When school districts across the country face the prospect of annual funding gaps, administrators find themselves having to trim the budget — far too often, arts and physical education programs are forced to take the hit.
However, seen through the lens of objective analysis and empirical research, the ritual of ostensibly sacrificing the arts and physical education for ‘the greater good’ is not just baseless, but according to educator Steven Foxworth, it’s counterproductive.
“If the core purpose of education is to develop students intellectually, emotionally, psychologically and socially, and equip them to achieve their full potential during and after they leave the formal education system, then treating the arts and physical education as ancillary or expendable simply doesn’t make sense,” commented Steven Foxworth, who holds both a Bachelor of Social Science degree and a Master of Education degree, and has over a decade of experience teaching in the public and private school sectors. “There is ample research that confirms that both the arts and physical education are central to student development. We should be strengthening these programs, not gutting them.”
With respect to the key role that the arts play in student development, Rice University’s Kinder Institute for Urban Research recently published the findings of a comprehensive, randomized controlled trial involving 10,548 3rd to 8th grade students enrolled in 42 Houston-area schools. Students who received arts-related education had better writing skills, greater school engagement, more pronounced college aspirations, more compassion for others, and fewer disciplinary infractions than students who did not receive arts-related education.
According to Steven Foxworth, this is just one of many credible studies that confirms providing students with quality arts-based education can significantly improve academic performance, as well as cultivate more engaged, ambitious and socially responsible community members and citizens.
Physical Activity Across the Curriculum (PAAC), a three-year cluster randomized controlled trial involving 24 elementary schools in Northeast Kansas, found schools that added physical activity to the curriculum had higher levels of student achievement compared to schools that did not add physical activity to the curriculum. And even more importantly, given the child obesity epidemic across the country, researchers found a significant correlation between increased physical activity among students and a slower and lower increase in body mass index (BMI). In simpler terms: what many students learned about physical fitness and healthy eating in school, they beneficially applied outside of school.
Physically fit children have both a larger hippocampal and basal ganglia, and both of these brain structures are associated with enhanced learning and development. Another way to look at this is to appreciate the empirical fact — not the belief or opinion — that that physical education is truly and fundamentally educational.
In addition to making students healthier and fitter, it increases their capacity to comprehend and learn throughout their entire lives. If physical education is introduced into the curriculum and supported by engaged and properly trained teachers can draw on sufficient resources, the rewards can be enormous and truly life-changing.