Whether teaching in inner city Detroit, leading an organization, managing grants, or conducting research, my career’s common threads are to uplift and inspire through the arts. Research proves the arts are a vehicle for students to succeed in school, work and life. For this reason, I am a champion for access and equity in arts education. I strive to engage stakeholders for arts education locally, statewide, and nationally.
My 2017 graduate thesis argued that inaccessibility to the arts for students of the United States of America is both a legal transgression and a social injustice. Arts education for all youth is currently guaranteed by law through the Every Student Succeeds Act, which includes arts education within the definition of a well-rounded education. The right to equal treatment in education is also guaranteed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Despite legal recognition of its role in appropriately educating the nation’s students, a trend of unequal access to the arts disproportionately affects rural and inner-city youth.
I argue that the powerful return on investment for arts education is clear based on research regarding the benefits of curricular, sequential arts instruction to improve students’ lives. Exposure to the arts increases students’ success in school and work, and in their lives as citizens. The arts offer students the momentum to overcome poverty and a reason to stay in school.
Further, I assert that schools jeopardize the future of the youth they serve by reducing time, talent, and resources dedicated to these important school subjects. Public education is recognized as a legal right for all citizens in the United States of America, and the Every Student Succeeds Act passed in 2015 includes arts education within the definition of a well-rounded education. To reiterate, the legal right of arts education for all youth in the USA is currently guaranteed by law, and the right to equal treatment in education is also guaranteed by the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
By synthesizing research and policy regarding arts education for youth in the USA, my research reveals a critical need for those who are preparing students for success in the twenty-first century to recognize the vital role the arts play in doing so. By examining arts education in the context of human and civil rights from a sociological perspective, I outline the injustice perpetrated by withholding the rights to arts education from particular youth populations. Recognizing arts education inequity and the importance of policy in driving measures toward arts education equality for all students, I assert that arts advocates can engage stakeholders to collectively improve the lives of students, our communities, and our society.