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14. Art, music, physical education, and foreign language

Art, music, physical education, and foreign language are an important part of the overall education program

The Georgia Association of Educators supports legislation to improve student learning by encouraging creative teaching methods to challenge children while stressing high standards in student performance. GAE supports efforts to ensure public confidence in public education by funding art, music, physical education, and foreign language at a ratio of 200:1 students (K-12) in each program area.

With passage of the "A Plus Education Reform Act of 2000," many local school districts are eliminating specialty teachers and dissolving the fine arts program. Physical education is no longer required in state law, and in our elementary schools classroom teachers are being assigned responsibilities once provided by specialist teachers. The result is that students are not receiving valuable, necessary instruction in physical fitness, music, art appreciation, or the other many fine arts programs that for years have complemented classroom instruction and provided a well rounded education.

Because many of the specialty positions have been eliminated, classroom teachers in those schools are no longer provided planning periods and have more instructional preparation. Students are being denied the opportunity to enjoy managed physical activity, and experts believe the result will lead to further discipline problems and difficulties with classroom management. Therefore, the Georgia Association of Educators strongly supports legislation not only to mandate instruction in the fine arts but to fund the addition of a specialty teacher (art, music, physical education, and foreign language) at a ratio of 1:200 FTE at each grade level.

Evidence reveals that the arts are fundamental to education; however Georgia, like so many other states, views the arts as non-essential education programs. Nevertheless, in recent years fine arts programs have been making a comeback in some states. New studies show that preschoolers who take piano lessons and participate in sing-a-longs develop significantly better abstract reasoning and math skills than other preschoolers. Music helps to hardwire a child’s brain for successful learning, and more and more Americans are demanding that their children become proficient in other languages and that they understand other cultures.

Art Education

Today’s business community is rooted in the arts as multi-media presentations, web-site design, product design, architecture, advertising, and the entertainment industry all rely on the quality of arts in public schools. In 1994, a U.S. Labor Department report cited the arts as aiding in the achievement of "core competencies" such as creative thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving as basics needed for successful employment.

Music Education

Research clearly indicates that young students who have traditional music instruction in school (keyboard and singing 15 minutes daily) show an increase of 46 percent in spatial intelligence. Successful performance in math, science, and other tasks requiring the ability to accurately form mental images of physical objects depends on spatial intelligence. In addition, the College Board reports a strong correlation between increased study in the arts and increased SAT scores and, along with the Georgia Board of Regents, recognizes fine and performing arts as "academic subjects."

Physical Education

The Surgeon General’s Report on Physical Activity and Health reported recently that daily enrollment in physical education classes has declined among high school students from 42 percent in 1991 to 25 percent in 1995. Unfortunately, Georgia legislators joined the movement to de-emphasize physical education during the 2000 session. Such reductions in physical education requirements around the country are a major disservice to students and contradict research findings and national recommendations to improve the present and future health of America’s citizens. Without good physical education programs, students will not get enough physical activity and will not learn the skills and knowledge to take responsibility for their own fitness for life. Academic achievement will also suffer, and students will have no allocated time to release physical tension.

Physical activity absolutely reduces the risk of diabetes, osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, depression, and obesity. Quality physical education programs taught by well-trained physical education specialists play a significant role in promoting the health of children into adulthood. Instructionally appropriate physical education incorporates the best known practices derived from research and experiences in teaching children into a program that maximizes opportunities for learning and success for all.

Foreign Language Education

The Georgia General Assembly began a pilot foreign language program in elementary schools. This program was not only successful, it provided a necessary addition to our early childhood curriculum. The experiment has been deleted and funding removed in the education reform movement with the back to basics theme. Our English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) program is rapidly growing, and Georgia is becoming more diverse in population and culture. Providing a foreign language opportunity at every grade level would bridge the gap between our growing ESOL students and students from Georgia. GAE believes strongly that a foreign language program for all students, K-12, should be added and funded. Foreign language teachers must be recruited, trained, and encouraged to make teaching their professional career.

In nearly every industrial country in the world—except the United States—students are expected to learn a foreign language. Most students in those countries choose English as their "foreign language." In the United States very few people speak a foreign language. As industry becomes more global, it is going to be essential for the employees of tomorrow to speak languages besides English. Studies show that younger children are able to learn foreign languages quicker and easier; therefore, it is important that foreign languages be taught in the earlier grades (K-5) as well as in middle and high schools.

The purposes and uses of foreign languages are as diverse as the students who study them. Some students study another language in hopes of finding a rewarding career in the international marketplace or government services while others seek greater understanding of other people and their cultures. Through the study of other languages, students gain a knowledge and understanding of the cultures that use that language and, in fact, need to understand the cultural contexts in which the language occurs before they can truly master the language.

GAE supports legislation to strengthen, not weaken, the fine arts programs in our schools.