David L. Kirp, a professor of public policy at the University of California, writes about the turn-around of a once failing public school system in Union City, N.J. in an op-ed for the New York Times. He argues that in a quarter of a century, the principal, teachers and parents were able to turn grades, graduation rates and test scores around – not turning to a charter school.
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Arts Horizons applauds David Kirp’s recent article on the Union City, NJ school system, and believes that arts organizations like ours have contributed to the school system’s remarkable success. As an organization that introduces the arts to students throughout the New York metropolitan region, we know that the integration of The Arts into the school curricula is essential to turning around bad schools.
The arts engage and impact all ages, cultures, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds. Music, art, dance, theatre, creative writing and now digital media inspire creativity, invigorate classroom learning and motivate students and parents alike. In school systems like Union City, our teaching artists work alongside classroom teachers to fan the sparks of creativity and encourage students to experience what we would like to see in all education – involvement, discovery, energy and direction.
Mr. Kirp could have added another example of a beneficial lesson that helped bring some Union City immigrant children into the mainstream. Middle school students recently interviewed their grandparents, wrote their stories and, under the tutelage of a professional painter, created paintings from the stories. Through this exercise they connected with their grandparents as they never had before.
Creativity and innovation are essential ingredients in today’s workplace, and have an important place in today’s classroom. Yet when school budgets are reduced, the arts are invariably cut first. All schools should follow the example of Union City. We cannot afford to put the arts on the back burner of education.
Englewood, NJ, Feb. 14, 2013