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Arts education is a process, not just a product

Pep Montserrat for the Boston Globe

New Years blessings on the Globe for the Jan. 2 editorial, “Make arts education standard.” You hit critical issues with arts education across the state from importance to access and funding.

Testing, along with STEM initiatives, have plunged the arts farther and farther from the perceived curricular mainstream. Although No Child Left Behind did list the arts as core curriculum, the Every Student Succeeds Act placed renewed importance on “a well-rounded education” that includes the arts. That change in perspective will take time to be understood and, sadly, even longer to be implemented.

The arts in education have been perceived in the funding equation much like fire insurance — we all recognize the need, but hate paying the premiums. The arts are essentially process learning and skill building that benefit all students. That’s a fundamental misunderstanding by some school leaders at all levels, who only see our results and assume, wrongly, that performances, art pieces, and films magically come together at concert or exhibition time. Those performances and exhibitions are the reflections of learning — understanding of essential concepts, building of physical and intellectual skills — and hard work that have preceded them.

Thomas H. Walters

President, Massachusetts Music Educators Association