made in education over the years was in thinking that art and music classes were expendable luxuries and should be slashed to concentrate on “the three ‘R’s.” Not only are art and music classes important in themselves, but they are also beneficial to helping students excel in other subjects, including math and reading.
As the so-called “triumph of the nerds” has shown us, the twenty-first century will belong to the creative; they will thrive and prosper, both as individuals and as societies. The creative ones will be the competitive ones. This is why China goes to so much trouble and expense to try to steal our patents and infiltrate our universities and corporate R&D departments.
While you can't teach creativity the way you do state capitals and multiplication tables, you can nurture it by offering art and music to all of our students, all the way through school. I believe that our secret weapons for remaining creative and competitive in the global economy are art and music, what I call our "weapons of mass instruction."
Studies have shown a direct correlation between music education and math scores. Music develops both sides of the brain and improves spatial reasoning and the capacity to think in the abstract. Music teaches students how to learn, and that skill is transferable to learning foreign languages, algebra, or history.
Art and music education levels the differences in academic performance among students from different socioeconomic backgrounds and reduces delinquent behavior. Art and music education results in what all parents and school districts are looking to brag about: higher SAT scores. I am a living example of how learning to play guitar can take a shy kid out of his shell and set him on a path to success in life he might otherwise never have imagined. This is why I support organizations that provide instruments to underprivileged students.
Some children decide early on that they're not good at school and they hate it. Art and music can save these children and keep them in school. For them, biology may be broccoli and Spanish may be spinach, but when they get to art class or band practice, that's a hot fudge sundae. If it weren't for these opportunities where they feel successful and worthwhile, where they're enthusiastic and engaged, many students would drop out of school. According to research by the Education Commission of the States, there is an established correlation between art and music education and high school dropout rates.
It infuriates me when people, especially my fellow conservatives, dismiss art and music as extracurricular, extraneous, and expendable. To me, they're essential to a well-rounded education.
In reality, creativity doesn't really have to be "taught" because it is naturally "caught" by every child.
Do you have to beg a three-year-old to sing or a four-year-old to draw pictures or a five-year-old to playact various roles when playing fireman, doctor, or parent? What happens between the naturally creative early years and the bored-to-death teenage years? Those years are spent in a classroom in which students are told to sit down, be quiet, face forward, get your head in the book, and be still.
Students today aren't dumb. The people who run the educational establishment, who want to create a conveyor belt that treats students like parts in a manufacturing plant (like the one in the Pink Floyd video for “Another Brick in the Wall”), are the dumb ones. And there's no reason to let it stay that way.