Adding Art Appreciation to High School Social Studies

While math and science are fundamental for a good high school education, adding art appreciation to the curriculum can enhance every student’s educational performance.

Budgets cause schools to cut certain classes

Faced with strict budgets, many public high schools have cut back on teaching the arts. Band, music and drama classes, along with the study of art history, often are the first courses to be cut from the curriculum. High school social studies continues to cover major wars, history and politics, but art appreciation and art history seem largely ignored.

Art appreciation is considered important by the public

A Harris Poll asked questions about the value of including the arts in public education. A whopping 93 percent of the respondents said that the arts are an essential part of any well-rounded education. In a similar vein, 89 percent of Americans believed that the arts are important enough to be included as part of the curriculum.

A broad field of study

A teacher could spend a full semester on the world’s greatest artists like Da Vinci, Michelangelo and Picasso, and still not have time to talk about more recent acclaimed artists like Andy Warhol or Jean-Michel Basquiat. By necessity, a high school art appreciation course could not go into any great detail about any single subject.

Why does art matter?

Art matters for many different reasons. One can study history by tracing the timeline of the different art movements through the centuries. Throughout history, artists reflected the time in which they were living. Whether it was the Great Italian artists during the Renaissance or the Impressionists of the late nineteenth century, art is a pictorial representation of a moment frozen in time.

While learning about the masterpieces of Rembrandt, Raphael and Van Eyck, high school social studies students also can gain insight about the times when the artist lived.

Communication and understanding

  • Art can be the perfect tool for people of all ages to communicate when they are not able to adequately verbalize their feelings. Shy children, who may not speak up in class can contribute their thoughts and ideas through this medium.
  • Students can get a better understanding of foreign cultures and people with different beliefs by studying the type of art that they create. Art is a universal language that fosters better communication between people of different backgrounds.
  • While one can discuss facts such as historic dates, the number of paintings a particular artist created or the techniques of an artist like Jackson Pollock, much of the understanding of art is subjective. Discussions and debates, essential elements in a rich learning environment, occur naturally.

Getting students to love art

Not everyone can be a great artist, but everyone can learn to love and appreciate art. Some students may become so intrigued by the subject that they will go on to major in art in college. Every student will learn skills that can translate to other subjects and serve them well throughout their lives.

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This section is devoted to information for improving student academic achievement with resources devoted to research development and curriculum implementation. Articles will direct you to online resources that will help students inside--and outside—the classroom. The relationship between “what to teach’ (curriculum) and “how to teach” (instruction) is also explored.

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