Arts Education K-12
Promoting A Safe School Environment
This monograph is designed for use by school administrators, classroom teachers and others who are concerned with creating and maintaining a safe environment in their schools. The purpose of this document is to highlight some of the many aspects of arts education that help promote safe school environments. Much has been written about how to establish safe schools including intervention and prevention measures to impede violence. This document will not focus specifically on preventing violence in schools but will look at how instruction and learning in arts education can contribute to students having a positive attitude about school as a safe and nurturing place to be. Were this positive attitude to prevail in schools, students themselves would be more prepared to facilitate and preserve a safe school environment. This document is written with the premise that students can take a more active role in becoming the primary architects of a safe school environment if they receive relevant instruction and support, and have positive teacher role models.
The arts are not for those who do not take learning and producing seriously. By their nature, the arts require significant discipline, study and practice. Indeed, arts classes and classrooms are substantially different from traditional ones and the demands are usually more immediate and arduous. Students, more often than not, have to take on greater responsibility for learning and working, function with a heightened sense of discipline, awareness and perception, and often operate not unlike professionals in the course of making art. Many arts educators would concur that arts instruction is somewhat a "boot camp for life." While arts teachers teach the content and skills of arts education, they also teach and expect students to learn much more. In order to conceive, create, produce and present art, students must go through complex processes that necessarily involve all kinds of experiences well beyond those that take place in the typical classroom. This is especially true in those areas of arts study that culminate in performance. In arts classes, students often perform leadership roles such as conductor, technical director, artist-in-residence, stage manager, costumer, and choreographer, or function as team members such as chorus member, dresser, lighting crew member, actress, etc. These roles must be carried out with precision, a sense of esprit de corps and commitment to achieving quality that goes beyond the mundane. During performances and exhibits, these roles must be executed with the additional gravity that comes with having their work scrutinized by an audience and/or critics. Thus, in the arts, students must learn and are expected to use interpersonal and intrapersonal knowledge and skills exhibited by the professionals in their respective arts fields. As with the professionals themselves in the accompanying theatres, galleries, concert halls and other performing spaces, much of this knowledge and these skills directly relates to understanding the need for having a safe school and to facilitating productive non-violent school environment.
The common elements often found in any conflict resolution training program are active listening, effective communication, cooperative problem solving, identification of facts and issues, decision making, identification of solutions, and discussing and reaching agreements. The experiences had, along with the concepts and skills learned in the study of arts education discussed in this monograph, all contribute to developing students who are more likely to develop conflict resolution skills and desire and promote a safe school environment. Thus, this document is intended to raise the awareness of administrators and teachers about the role arts education plays in relationship to creating a safe school environment and the diverse ways these understandings and skills are learned. It should also encourage emphasis on the aspects of arts study which advance student attitudes that facilitate both reasonable and educated students and safe school environments. What follows is an examination of some significant ways arts education contributes to a safe school environment.
Much of the atmosphere that creates unsafe schools comes from individuals who are not being challenged or who do not feel involved in the work they are doing. Because of a lack of discipline, these students often turn to violence as a way of expressing frustration. The nature of the arts requires involvement, persistence and discipline on the part of students to bring about the desired ends. This is equally true whether they are involved in creative work or in performance/production. In individual creative work, the need is to find the optimal means of expressing ideas and to bring the work to a successful completion. When working with others, there are specific roles to be played and they are not random ones, so that each contribution made by the student must be made at an appropriate time and in a specific manner. In order to have any success at all in the arts; discipline is a fundamental requirement.
Work in the arts often involves students operating as teams of varying numbers. Leadership of these efforts may be individual or shared among a number of people. Dance compositions must be executed as a team, and performing ensembles in music and theatre arts operate in this way. In visual arts, group work is often involved in the production of murals and other collaborative undertakings. The need for individual students to merge their own impulses with those of the group is often important for an optimal outcome. Students in a music ensemble cannot play or sing anything they wish at any time, but learn collaboration as a basic way of operation. The concern for the needs of others is fundamental. Likewise, movement and speech in dance and theatre arts must be coordinated with the requirements of the group effort. Learning to work in this way provides insight into how others operate and increases tolerance of others' differences.
The development of pride in individual accomplishment is fundamental. Students who take pride in their work are less likely to become problem students. Growth of aesthetic sensitivity leads students to be more concerned with various aspects of the school climate. This sensitivity also leads to more effective relationships with other students and promotes care for the physical facilities. Since much of the work in the arts is dependent on facilities, equipment and materials, students must develop an appreciation and respect for obtaining and maintaining them. Students who are proud of their work are less likely to abuse those things necessary to do their art and the physical environment in which they operate.
Because of the inherent nature of the arts and the involvement in the creative process, students learn a basic sense of responsibility to the requirements of the work itself and toward others. The demand to be a participating member of the class precludes time-wasting and leaving the determination of success to others. The quality and extent of each student's work is always evident and available for scrutiny. If students learn to take responsibility for their actions and deeds in arts classes, they are more likely to do so in their school and other places as well.
Respect for others and for the integrity of the arts themselves is basic to arts study. Learning to operate effectively in the arts requires the understanding of appropriate principles and standards of conduct. In all the arts, there are acceptable modes of behavior that are intrinsic to each area, for example, the professional treatment that technicians and performers should extend to one another during the process of doing theatre or the necessity for each member of a dance ensemble to carry out a difficult and potentially hazardous movement precisely and reliably so that no one's safety is endangered.
Where works of art are re-created, honesty to the original intent is required. In the presentation of works created by other individuals, the need to be true to the creator's intent precludes many kinds of student inputs that would be inappropriate to the concept. In the student's own creative efforts, the needs and demands of the work itself must be determined and respected in a similar way so that the results are not distorted. Adherence to rules and/or measuring work by established standards is inherent to the arts.
A unique feature of the arts is that, while they may involve work done as a group, the contribution of each participating student is also individually evident in the production of the final result. Because of this situation, students are led to establish a positive self-concept, even though the work is demanding and not always immediately successful. Arts work often involves many varied attempts to solve particular problems to secure the desired results.
All students need to know and feel their value and importance. We often refer to this ability as having good self-esteem. Self-esteem is rooted in our perception of ourselves and how others see us. Study in the arts often provides students experiences and opportunities where they can discover their various abilities, receive accolades for exercising those abilities and realize, that as singular individuals, they have unique and individual worth, value and ability. Good arts instruction promotes students' self-esteem and provides situations where students can actually prove and demonstrate their value and unique capabilities. In many cases, students experience success for the first time in arts classes, since there is often not a prescribed right answer or way, but rather the best answer or way that something works or happens. In some cases, students discover for the first time that they can be valuable to others and, to some extent, actually needed by them. The lessons that have to be learned to acquire positive self-esteem are often difficult and emotionally stressful. Arts classes are many times a safe microcosm of the real world where these lessons can be learned in a nurturing environment and under the guises of a nurturing trained arts educator. These educators encourage students to be the very best that they can be and to do the very best they can do. Arts teachers prompt students to go beyond their personal best and, in so doing, show students they are capable of much more than they thought. The realization that they can achieve much more and that their perception of themselves is important to how they feel about themselves and function in the world, contributes to building self-esteem and develops students who feel good about themselves and, most likely, others with whom they must come in contact. Students who have good self-esteem are more likely to want to be in a safe environment and willing to work to that end.
Because arts students often achieve outstanding results from their efforts, the fact is often overlooked that the nature of what they are doing involves taking risks. Public performance and exhibits are risky, since there are no guarantees of success and the risks repeated each time the work is presented to others. In the demonstration of creative products, there is a very significant risk of rejection. In the performing arts, where works are executed from memory, there is always the possibility of forgetting at a critical time. These risks are accepted by arts students and are used to stimulate achievement at increasingly higher levels. Students who take risks understand the importance of doing so in as safe an emotional and physical environment as possible and with others who can be trusted and relied upon to minimize the risk.
The fact that our actions have consequences is regularly demonstrated in arts work. Students develop an acceptance of this fact, since individual contributions may not be capricious, but rather must be directed to the outcome of the work as a whole. Even with individual work in visual arts, each part of the composition/production must contribute to the effect of the whole and students must carefully consider the effect of the components on the overall work. Students who become accustomed to considering the outcomes of their actions are less likely to act in ways that might impede the safety of themselves and others.
The very nature of the arts is that of conflict and resolution. Conflicts may be present in and among any of the varied elements that make up the arts. In some instances, the conflict may not be intended to be resolved immediately but is used to build strength in the whole fabric. Where students are involved in making arts with others, the need to sublimate the single part into the whole leads to basic understandings of how conflicts are to be resolved. The production of coherent offerings requires the integration of many elements into the total result. In a similar way, the management of stress is inherent in the process of both creating and performing. Processes for understanding stresses and both their positive and negative implications are developed as a basic part of arts study.
Positive approaches to the understanding and acceptance of diversity are a fundamental part of the arts, since work with different styles, types and periods is included in the overall program. Students are exposed in a natural and positive way to different ideas and to aspects of the arts representing widely varied points of view. Even where similar styles or forms are included, the variations that come from the thinking of different creators and performers as well as differences in perception among their fellow students are all absorbed as an intrinsic part of involvement in the arts. Arts study helps build understanding and tolerance for conflict and teaches students the skills necessary to resolve conflict through refined means.
The arts arise from a need to communicate ideas, experiences, and feelings. Communication may occur through the art medium itself and may also be expressed verbally about the work taking place. There is a fundamental need to be able to think in terms of the medium itself, i.e., thinking specifically in terms of music or visual expression or movement. It is also vital, however, to be able to express thoughts in terms of language, particularly to gain objectivity and a more diverse understanding. In this, the student gathers information through reading, listening, and viewing. The student reads and responds to the pertinent literature. As a result, observations, ideas, and thoughts may be communicated in writing as well as orally. Critiques of work in the arts as well as connections to other areas of study should be done through this process. Attention here is given to application of basic principles of language use and these principles are then applied to enrich the study of the arts as languages for communication. People who learn to communicate effectively are less likely to create unsafe situations or environments.
Student efforts in the arts do not always succeed to the intended extent. This, though, is a valuable process for discovery of the specific optimal outcome and the means to achieve it. Because the climate of the arts learning environment provides for both success and failure and the ready possibility to try again, this process can be carried out to provide important growth for the student and does not carry the stigma of failure experienced in areas where success may be demonstrated primarily through the achievement of a grade on a test. A vital aspect of arts study stems from the fact that there is rarely only one effective response to a challenge. Because of the need to discover optimal approaches to given problems, a failure of one attempt may lead to the successful discovery of another and ultimately to a more rewarding avenue to the desired end. This process provides for developing an attitude of success and does not create the frustration often experienced where grades alone are the measure of achievement. Those students who are not experiencing frustration are less likely to seek unsafe modes of expression.
In successful arts education programs, there is much opportunity for interaction with the instructor and with other students. This creates a natural environment for exchange of ideas and for enrichment and deepening of the understandings being sought, as well as for discovery of new conceptions. The development of camaraderie and of a sense of community brings about an optimal learning environment and contributes to creating a safe one.
Because of the need for varied efforts, ideas and abilities, the arts foster a natural understanding and acceptance of diversity. There are varied outcomes to be achieved and needs for a variety of inputs in the arts process. Because of this, the idea that there might be only one way or that one individual might have the only valuable ideas is foreign to this study. Often a student who may not be able to serve in a front-line or "star" capacity may be able to make vital contributions in other ways and thus be a significant contributor to the overall effort. Students are taught to respect and encourage other people and their actions that may be different from themselves or their own actions.
Differences in perception often cause individuals to feel that anyone who does not perceive the world as they do is "crazy" or very strange and, therefore, is to be feared. This limited understanding frequently arises from experiences with situations that do not require diverse perceptions. However, diversity in perception is a fundamental aspect of the arts and indeed, is critical because of the nature of this communication. It is vital that whatever work is created and/or recreated in performance/production be able to be communicated to a wider audience. It is often the contribution of the individual having a different perception that enriches the fabric of the work as a whole. Instead of being "strange," the difference in perception becomes valued. It is also critical to the understanding and appreciation of works by other creators to realize that the perception/perspective of the creator may be quite different from our own but still have value toward our own understanding, learning, and enjoyment of life. The same observations made in terms of diversity apply to the acceptance of differences in thinking. Because the arts encourage different ways of thinking, it is, in fact, critical that students be able to think in different ways and the very fact that they do is an asset and not a liability. Often the solution to a particular problem may result from precisely the ability to apply a totally different approach to the problem-solving process from the one that happens to be stalemated at the moment. The respect for these differences arises from the need to operate as a group that is not dominated by any one way of operating. Thinking in diverse ways and as the result of different backgrounds, understandings and knowledge is valued and encouraged through arts study.
Arts work develops the ability to make effective compromises because of the many variables that must be reconciled in a successful effort. In visual arts, for example, some ideas will work well in watercolor media but will be unsuccessful in oils. Likewise, some colors will work in given situations that will prove less desirable in others. Similarly, in theatre arts, staging that is designed for large theaters will require adaptation for smaller venues. Rigidity in thinking patterns serves to impede the arts process while flexibility and the achievement of suitable compromises are required to fashion the varied components into an optimal result. This mode of thinking often serves to resolve difficult situations in school before they become problematic.
The stimulation of individual achievement is an important part of arts study. Even when the undertaking is a group effort, the contributions of each of the individuals participating in it are needed for a successful result. Students are naturally encouraged to grow continually, since an appropriate achievement at any given time becomes the basis for further growth and development. Students who are achievers do not experience the frustrations felt by other students and, thus, are more likely to contribute to the safety of the school environment.
Experience in making appropriate and effective choices is a basic operating process in arts work. In both the creative process and in performance/production, varied choices must be made at each stage that will influence the results of the work. In a music performance group for example, what the student does in performance, when it is done and to what extent, are all choices that the student must make. Even in instances where these are prescribed, the student must make the personal choice to follow them in coordination with the group. In choreographing a dance work, innumerable choices must be made to create the most effective presentation of an idea It naturally follows that many seemingly good ideas may be rejected because of their unsuitability to the situation at hand. Students who examine the possible effect of choices are more likely to make beneficial ones.
Decision-making skills are naturally developed because of the varied possibilities available in the creation and execution of arts products. In order to arrive at productive decisions, many aspects of the undertaking must be considered and the most productive possibilities chosen for examination and application. Frequently, many ideas will be considered from varied viewpoints to determine their suitability. Sometimes, this process leads the work into new directions, but ultimately decisions must be made to bring the effort to conclusion. The quality of these decisions will determine the overall effect of the outcome. Students who develop the ability to make wise decisions are less likely to accept inappropriate decisions made by others and, thus, more likely to consider the ramifications of theirs' and others' actions.
Arts study and the arts atmosphere create a different kind of environment from the usual classroom situation and for many students, it is a "magic" place, a place where ideas can receive embodiment that seem to have no appropriate place in the rest of school. It is this encouraging and creative atmosphere that provides for these students a surrounding unlike any other which nurtures and encourages them to become the best that they can be. Often, it is the part of schooling that keeps them "alive" and positively affects their total outlook on education. For many, it is what keeps them in school.
The very fact that the arts often involve students at such a deep level and require an exceptional degree of commitment provides for them not only a sense of accomplishment, but an overall sense of well-being. Involvement in this work often satisfies deep emotional, spiritual and physical needs and provides truly unique experiences for them that are often found nowhere else. These students more often than not care deeply about themselves, others and their school.
In the school environment where students frequently feel alienated, arts education often provides them with a sense of belonging and enfranchises them to a significant degree. It is not unusual for students to perceive that others run the world and that there is little opportunity for them to participate and make their unique offerings. This often leads to violence and rebellion. Conversely, their work in arts education classes frequently fills this void in a positive way, leading them to feel accepted and valued for their contributions.
It is the nature of the arts to be shared. This is an important aspect of the students' experience in arts education, since much of the work they do is taken outside the school walls and offered to the community. The opportunities to gain reaction and new perceptions and to grow in realization of the significance of their efforts are a vital part of this work. The circular nature of these opportunities feed back to improve learning and to increase the students' awareness and acceptance of their achievements.
The creative component of arts work provides a natural channel for students' energies and an outlet for ideas that can find positive embodiment in this way. The fact that the arts do not promote conformity, but rather seek the new and unusual is an exciting challenge for students. This is particularly true since the answers are not pre-determined and there is truly an open opportunity for positive student input. Students who are focused are more likely to project an attitude that contributes to safe schools.
As it is necessary for students to value what and how they and others create, they must assess what and how that which was created by others before them occurred. In order to have regard for others, students must first respect themselves. Self-respect is often gained and/or maintained by studying and working in the arts. To function at even a basic level in the arts they must have enough confidence to at least involve and engage themselves in an art form. In most cases, confidence grows as students accomplish the various things they attempt. Effective arts teachers instruct students that everyone has something to bring to the arts process and that whatever they bring should be valued and appreciated regardless of the origins of the idea, concept, interpretation, skill, execution, etc. Those who esteem themselves find it easier to respect others. A lesson that is usually learned very early in the arts is that you cannot make others respect you. You must earn their regard by your words, beliefs, and actions. In dance, music or theatre arts, the response of an audience or the comments of a fellow colleague convey the appreciation others have for individuals and their work.
Good and efficient teamwork is essential during productions. The quality of the teamwork is often heavily dependent on all of the team members having mutual respect for each other. No person's job is considered unimportant since the good of the entire production often hinges on the smaller as well as the larger tasks which may be interrelated and of great consequence to the production running efficiently. In the visual arts arena, critics comments on a work of art or the actual price that work can command sends a clear message regarding the respect given to an artist and the value others place on his or her work. The arts are known for embracing difference and for helping others to see the unique as perhaps powerful or beautiful. The arts teach that respect for oneself and others is fundamental to providing a safe and supportive creative environment where learning, creativity and striving for achievement can occur, where the process and those who engage in it are esteemed as much as the resulting final product.
Students are consistently called upon to assess themselves in the arts. Assessment is not perceived as being something that occurs at the end of a class or nine weeks. Whether in the process of painting a picture, preparing to perform, or designing some technical element for a performance, arts teachers and students must engage in assessing learning and progress at every step of the way. Indeed, it is understood that self-assessment is an inseparable and immediate part of the creative process. The simple act of verbally or mentally asking "How did I do or how's this going?" provides one with a barometer reading of how one's actions are affecting themselves, others, and their work. Students in the arts who are trained to operate in this manner are more likely to function this way throughout life. To question one's actions and their ramifications is a primary part of conflict prevention and/or resolution. Therefore, students who possess this ability are better prepared to contribute to a safe school environment by their own conduct and by setting an example for other students.
Self-management is necessary to function effectively in the arts. Whether operating in a leadership role or as a team member, arts students are expected to work individually and, when necessary, independently of others. They are encouraged to think in their own way and to consider possibilities that come from their own imagination and creativity. The actions they take as a result must be managed to achieve the desired outcome of their work and for their work to have the desired effect on others. Good self-management involves constant appraisal of the ramifications of the actions one takes. Students who stop and consider the consequences of their actions are less likely to do things that may result in negative outcomes.
It has been said that the way to have a positive attitude is to simply have a positive attitude. Pessimism can and will undermine everything we do. There are many things we cannot change, such as the past or the way others treat or act toward us, but every person is in charge of his or her attitude. However, there are many things that contribute to our ability to effect any attitude we have. In studying and doing the arts, students must constantly strive to be creative, to be inspired, and to achieve excellence. The mere act of working to these ends requires students to be positive. To be successful, students must automatically assume to some degree that what they are trying to learn and/or accomplish is possible for them. The more the assumption is made that they can achieve in the arts, the more it is likely that they will begin to assume they can achieve in other aspects of their life and learning. In addition, when students project a positive attitude, this often promotes positive thinking and behavior in other students, all of which helps create a feeling of well being and acceptance throughout the school environment.
Study in the arts requires students to be flexible and to change their ways of thinking and doing constantly. Arts educators recognize the absolute necessity for students to acquire, practice, and improve upon the ability to be adaptable. The very process of being creative demands that students be able to work in a variety of situations, under different circumstances, and often modify their behavior to accommodate the moment for the good of the process itself or the others involved in the process as well. In all the arts areas, students must virtually be ready, willing, and able to modify whatever needs to be adapted about themselves, their actions or thoughts in order to learn and become proficient in any art form. Indeed, the ability to be adaptable is one of the most highly desirable qualities sought in professional artists and, in many cases, is a primary factor in the employment of artists. The ability to be adaptable has far reaching implications for how students operate outside the arts environment. They are able to use the skills learned through becoming adaptable in the arts to modify and control their thinking and actions in the rest of their lives. This often allows them to cope with or handle difficult or compromising daily situations in a more responsible and judicious manner.
There is rarely a time in the arts when students are allowed the luxury of not being productive. Both in the study and practice of the arts, students must consistently work toward something - a painting, a performance, directing a play, a costume rendering, etc. Arts education is not just learning about the arts but actually taking what has been learned and bringing all of the knowledge and skills to bear on producing some kind of art. It is not good enough for arts education students to simply say they know about one of the arts. They must be able to demonstrate they are able to produce art and often with the proviso that they go beyond their or others expectations for the quality or creativity of the outcome. Indeed, in order to arrive at this never before achieved outcome, students must develop the determination and stamina to persevere beyond what sometimes appear to be insurmountable barriers. Learning to conquer fear and to achieve even when the odds seem not to necessarily be in one's favor is a valuable lesson learned through participation in arts study. This ability is likewise a necessary life skill that can help students survive and have a more positive attitude towards their daily existence, as well as live a happy and productive life.
All of the arts require students to interact with others in some way or another. In fact, since much of art is about communication, it seems a rather empty task to do art unless someone else is going to see and hopefully benefit from it. Part of study in the arts involves learning how to establish and maintain a rapport with those who are purveyors of the art students create. The very process of creating the art in some art forms makes it impossible to arrive at the final product without significant and personal intellectual and emotional interaction with other artists and technicians in addition to the critics and buyers of art. By placing students in situations where they have to operate as real artists, arts classes provide students the opportunity to learn and practice appropriate social skills. These skills are the same as those commonly employed in the professional workplace and daily living. Much of one's success in the arts relies on the ability to get along with others with whom you have to work. It is seldom enough just to be tolerant of people and/or situations. Arts students must learn to communicate proficiently and to identify, analyze, and solve all types of conflicts that may arise out of their work or from those involved in their work. Furthermore, students are encouraged to learn how to project a positive and appropriate sense of taste and decorum. Here, study in the arts and preparation for life become indivisible. An integral part of arts study is examination of aesthetics - what expresses beauty and how that happens. Perhaps one of the more beneficial aspects of arts study is that it teach students not just to be successful in the arts but in life itself. When students are able to practice positive social skills, they enjoy a greater sense of well-being and project that attitude and feeling to others which, in turn, helps promote a healthier environment for all concerned.
Another essential attribute desirable in arts education students is the ability to cooperate with others for the common good. Since this is a key ability in all the arts, this skill is taught early on and refined as students move through any arts program. Life is political. Students learn at a very early age that negotiation and cooperation are vital to interacting with others. Students' sense of cooperation should stem not only from needing the other person's services or products necessary to the process but also from knowing, understanding and valuing the other person's contribution to the process as a whole. Respect for others, their ideas, and contributions, is fundamental to studying, thinking about or practicing any of the arts. While many students may have talent, they seldom achieve a great deal unless teaching, learning and practicing optimizes that talent. In order for any of these processes to take place, students must be willing to cooperate with others to realize the fruits of these processes. Learning how to cooperate with others is vital to creating and maintaining a positive working and living environment.
Through studying and practicing the creative process, students are taught and have to learn how to present a good argument to defend their ideas, actions, and art. This same skill is useful in communicating with others in all walks of life. Such skills as identifying problems effectively, giving good reasons for things, communicating clearly, determining strengths and weaknesses of an argument, and making good decisions as to what information to pay or not pay attention to are critical to being effective in presenting an argument. In addition, doing quality research, understanding how to use reasoning, and identifying slanted or incorrect information are also part of effective argumentation. There are many aspects of good argumentation, all of which contribute to students being able to express their opinion about something and defend it without resorting to inappropriate means. The ability to approach argumentation from an intellectual rather than emotional or physical viewpoint often allows students to resolve differences without negative consequences.
Much of the thinking that drives creativity in the arts comes from asking the question "If I do this.... then what will result?" Students in the arts are encouraged to contemplate the impact of thinking about possibilities not only during the process of learning but also during the process of doing the arts. In the course of studying in the arts, students must constantly analyze information, techniques, processes and their work so that they can make appropriate inferences or draw appropriate conclusions. As they do so, they must form generalizations and/or derive general principals from that with which they are dealing and what occurs during the process itself. Students must often conceive hypotheses associated with their work, try them out, arrive at logical observations and conclusions, and then modify or change their work accordingly. In short, study in the arts requires that students must recognize and solve problems and, in many cases, establish systems for reasoning that are beneficial for expanding the scope and excellence of their work. The common expectation is that arts students not only be able to understand and apply the principles of logic but should be able to carry out this thinking at a very high level which may transcend the ordinary. The fact that arts students must engage in logical thinking on an ongoing basis, means that they will be well prepared to apply this type of thinking to other situations in the school environment especially in those situations that require calm, levelheaded contemplation and carefully considered actions.
Both teachers and students who accomplish a great deal during the course of arts education generally share one overwhelming quality. They have a profound passion for what they learn and do in their art form. They find study in the arts exciting and challenging, that it demands substantial involvement and that significant engagement is necessary to achieve. This passion often motivates students and teachers alike to go beyond the average, to strive to be the very best they can be and to produce art more noteworthy or of a quality that goes beyond the original expectations. This attitude is extremely positive and capable of providing incentive to achieve. Indeed, it is difficult to be around people who have and project this attitude without being impressed by it and, perhaps, impacted by it. Those students and teachers in a school who have and/or promote this attitude cannot help but foster a more positive school climate and, thus, contribute to a safer and better overall school environment.
Arts education in the public schools has traditionally tended to focus on delivering products and has, to a great extent, succeeded very well in doing so. A common misconception regarding these curricula is that they are essentially entertaining and provide little for students that is rigorous, requiring detailed thought, discipline, commitment and extended effort. Successful arts education programs, however, embody these and many other positive aspects that frequently go unnoticed, or at best, receive little recognition. It has long been observed that schools which have flourishing arts education programs evidence a more positive attitude in students and manifest generally better environments overall. The nature of arts education is to emphasize the process that leads to the more evident product. While the foregoing sections have, by no means, represented a totally inclusive listing, it has been the purpose of this document to call attention to components of arts education programs that contribute to the creation of a safe environment in schools. Many of the outcomes of this work cited here also have implications for other considerations beyond the creation of a safe environment. This particular emphasis is based on the premise that many of the dangers of an unsafe environment can be dealt with before they occur through the creation of a student orientation that forestalls them.
Carolina Department of Public Instruction