Ed. Note: Champions of Change is a weekly initiative to highlight Americans who are making an impact in their communities and helping our country rise to meet the many challenges of the 21st century.
I was honored to be one of the Champions of Change recognized by the President’s Council on the Arts and the Humanities during a roundtable discussion at the White House on July 19. The conversation an exceptional group of distinguished arts leaders and educators from around the nation had was a critical one, and the fact that it was held at the White House shows the nation the importance the administration places on the issue of arts integration in our schools.
Clearly, the degree to which we are able to successfully infuse the arts into the education of our nation’s children will go a long way toward the progress we are able to make in competing with nations around the world. As noted author Daniel Pink writes in his work, A Whole New Mind, “The first group of people who develop a whole new mind, who master high-concept and high-touch abilities, will do extremely well. The rest – those who move slowly or not at all – may miss out or, worse, suffer...This new age fairly glitters with opportunity, but it is as unkind to the slow of foot as it is to the rigid of mind.”
The challenge for all of us, I believe, is to find innovative ways to link our educational curriculum to the real-world experiences of our students. We must foster creativity, develop imagination, and enable students to envision alternative possibilities in problem solving.
Our children learn best by doing, not by listening to someone tell them how to do something. The arts provide a natural language for children to bring meaning to the world and to provide a means to express their own uniqueness.
We will move forward as a nation most quickly when our children are, throughout their educational years, exposed to a combination of high academic standards and the rich variety of delivery methods made available through the innovative use of arts integration.
Dr. Kevin Maxwell has been Superintendent of Anne Arundel County Public Schools in Maryland since June 2006. He has worked with the Board of Education to create a rigorous and relevant arts-oriented curriculum.