Art Education and the Young Child
The National Art Education Association (NAEA) states that art is one of the most revealing of human activities, as well as one of the richest sources for understanding cultures, because the earliest things we know of ourselves are recorded in visual forms and images. A comprehensive arts education promotes the attainment of knowledge, understandings, and skills that contribute to the student’s intellectual, social, emotional, and physical development.
A comprehensive arts education program also is the perfect place to begin increasing children’s awareness of a variety of cultures, and plays a key role in affecting children’s long-term beliefs (Boutte, 2000). Saul and Saul (2001) caution teachers to move away from the “tourist approach” (p. 38) to teaching multicultural education wherein we “visit” different cultures, never to discuss them again. Multicultural experiences for young children should become a part of the child’s artistic awareness throughout the whole year.
Ernest Boyer, of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and a noted expert on the arts, emphasizes the importance of arts education and has identified three reasons we need arts education in our schools. It is difficult not to pay attention to his view of art as “one of mankind’s most visual and essential forms of language, and if we do not educate our children in the symbol system called the arts, we will lose not only our culture and civility, but our humanity as well” (Boyer, 1987, p. 16). The figure below presents a summary of the reasons Boyer feels that the arts can make such a difference in a child’s school experiences.
Boyer's Vision for Creative Arts Education
- Arts education helps children express feelings and ideas words cannot convey.
- Through the language of the arts we can help integrate our splintered academic world. Students are not gaining insight or perspective or a sense of wholeness. They urgently need to see connections, and finding patterns in the disciplines can be accomplished through the arts.
- Arts education is necessary because the arts provide the child with a language that is universal.
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