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Expert Q&A | Alex Sarian

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Expert Q&A:  Alex Sarian


Q: How can arts education help better prepare students for the future?

A: Well, there are two different things: There is arts education and there is arts integration. Arts education certainly lends itself to kids developing (creative and artistic) skills, but I think arts integration is really where those two things come together. Having a space for arts in school means that exploring is a requirement, and that's something that other core subjects don't necessarily celebrate–the art of exploration, of being able to make a mistake, of being able to have a voice, which can help develop a student into a creative thinker and a creative problem-solver.

Q: What are the challenges in providing this kind of education to students today?

A: I think funding is certainly one of them. Policy-making is another one. It's all intertwined–if you don't have the policy, you don't have the funding. It's a "chicken or egg" kind of thing. I think the sad thing is that there's not a demand for it enough so policy-makers or principals or administrators will say, "Hey, this is what we need." What's interesting is that when you see schools with arts programming that works, they are amazing. It's amazing because people on the inside are putting their money where their mouth is.

We have a policy in the United States called No Child Left Behind, which is all about standardized testing. It's been under a lot of fire since George W. Bush was in office, so there are two trains of thought. The first is to tear down the system and build something else from the ground up. The other is to play by their game. If students need to achieve a certain grade level to graduate through the No Child Left Behind policy, then let's use the arts to beat them at their own game. There is such a thing as teaching to the test using the arts and creativity because the test isn't the problem–it's how you get there, how you manage that knowledge, because if you teach them correctly they should be able to pass any test. So there are a couple of different trains of thoughts, but I think revolution can come from within.

—Alex Sarian
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