The Pennsylvania State University

School of Visual Arts

Probing Question: Is art an essential school subject?

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For decades, "reading, writing, and 'rithmetic" were considered the most fundamental subjects in American K-12 schools. These days, in order to boost our nation's global competitiveness, many schools and colleges are emphasizing STEM subjects -- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math -- over the liberal and fine arts. The White House has even announced the goal of increasing by one million the number of students who receive undergraduate degrees in STEM subjects over the next decade.

In light of our shifting educational priorities and, in many places, shrinking school budgets, are there still persuasive arguments to be made for the importance of visual arts as a core school subject for American kids?

Absolutely, says Christine Marmé Thompson, Penn State professor of art education. "Eliminating the arts from the curriculum is short-sighted on a number of levels," she says. "Seeing art as expendable indicates a deep misunderstanding of the role it plays at the center of learning. The visual arts are a powerful language for communicating concepts and theories in any field, both during the process of being developed and once they are finished 'products' to be shared with others." Because works of art are almost always 'about' something, she adds, they can be the glue that binds the curriculum together and helps kids synthesize all of their learning throughout the day.  

To view the complete Penn State News feature story by Melissa Beattie-Moss, visit:

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