Why Kids Need Strong Arts Teaching

Bob Jones
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Wednesday - September 12, 2007
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Noni Floyd of Kaelepulu
Noni Floyd of Kaelepulu

I didn’t hear the words “but whatever we do, let’s not forget the value of the arts” pass Gov. Lingle’s lips in her STEM-winding state of the state speech this year.

STEM. That’s science, technology, engineering and mathematics - Lingle’s only big initiative of her two terms in office. We’re supposed to get techno-folks, specialized educators and scientists enrolled in public-school programs.

We want to give our kids skills for jobs where they don’t have to worry that being UPW garbage collectors on a truck driving through Kahuku Village and getting road dust on them. Or having only 13 HGEA paid holidays a year (14 in election years.)

The STEM Coalition of America is also a No Child Left Behind (NCLB) advocacy group, but that’s another matter with political pitfalls. STEM-sters try to partner up our schools with science and math companies or institutes, get master teachers in those topics involved in K-through-8 classes, and set up high-tech after-school programs.

However, as you’ve probably read, the main school emphasis is on reading and math so our kids can meet the NCLB benchmarks and not have the feds intervene in the state school system.

What about the arts? We have been warned by many writers about a future world of technology marvels where hardly anyone reads for pleasure, art is all photo-or-video-graphic and nobody has heard of van Gogh’s Portrait of Dr. Gachet (and of Mrs. Gachet.)

Local artist, master in curriculum studies and Kaelepulu Elementary School curriculum coordinator Noni Floyd says it all for me:

“It is an utmost disservice to put the arts on the back burner. They are perhaps the most important area of our curriculum. They engage the student, which is core to learning, and are natural integration tools that can actually save teachers valuable time. If educators would look at the arts in such a way, then dance or music, drama or the visual arts could be the thread that ties it all together, sparking feeling back into the classroom.”

At Kaelepulu, the PTSA has fundraisers to hire part-time music, visual arts, and physical education teachers.

Designing eggs combines math and art
Designing eggs combines math and art

Floyd did a fifth and sixth grade project at Mokapu School with a geometer sketchpad for students to construct Easter eggs (see photo) with arcs of circles and then decorate them with colored, symmetrical geometric designs. That’s math and art in a very non-boring manner.

“Within the arts, the body and mind, emotion and intellect are one,” says Floyd. “Critical thinking, problem-solving and discipline each work as pieces of this package.”

She adds: “No Child Left Behind acknowledges the importance of the arts in education. However the black cloud in the form of standardized testing looms over every classroom.”

A new book by researchers at a Harvard Graduate School of Education project concludes that “students who study the arts seriously are taught to see better, to envision, to persist, to be playful and learn from mistakes, to make critical judgments and justify such judgments.”

So here’s to more science smarty pants, higher SATs and Hawaii kids making millions as hedge fund managers. But can we please have the arts in the classrooms, too?

STEM is great. And maybe we’ll produce a new Einstein.

But what about all the budding Monets or even - good Lord! - Jackson Pollacks?


three star

The Mike Gabbard switcheroo made me think that perhaps we need to tweak our election laws.

Citizens do elect by party. It would make sense that if an office holder switches during his term, the office should be declared vacant and we should provide for a temporary replacement of the same party as the one from which the switcher bolted.


three star

Anyone here notice what former Singapore prime minister - now cabinet member - Lee Kuan Yew said in an interview about his nation’s experiment with two huge casinos?

“I don’t like casinos, but the world has changed and if we don’t have an integrated resort like the one in Las Vegas we’ll lose. So, let’s go. Let’s try and keep it safe and mafia-free and prostitution-free and money-laundering free. Can we do it? I’m not sure, but we’re going to give it a good try.”

Anybody here listening?

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