The Obameter

Champion the importance of arts education

"Will use the bully pulpit and the example he will set in the White House to promote the importance of arts and arts education in America."


Administration pushing arts education

During the campaign, Barack Obama pledged to "promote the importance of arts and arts education in America." Advocates of the promise say an arts education can help students raise their scores in writing and math, and that understanding of the arts is helpful for success in the modern, globally competitive economy.

Since taking office in January 2009, the Obama administration has made several public statements promoting arts education.

In May, at the opening night of the American Ballet Theater in New York, first lady Michelle Obama said, "Learning through the arts reinforces critical academic skills in reading, language arts and math, and provides students with the skills to creatively solve problems. My husband and I believe strongly that arts education is essential for building innovative thinkers who will be our nation's leaders for tomorrow."

In June, the White House hosted Jazz Studio, a jazz music workshop for 140 students from around the nation who had the opportunity to learn from and interact with the country's eminent musicians. The White House said this was the first of many workshops that it plans to host to provide students with access to some of the best musicians and artists in the world.

In August, Education Secretary Arne Duncan sent a letter to school and education community leaders to remind them of the importance of maintaining arts as a core curriculum subject, even in the midst of plummeting budgets. A meaningful arts education, wrote Duncan, can "help students become tenacious, team-oriented problem solvers who are confident and able to think creatively."

Later that month, Duncan took part in a nationwide teleconference with NAMM, the association of the international music products industry, during which he repeatedly emphasized the importance of the arts in schools: "Arts education plays an essential part in children's education. It enriches their learning experience and builds skills that they can apply across the curriculum. The Department of Education and the White House are working to promote the importance of arts education." Duncan also pointed out that the 2010 Department of Education budget includes $38 million in programs for arts and music education. Moreover, local districts can use money from the economic stimulus package for arts education. The National Center for Education Statistics is also planning to survey thousands of principals and arts specialists about the state of arts education in American schools during the coming school year.

All of that is evidence that President Obama is sticking to his tune. We rate this one a Promise Kept.


White House Press Release, Remarks by the First Lady at the American Ballet Opening Spring Gala , Accessed Dec. 2, 2009.

White House Blog, Streaming Now: The First Lady and the White House Jazz Studio , Accessed Dec. 2, 2009.

U.S. Department of Education, Letter from Secretary Arne Duncan to School Leaders , Accessed Dec. 2, 2009.

NAMM Foundation, Secretary Duncan Speaks with SupportMusic Coalition , Accessed Dec. 2, 2009.