Are We Serving the Whole Child or the Half-Child?

Michael Sokolove is a contributing writer for The New York Times Magazine and author of Drama High, a true story about the drama program at Harry S. Truman High School in Levittown, PA and its former director Lou Volpe.


He writes for Valerie Strauss’ Blog “The Answersheet” (The Washington Post) that “Arts instruction in America’s schools is something that almost everyone agrees is a great idea.  Just apparently, not for all children.”


Over the past decade some children have received a “whole education” (those in affluent suburban districts and private schools), while other children, the “half-children”, have received the “…emergency-room approach to education–one that addresses only the parts of a child thought to be in most dire need of attention.  Their curriculum may consist solely of reading, writing and mathematics — the subjects tested on high-stakes exams.”


He goes on to say, “The shame of this is we know it’s wrong, and we do it anyway.  Longitudinal studies have shown that students who receive sustained in-school arts instruction have better attendance, better grades and higher graduation rates.  Neurological research suggests that immersion in the arts can cause an actual change in the structure of neurons and made the brain more receptive to other kinds of learning.”


And, the movement to increase the rigor of K-12 education through the implementation of the Common Core State Standards and its focus on high stakes testing in math and language arts will not incentivize states to “…put arts teachers back into public schools.”


He recommends that there be a national consensus “that arts education is not just for privileged kids.  It’s not an extra or a frill, no matter how desperately some students struggle to grasp the basics of reading and math.  For some of those very children, it’s a lifeline, and the pathway to mastering those other subjects.”


See “Why the Kids Who Most Need Arts Education Aren’t Getting It” by Valerie Strauss, The Answersheet, The Washington Post, September 29, 2014, at

The FYI Arts updates are written by Joan Platz, Research and Knowledge Director for the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education.  The purpose of FYI Arts is to keep arts education advocates informed about issues dealing with the arts, education, policy, research, and opportunities.  The distribution of this information is made possible through the generous support of the Ohio Music Education Association (, Ohio Art Education Association (, Ohio Educational Theatre Association (; OhioDance (, and the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education (

About OAAE

It is the mission of the Ohio Alliance for Arts Education to ensure that the arts are an integral part of the education of every Ohioan. We believe that: * All children in school must have quality arts education provided by licensed arts educators * All Ohioans have the right to expect quality arts education * All arts programs must have adequate resources * All arts and cultural organizations and artists have a critical role in arts education Learn more at
This entry was posted in FYI Arts. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s