Art adds a lot of value to the world, and is often an influential part of childhood. Unfortunately, it’s also usually the first thing eliminated from schools when budgets are cut. Academic subjects like math, language arts and science make up standardized tests and are therefore considered the most important parts of education.
Schools might start to reconsider reducing or eliminating their creative programs and field trips as more and more studies are released with the premise that a strong presence of art during adolescence instills more positive values and creativity.
Jay P. Greene, professor of education reform at the University of Arkansas, and his two research associates set out to prove that notion in 2011. Their vast study indicates that students who have more knowledge about art have stronger critical-thinking skills, exhibit increased historical empathy, display higher levels of tolerance, and have a greater taste for consuming art and culture.
In 2011, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art made its debut in Northwest Arkansas. What’s so fabulously unique about this museum is that they strongly encourage field trips, even going so far as to reimburse schools for buses and provide the kids free admission and lunch. Because of Crystal Bridge’s generosity and the fact that the area was previously void of any art museums, it was the perfect opportunity to test the hypothesis that art education is more valuable than previously thought.
The students went on a one-hour tour where a guide at the museum discussed five paintings with them, and then they were free to roam the museum on their own for a while.
The research team conducted surveys of almost 11,000 students and 500 teachers at 123 different schools, just three weeks after the treatment group went on their tour. The surveys included an assortment of questions assessing knowledge about art, measures of critical thinking, historical empathy, tolerance and an interest in visiting art museums in the future.
- More than 75% of the students remembered the sociological background of the scenes depicted in the paintings they learned about weeks before, though they had only heard about them one time.
- When tested on historical empathy, students who had visited the museums scored an average of 6% higher in terms of understanding how differently Americans lived throughout history.
- According to the survey results, students who attended a tour at the museum were less likely to agree that artists with varying viewpoints should be censored.
- 70% of students who went on the tour would tell their friends to visit the museum.
Read the full report to learn more about the study and its outcome.
If you find these results intriguing, make sure you encourage your local schools to plan field trips for their students, and don’t forget to take the occasional family outing to a culturally enriching destination!
What do you think about Professor Greene’s study on art education? Let us know in a comment below!