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America's Lost Educational and Technological Edge

America no longer seems to be leading the globe. Many Asian cities now seem to be leaps ahead. Perhaps education and cutting the arts is at the heart of our losses.

It was Albert Einstein who said in 1932: “I believe the most important mission of the state is to protect the individual and make it possible for him to develop into a creative personality. . .”

More recent visitors to Asia often return feeling as though we, as Americans are falling behind as a society. They are impressed by advances in arcitecture and technology in what used to be, poorly developed countries by American standards.

Advances have been especially contrasting over the past few years and I have had friends return from tours of Asia who were exasperated over the shock of how far behind we seem to be.  I propose that our losses as a culture correspond with the devaluation of arts classes and the decreasing cultivation of creative problem solving skills in education.

Taking a look at the excerpt from goals of education as reported to a UNESCO Regional Conference on Arts Education in Asia from May 2003.  In this description we can take a look at how the arts are emphasized in curriculum.

Asian countries, like India, Thailand, Laos, South Korea and the Philippines, tend to request arts education expecting it to play a role in fostering children’s well-balanced personality, including teaching of ethical and moral values.”

In most Asian cultures, as children progress, time in arts classes increases. “Since integration of established subjects is a characteristic ..., “Arts and Humanity,” one learning domain among eight, is integrating holistically visual arts, music, and drama/dance performance.

This “Arts and Humanity” aims to foster children’s artistic intelligence, to encourage them to actively participate in artistic events, to enhance ability to appreciate arts, to cultivate a hobby in daily life, to enlighten artistic potential, and build healthy personality.

In general, “Arts and Humanity” classes are provided for first and second grade students for 3 – 4 hours per week, 3.75 – 5 hours for third and forth graders, 4.05 – 5.4 hours for fifth and sixth, 4.2 – 5.6 hours for seventh and eighth, and 4.5 – 6 hours for ninth graders.” (Arts Education in Asia Prepared for the UNESCO Regional Conference on Arts Education in Asia May 2003).  When was the last time you checked how much arts time your child gets in school?  I don't mean the 10 minutes that might be alloted during social studies.  Please check in with your arts teachers, especially those who have been teaching for several years. 

During a time when Asia has increased arts education time in schools, US schools have drastically cut back arts time. Perhaps the current trend to continue chopping away at arts education is the wrong direction for our children.

Rosemary is a tutor and licenced NYS educator.  She teaches English as a Second Language classes in Northern Westchester, Putnam and some regions of Connecticutt. She holds an MS in Art Therapy.

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Dan July 07, 2012 at 03:54 PM
Finland's Revolutionary Education System http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qlOfZL_J5fo&feature=plcp
Steve July 07, 2012 at 06:57 PM
Parents have charged the schools with raising their children and have abandoned their responsibilities and status as parents. Violence, abuse, gutter language are widely shown on TV but TV executives claim that TV does not cause or encourage these behaviors, yet they sell advertising by telling advertisers that TV is the most effective way to influence the habits and actions of the TV audience. Watching TV instead of studying is the failure of irresponsible parents whose indifference ensures their children will have a future of life in poverty.
Bjorn Olsson July 08, 2012 at 03:41 AM
Forcing kids to 8 hour school days can't be the answer, the Asian style pressure-cooker systems seem so terrible, I think American kids are way overloaded with school hours and homework as it is. Here's more info about the Finnish system that seems so much more humane: http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/12/what-americans-keep-ignoring-about-finlands-school-success/250564/
Rosemary Black July 09, 2012 at 04:20 AM
Bjorn and Dan thank you so much for calling attention to Finland. I quote one article, "Finland's success is especially intriguing because Finnish schools assign less homework and engage children in more creative play."
Andrew Hodgkinson July 09, 2012 at 01:16 PM
They also have a varying timetable throughout the year, which allows students to study more at certain times than others. The Union would be on your back here unfortunately. Experience also suggests that there is a different attitude to education in Finland and that parents 'buy in' much more aggressively. Interestingly, from speaking with parents they believed that boys benefitted most, which is a problem for most developed nations.

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