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July 8, 2023

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.

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Comments 1-10 of 64

  • Carolyn Crawford Korkmas

    09/21/2023 02:27 PM

    I agree with you. You are on the right track. I was not allowed to get involved with music classes in high school because my parents were over-protective and didn't want me to ride on school buses to and from football games (where all sorts of terrible things happen, according to them.) I went to college at age 17 and dropped out after one year because of depression. Later at 30 after two divorces I returned to college and "found myself," got a master's degree and a wonderful husband. We have celebrated over 50 years together, and I retired from Shell Oil Co.

  • Bene K Davis

    09/06/2023 09:18 PM

    Your thoughts on arts in education are spot on! I am a retired HS/JH band director (40 years). The left-brain dominance of education smothers creativity in our students. Thank you for writing this. I'm sharing it with my friends.
    God bless!

  • Gaydean Wallace

    07/11/2023 08:41 AM

    I worked as a teaching assistant with a teacher who played long hair music very softly all day long. Her students were well behaved even the 3 who had ADHD. It was always in the background but never disruptive. There is no doubt about it, when a child can express him or herself in any field they will feel and be successful.

  • Vicky

    07/11/2023 06:39 AM

    I chose art and choir as electives in high school. I learned I wasn't good in art and others had more talent than I had. My singing was okay. Our choir class was on stage for an assembly and then I got called to the V.P. office who asked me why I wasn't sitting in my seat. He thought I ditched the assembly. I told him, I was on stage singing. Both subjects helped me though, because after high school I went to beauty school.

  • Karen Jones Cody

    07/09/2023 10:15 PM

    Gov. Huckabee, I love this article and agree with every word. Thank you for continuing to share your viewpoint -- you are one of the few people I trust to deliver actual NEWS, and it is always encouraging to hear your intelligent and insightful observations. My husband and I watch your TV show every week, and hope someday soon to see it in person. God bless you!

  • Michael Rogers

    07/09/2023 02:37 PM

    Hey Mike, check out the achievement scores in the state of Tennessee for third graders on TCAP assessment test. 60% of the states third graders failed the test which carries with it the penalty of not advancing to the next grade. I heard an interview or some parents complaining that their children were in honors classes. Says something about the classes. This should be an educational disaster, and yet the state government seems unconcerned. This is a republican state. Very concerning! The subject deserves some research and an article.

  • Mrs. Piner

    07/09/2023 02:07 PM

    Karate should be taught as daily physical education as well. Karate is not learning to fight-just the opposite. Karate is the natural development of the human form. I could go on an on about the benefits of karate, but to be brief, karate fulfills the sense of feeling or touch that is so sadly lacking in our young children and so much else follows along...

  • Cate Jones

    07/09/2023 02:38 AM

    Without art and music as a way of learning and communicating in school I am sure I would have failed school and dropped out. It was the saving grace for me and I excelled in both. My Highschool counselor told me not to try to go to college because my IQ was too low and I would fail. Years after highschool my husband encouraged me to get my bachelor's of Fine Arts degree and I graduated with honors, summa cum laude, with a 3.97 GPA. Art and music are essential in school to help those who are visual learners to be able to relate to the world around them. Most typical visual learners are also "out of the box" thinkers and can find solutions not obvious to other thinkers. I am very thankful for music and art in my life and God has used them as a means for me to fulfill the purpose he has for my life.

  • Donna J Pfost

    07/09/2023 02:17 AM

    I totally agree with you that art & music should be taught in schools, K-12. In addition, Family & Consumer Science (Home Ec) and Shop classes need to be included as well. Students need to be educated about how to cook meals, how to sew on a button, how to balance a checkbook and how to take care of children, too. The same can be said for knowing how to unclog a drain, how to install a curtain rod, how to fix an electrical socket, how to replace a spark plug in a car, and paint a room!! Kids need all the basic 3R’s, but these are incredibly important in preparing the student for the real world….and unfortunately much of this is not “on the test” so it is deemed unimportant!! ??

  • Ken Johnson

    07/08/2023 11:39 PM

    Thanks, Mike. From a 40-year music teacher, you are exactly correct. The other point in that equation is that the art and music teachers have to care about their students and spend time with them. I taught secondary music methods and classroom management and supervised the student's student teaching for nineteen years, and emphasized the importance of caring about their students and showing them that they cared, and with those students, it worked. I have a great-grandson who took a photography class in his junior year and the teacher was only there for a paycheck and my great-grandson hated the class so it is important that they are excellent teachers also.