The arts play a special role in the lives of citizens. They can engage, challenge and satisfy a vast array of people and they can provide a lasting mark for a society when they are embedded in public works, buildings and museums. In the last ten years interest in the arts has soared, especially around the use of the arts in education. Many educators think the arts stand shoulder to shoulder in importance with other subjects but since testing in English and Math has become the norm in the last twenty years of this “standards-driven” era of reform, educating students about the arts has been steadily reduced. So these last ten years of interest in the arts has some educators arguing for arts for arts sake, i.e., just put the arts back in the curriculum. Other educators have been arguing that the arts do things for students beyond art for art’s sake, i.e., that they help students become more creative, better learners or even that the arts help students with core curriculum such as English and Math.
So these two polarized positions, arts for art’s sake and arts for something else are understood in the field of research as intrinsic and extrinsic positions. However, in my own work, instead of an either/or, intrinsic or extrinsic reason for the arts in education, I have found a range of good reasons for the presence of the arts in schools: from intrinsic reasons such as arts for art’s sake to extrinsic reasons such as arts for better teaching and learning and including arts for student achievement. Most recently, the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities, 2014 has just released a report on the use of the arts to helps schools with high-poverty students turn around their performance.