Formal education is aimed at helping the child grow and develop into a functioning member of society. Schools accomplish this through teaching subjects that include reading, mathematics, the sciences and history. While basic curricular areas such as literacy/language development and math are typically viewed as a top priority of schooling, art can greatly impact the child's education.

History

From the cave paintings created by Neanderthal man and ancient Egyptian sculptures, groups of people throughout history have relied on the arts as a powerful means of expression. As education for children became more formalized, so did the introduction of artistic concepts. Students in the twentieth century began to participate in art education endeavors such as drawing, sculpting and painting classes led by school teachers and other qualified individuals.

Misconceptions

Arts education is sometimes mistakenly viewed as frivolous or without academic merit. According to the U.S. Department of Education's statement on the Importance of Arts Education, many schools wrongly choose to cut arts programs citing standardized testing such as that seen in the No Child Left Behind Legislation as a higher priority. These decisions are often based on the misconception that art is completely separate from overall learning or does not impact the child's development.

Art Education and Child Development

Arts education can greatly impact positive cognitive, physical, emotional and social development. According to the National Art Education Association, art can help children to build critical thinking skills, dexterity and imagination abilities. These translate into real-world skills such as problem solving and strategic planning. Teaching art can foster positive emotional development by encouraging children to identify and analyze their feelings and so develop a deeper understanding of themselves.

Art and Academic Education

Art taught within the child's educational career provides a means for reaching traditional academic goals critical to most schools and districts around the country. The U.S. Department of Education in "The Importance of Art Education" states that art is a "challenging" and "rigorous" academic subject. Additionally, art can be effectively used to enrich classroom learning of core subjects. Teachers can convey mathematic concepts such as geometry (shape), symmetry, scale and fractions all through drawing, painting and sculpting exercises. Art viewing experiences can enhance language acquisition and literacy skills through the development of symbolic processing and expansive thought patterns.

Art, Children and Society

The ability to integrate into a society, community and culture is a vital part of childhood development. Art education can help make this goal into a reality by engaging the child in viewing and analytical activities that promote understanding their own (and other peoples') history and community. The National Arts Standards focus on how the arts can benefit both the students and society. Participating in arts education activities may assist children to understand how others think and how other societies function. This may help to eliminate problems such as racism, sexism and other forms of hatred.