Margo Lion, PCAH Co-Chair (view bio)
George Stevens, Jr., PCAH Co-Chair (view bio)
Damian Woetzel, PCAH Member and ballet dancer (view bio)
Throughout history, the arts and humanities have helped men and women around the globe grapple with the most challenging questions and come to know the most basic truths. In our increasingly interconnected world, the arts play an important role in both shaping the character that defines us and reminding us of our shared humanity. This month, we celebrate our Nation's arts and humanities, and we recommit to ensuring all Americans can access and experience them.
Our strength as a Nation has always come from our ability to recognize ourselves in each other, and American artists, historians, and philosophers have helped enable us to find our common humanity. Through powerful scenes on pages, canvases, and stages, the arts have spurred our imaginations, lifted our hearts, and united us all without regard to belief or background.
The arts and humanities have also helped fuel our economy as well as our souls. Across our country, men and women in the non profit and for profit arts industries bring arts and cultural activities to our communities, contributing tens of billions of dollars to our economy each year. Today, arts workers are revitalizing neighborhoods, attracting new visitors, and fostering growth in places that have gone too long without it.
As we work to bring the power of the arts and humanities to all Americans, my Administration remains committed to providing our children with an education that inspires as it informs. Exposing our students to disciplines in music, dance, drama, design, writing, and fine art is an important part of that mission. To promote arts education and pay tribute to America's vibrant culture, First Lady Michelle Obama and I have been proud to host a White House Music Series, Dance Series, and Poetry Jam. We have been honored to bring students, workshops, and performers to "the People's House;" to highlight jazz, country, Latin, and classical music; and to invite Americans to listen to the music of the civil rights movement, hip hop, and Broadway.
By supporting the fields that feed our imagination, strengthen our children's education, and contribute to our economy, our country will remain a center of creativity and innovation, and our society will stand as one where dreams can be realized. As we reflect on the contributions of America's artists, we look forward to hearing their tales still untold, their perspectives still unexplored, and their songs still unwritten. May they continue to shed light on trials and triumphs of the human spirit, and may their work help ensure that our children's horizons are ever brighter.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim October 2010 as National Arts and Humanities Month. I call upon the people of the United States to join together in observing this month with appropriate ceremonies, activities, and programs to celebrate the arts and the humanities in America.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this first day of October, in the year of our Lord two thousand ten, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-fifth.
When I chose to devote my afterschool hours in high school to dance classes and theater rehearsals, I wasn't trying to improve my math grades or increase my chances of being satisfied with my future career (although in retrospect, I should have played every instrument for the sake of my Algebra III grade). Being accepted into a good college was on my mind, but I didn't realize the lasting effects that show choir and ''The Nutcracker'' would have on my future.
James S. Catterall of UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies would say that these activities do indeed have a presence in my life, even though I am not a professional performer. Catterall is a leading researcher in the fields of education and arts learning and engagement. He recently published his 12-year study concluding that ''individual artistic engagement can spark long-term positive developments for students, and cohesive arts-rich cultures in schools also produce outcomes called 'doing well' and 'doing good by doing art.'''
His new book, ''Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art,'' details the effects of secondary school arts activities as they relate to school environment, socioeconomic backgrounds, and the lasting effects at ages 20 and 26. (He will be the keynote speaker at Lehigh Valley Arts Council's annual arts-in-education workshop at 1:30 p.m. April 14 at Penn State Lehigh Valley's Center Valley Campus.)
Catterall's team surveyed more than 25,000 students in American secondary schools during the late 1990s and followed up with more than 12,000 of them throughout the 12 years. His original studies established ''for the first time in any comprehensible way that students involved in the arts are demonstrably doing better in school than those who are not.'' Specifically, he found correlations between music and mathematic achievement and theater arts and human development. Most of these findings would seem logical -- reading music involves counting and fractions, and being able to portray a character on stage requires reading comprehension as well as an understanding of personality traits.
What sets Catterall's newly released data apart from other studies is the long-term conclusions he drew from following up with students at ages 20 and 26. Additionally, from the beginning he noted the socioeconomic backgrounds of all of the students and found that low-income students benefited from arts learning more so than students (regardless of arts involvement) from higher income areas.
So what did he gather from his follow-up data? Catterall surveyed the likelihood of volunteerism, voter registration and college enrollment at age 20. About 40 percent of ''high-art'' students (those highly involved in arts activities) enrolled in college, while only 17 percent of ''low-art'' students did so. Additionally, high-art students are more than twice as likely to volunteer as adults. Surveys about job satisfaction at age 26 showed that arts involvement leads to better jobs, higher pay, more job responsibilities and promotion opportunities, and greater future aspirations. So keep practicing your piano scales, kids, it may decrease your chances of becoming a disgruntled employee down the road.
So does my secondary school arts involvement fit in with Catterall's findings?
I still can't explain my disdain for the subject of math, but I do volunteer, will graduate college and am a registered voter. And it looks like the chances are high that I will be satisfied with my job and will aspire to higher positions.