What arts education can and cannot do…

The New York Times Magazine (April 27: “Drawing Lessons: What arts education can do, and can’t,” p. 11f.). A pair of scholars working with Harvard’s Project Zero—an education research group with an arts focus—reviewed 50 years of studies looking into the supposed causative correlation between arts education and academic achievement, and they found virtually no hard evidence to support the belief that there is such a causative correlation. Despite the fact that it’s getting some traction in the present campaign; indeed, Barack Obama has an arts-education snippet in his speech-making that includes the assertion that “children who learn music actually do better in math…”—which, in the world of No Child Left Behind, is the basis for the often-repeated argument from folks like me (and now, candidate Obama) that the arts are not an expendable frill. Ann Hulbert’s little article goes beyond debunking the arts-world gospel that art in school improves performance in tradition “hard” subjects like math and science to suggest that there are intrinsic benefits (vs. instrumental benefits) to arts education that deserve our attention and advocacy.