It starts with a single crayon: Promoting the Arts as a core subject in our school system

As a young child, your first foray into art was when your parents put a single crayon into your hand. Pulling out pads of paper, you drew dogs, cats, and your family surrounded by a beaming sun and endless blue sky. Your first musical instrument could have been a butter container and a spoon, an activity put together by your mother to entertain you for hours. Whether a child is creating their first painting or dancing to a children's tune on the radio, Art and music have long since been thought of as the building blocks of learning.

When President Obama stepped into office, he let it be known how important it is to his administration that each child deserves to have a well-rounded education. As a parent himself, both he and the First Lady have established that music is a vital part of their Administration. The have put on Jazz Workshops at the White House for students, as well as hosted major music artists in concert as an effort to support the creative arts. Therefore, it is no surprise that various funding initiatives supporting the Arts have come from the Obama Administration within his first 100 days of service. NAMM, the International Music Products Association, recently hosted the SupportMusic Coalitions conference call with U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. Duncan discussed a recent letter that was sent out to schools and a host of educational advocates. The letter asked those involved with educating the students of our country to understand that the monies available under the State Fiscal Stabilization fund, as well as other grants and programs, can be used to develop Arts programs in schools. It has long been an issue that, in an effort to develop programs that focus on the core basics such as Science and Math, the Arts are left to the wayside. The common misconception is that the Arts play little importance in a student's education, but nothing could be further from the truth.

Why should Arts not be thought of as a broad part of a child's education? Although The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) has established that the Arts are a core academic subject, educators have been unable to come up with a way to 'test' the development of a child's ability when dealing with music and the creative arts. When budget cuts are to be made, it's Arts programs that often suffer. While discussing his letter with the SupportMusic Coalition, Duncan stated that "Only 57 percent of eighth graders attended schools where music instruction was offered at least three or four times a week." Duncan's plan to promote Arts education is to send his letter out to educators, and then begin to conduct surveys of school art programs. His goal is to promote both music and art within elementary and secondary schools, as well as to allow educators to make better informed decisions when planning their yearly budget.

NAMM and the SupportMusic Coalition stress the importance of working together as a whole to change perspectives on the Arts in schools. Every educator who is making the decision to develop programs that promote music and creative arts in their curriculum is contributing to the future of a well-educated child. Those in doubt of the benefits of your school's music and art programs need only to ask the children who participate in them. Budding Picasso's and future Beethovens all begin with a single crayon or a twirl around the room to some much loved music. A well-rounded Arts education can be the gift of a lifetime.