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Art, once considered an unnecessary addition that could be discarded if the schedule were too hectic or the budget too tight, is now gaining credibility for its contribution to cognitive development. Meriting the status of other school subjects, it may well be one of the most effective educational tools to pave the way into the twenty-first century. In fact, a quality art education program is considered by some as one of the hallmarks of excellent schooling.

Many teachers include art only to provide enrichment and variety to their programs, or perhaps a relaxing break in the normal routine of academics, a purpose that drastically undermines the value of art and reflects a lack of understanding regarding the developmental function of the creative arts. Furthermore, a teacher's own dismissive attitude about the importance of art undoubtedly prevents the children from reaping the benefits of a sound art education, since such a teacher will probably fail to present meaningful assignments. Not just any art activity qualifies as "hallmark status."

Why, then, are the creative arts so valuable? Do they really contribute to cognitive development? While the left and the right halves of the human brain fulfill different intellectual functions, most traditional school subjects tend to develop only the left side. Where a good art program is lacking, the right hemisphere, which is responsible for the more creative kinds of thinking, is generally left underdeveloped. Right brain focused activities, such as creativity, are major goals of arts education. And the ability to generate new ideas through expanded thinking is a basic ingredient of creativity. While some problems have only one solution, others do not. When asked to write a spelling word on the board, how many correct responses might a student make? In spelling, as in reading and mathematics, creativity may be no great asset. Yet, some problems in life may have multiple solutions, as corporate leaders, city planners and those whose jobs require divergent thinking have discovered. Problem-solving abilities, then, are a necessity of life. Unless we provide subjects such as art that focus on creative development, and therefore on right brain development, we are not providing a well-rounded education for the child. Not surprisingly, since the two sides of the brain are linked, recent research is indicating that where artistic development occurs, an improvement in general academic performance results. These findings are being clearly reflected in SAT scores.

Other well-known benefits of an art program include the development of heightened self-esteem, self-discipline, the ability to make qualitative judgments, improved visual discrimination, increased motivation to learn, fulfillment through productivity, and cultural and historical awareness.

As already mentioned, the kind of art program you choose is crucial to whether or not you accomplish the desired development in the children. A well-rounded art education course is the goal rather than a smorgasbord of arts and crafts activities or lessons in the fine arts.

The purpose of Choose Art is to provide such a program. Making a structured course available means teachers can provide meaningful assignments and students can receive a well-rounded art education.

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