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The ultimate challenge for American education is to place all children on pathways toward success in school and in life. Through engagement with the arts, young people can better begin lifelong journeys of developing their capabilities and contributing to the world around them. The arts teach young people how to learn by giving them the first step: the desire to learn. Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning also shows that the arts can play a vital role in learning how to learn, an essential ability for fostering achievement and growth throughout their lives.

American education is changing, and changing for the better. Who teaches, what is taught, where teaching takes place, and how teaching occurs are evolving dramatically in communities across America. And a key factor in changing American education for the better is to increase high quality arts learning in the lives of young Americans.

Why is American education in such flux? In simplest terms, the reason is because America is in transition. We are a more diverse society facing daunting demands from global social and technological innovation. The American economy is shifting from a manufacturing-driven engine to a services-driven enterprise. If young Americans are to succeed and to contribute to what Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan describes as our “economy of ideas,” they will need an education that develops imaginative, flexible and tough-minded thinking. The arts powerfully nurture the ability to think in this manner.

Champions of Change: The Impact of the Arts on Learning provides new and important findings on actual learning experiences involving the arts. The report which follows presents these research findings, complete with ground-breaking quantitative and qualitative data and analysis, as articulated by leading American educational researchers. These researchers investigated the content, process, and results of learning in and through the arts. Perhaps what makes their findings so significant is that they all address ways that our nation’s educational goals may be realized though enhanced arts learning. As the researchers discovered, learning in the arts can not only impact how young people learn to think, but also how they feel and behave.

The American public is demanding more than ever from our schools, and rightly so. Parents and other caregivers want to equip young people for professionally and personally rewarding careers, and they recognize that to do so we must give them greatly enriched experiences. As these researchers have confirmed, young people can be better prepared for the 21st century through quality learning experiences in and through the arts.

Richard Riley
Secretary, Department of Education

Our mission is to ensure equal access to education and to promote
educational excellence throughout the Nation.

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