Investigating the Media Analysis of Art in Child Development

Media Analysis of Art in Child Development Keelyn MacGregor University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin Abstract Research on how art has benefitted academic achievement in children has been done but does not have the same news coverage as math or science. The news coverage for cognitive development in education has a very broad range of topics, the audience must not be fooled by what is deciphered as “fake news”. By unfolding and taking apart these articles in the news, one can analyze the accuracy of coverage these research studies received in art education.

Specifically, the research on art is a very controversial and sensitive subject because of the budget cuts art education has experienced. A biased news source may not cover the whole research study on the benefits of art education and why it should be valued more.

It can easily become a talk of politics. Three news articles revolving around the arts and how it promotes positive outcomes in academic achievement and cognitive development have been chosen to hopefully give the audience evidence on the research already done.

Media Analysis of Art in Child Development The media is an important place to get evidence-based information, but the media can be relied on a little too much. Some news sources don’t quite tell the whole story or may leave out crucial information based on their political agenda. Without this evidence, the reader may miss out on the importance of the research study. Art education is a controversial topic due to the budget cuts they are experiencing contrary to the research-based evidence showing that art education is important for academic achievement.

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News coverage ranges from extremely important to not important at all on the topic of art education. A research study done by James Catterall, a professor of education at the University of California-Los Angeles, called Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art, showed evidence on the benefits of art education. The evidence was published in October of 2009 after a 12-year study of more than 12,000 students (Catterall, 2009). The study consisted of two control groups: the “arts-rich” school and the “arts-poor” school. The dependent variable in this study was the result of the higher grades, percentage of students who continued post-secondary education and later academic achievement based on their exposure to art education. The results showed that the arts-rich school produced more As and Bs as an undergraduate than the low arts school. The arts-rich students were much more likely to continue their education to earn a Masters, Bachelor, and higher achievement (Ruppert, 2009).

This research study continues to ask compelling questions about the importance of art education and its role in cognitive development. The Arts Education Partnership (2009) analyzed Catterall’s study and asked the question, “What are the costs and benefits of having and not having arts in our schools?” James Catterrall’s research study did received attention from some of the more well-known news sources. The news coverage of James Catterall and his research study was enough to provide an argument defending the benefits of art education. His study proved to be evidence in many different news articles talking about the dangers of underestimating the arts programs in schools around the U.S. Since budget cutting in the arts is a very hot topic, there have been multiple new sources trying to defend the arts in education. These news sources include NPR, the Pacific Standard Magazine, the Washington Post and the Huffington Post. The NPR article titled “To Boost Attendance, Milwaukee Schools Revive Art, Music, and Gym,” talks about how the influence of investing the arts has increased attendance and the interest of new families in the district.

The NPR article specifically explores an elementary school called Richard Kluge Elementary in Milwaukee Public School district. The school had to completely shut down its gym, music and art programs until recently. Kluge created a “special” class three days a week dedicated to gym time, music and art classes. Catterall’s study is used as support in the article, to further prove that low-income students benefit from art education in their test score and social and motivational behavior (Toner, 2014). The Pacific Standard magazine article focused more on the achievement gap in disadvantaged students. The article called “Arts Involvement Narrows Student Achievement Gap,” talks about how the students who are lower on the socioeconomic ladder tend to exceed expectation while being active participants of the arts than those who do not.

The Pacific Standard focused in on a research study proving that there is positive correlation in the participation of the arts and positive outcomes of not only academic achievement but overall potential as an engaged citizen (Jacobs, 2012). Different from the previous news source, the Washington Post asks the question as a published article, “Will Less Art and Music in the Classroom Really Help Students Soar Academically?” This article took a more political turn into art education. Mostly revolving around the impoverished district completely demolishing their art and music programs. The Washington Post gave much evidence on how the arts programs decrease dropout rates and advocate for continued education after high school. Multiples studies on how art has positively impacted the overall potential of the student, even after high school were demonstrated in this article finally answered the question initially asked; no, art and music do help student soar academically (Hawkins, 2012).

Lastly, the article published by the Huffington Post, also propelled by the budget cut on the NEA. The article titled, “This Summer’s Bad News,” takes its political bias saying the arts must put on a more “vigorous, real-life defense” in order for it to be saved (Gund, 2013). Since this article presents a much more opinionated voice, the author did have to use research from prove their opinion-based facts. Agnes Gund, the author of “This Summer’s Bad News,” comments toward the end of her article, “The art also push- they push achievement, love, learning, joyfulness.” The four articles using James Catterall’s research is proof that his specific study was very important for the controversy of why art education is beneficial for academic achievement in students. Outside of the four articles, there were a few more news sources like the New York Times, CNN, and Fox News who also mentioned James Catterall’s research in one way or another.

According to the class reading, “What is Scientifically Based Research?” effective research has been published by reputable sources and have the results supported by similar research study done on the same general topic. The news articles above are using program evaluation research. “Program evaluation research is research designed to make decisions about the effectiveness of a particular program,” (Santrock, 2018). In this case, the program specified is art education and if it benefits the educational system. According to John Santrock’s Educational Psychology book (2018), the research that drew attention to the media are qualitative, meaning most of the research studies were longitudinal and collected not only increase tests scores and performance but behaviors in students as well. The articles that really highlight this were the Huffington Post and the Pacific Standard. The articles done by NPR and the Pacific Standard don’t just use Catterall’s findings but multiple different scholarly authors who have found similar results.

This not only boosts Catterall’s credibility but also steers the argument into a positive direction therefore proving his results a success. The Huffington Post’s, “This Summer’s Bad News,” dedicates an entire paragraph to Catterall’s study. Since the Huffington Post is more liberal than some of the other news sources that were analyzed, they shift their attention to their target audience; the art advocate. Although, using the research study arguing against budget cuts for the arts was supported, they did make a mistake on how long Catterall’s study took place. From the text of Catterall’s publication, “Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art,” he describes this study was a 12-yearlong study while the Huffington Post mentioned it was a 14-yearlong study. It seems that the passion of this article may have exaggerated the truth. It may seem like a small flaw but the credibility of the rest of the article seems to be questionable when it comes to statistics. The Washington Post actually doesn’t specifically point out James Catterall’s research, but they did find similar studies that were done with the same results.

It seems the studies that do give evidence of the arts benefitting low income students spoke the exact same words as Catterall. This observation proves that the Washington Post was able to collect multiple research studies done on same topic and create a compelling article using research-based evidence. Similar the The Washington Post, The Pacific Standard really dug deep into the findings of the research study. The titled article,” Arts Involvement Narrows Student Achievement Gap,” definitely sums up the study. This article pertains more specifically to Cattrall’s study itself. The Pacific Standard seems to just be interested in the results of one study and not enhancing the credibility like the Washington Post does by bringing in another scholarly source. “Arts Involvement Narrows Student Achievement Gap” more-less sums up Catterall’s results without creating a compelling argument for art education as a whole. Overall, the articles with the most effective way of using Catterall’s research study was the Huffington Post and the Pacific Standard. They covered the study in depth, giving a thorough overview of the findings in the research.

The authors not only used the research study in an effective manner but were able to use examples of scholarly sources and their view on children’s learning and education. These topics wouldn’t be lit up by the media if these budget cuts weren’t in place. This only shows the effectiveness of politics in the conversation of education. Unlike the Huffington Post and the Pacific Standard, NPR dedicated three sentences to the positive correlation art education has on Milwaukee schools. These sentences provide a quote from Catterall that says, “These poor kids show pretty robust gains in not only test scores but prosocial behavior and motivation of one sort or another…going further in education generally, whether it’s graduate school or just simply getting into college,” (Toner, 2014). NPR was successful in finding a credible source to quote from but then they quickly counteract Catterall’s findings immediately in the next paragraph. They describe that if test scores were the focus, they would just hire more math teachers.

This suggests that the emphasis on how art isn’t valued in education. Art education, although underrated, is crucial for exceeding learning abilities in students of all grades. The news coverage gives evidence on this using research-based studies. Being an art education major, art is a basis of learning whether it’s through music, design, or theater. Santrock’s book discusses the theory of multiple intelligences. These intelligences include analytical, creative and practical. The intelligences prove that a student can exceed in creative intelligence versus analytical intelligences where math might become a easier understood subject (Santrock, 2018). Teachers have to keep in mind that not all students can think analytically when it comes to a certain subject in school. This is where art integration can help the creative minds succeed in something they typically struggle with.

It important that teachers who have students with spatial or music skills, according to Gardner’s eight frames of mind, accommodate for those students who perform better with the integration of those skills (Santrock, 2018). If they want all of their students to succeed, they cannot neglect what makes that student special. Relating to the news articles, the neglect of art in education can overall hurt the creative processes especially for low-income students. According to the Washington Post, “the arts have also proven to be a form of inspiration and expression for at-risk students… and have been shown to improve their outlook on education,” (Hawkins, 2012). In conclusion to research in the news, as teachers and practitioners, we must dig deeper into the topic we are looking to cover. The new can use the research for credibility but how can these finding benefit the overall problem? It’s up to the authors of these news sources to effectively give their audience a solution to the problem by giving evidence.

It is important in this day of age, as media takes over, that our responsibility as professionals, to not believe everything we see. We must question everything as humans because there is so much more than just the tip of the iceberg. We get answers the further we dig. Due to politics, education is not as valued as it should be, especially in art education. It is important, as a future art educator, to pay attention to the political biases that can devalue the arts in education. Too much evidence points to the arts benefitting child development but, yet our politics tell us otherwise. As new sources report these research studies, I feel responsible to unfold the research study further to fully understand why the results benefit or detriment the overall problem. It is our duty as teacher, professors, practitioners and just humans to find the truth and not settle for what is written in the media.


Catterall, James S. (2009). Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art: The Effects of Education in the Visual and Performing Arts on the Achievements and Values of Young Adults.
Los Angeles/London: Imagination Group/IGroup Books. Gund, A. (2013, October 09). This Summer’s Bad News. Retrieved from
Hawkins, T. (2012, December 28). Will less art and music in the classroom really help students soar academically? Retrieved from
Jacobs, T. (2012, March 30). Arts Involvement Narrows Student Achievement Gap. Retrieved from
Ruppert et al. (2009, March). Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art. The Arts Education Partnership. Retrieved from
Santrock, J. W. (2018). Educational psychology (6th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Education. Stanovich, P. J., & Stanovich, K. E. (2005). What is Scientifially Based Research? A Guide For Teachers. All About Adolescent Literacy. Toner, E. (2014, June 23). To Boost Attendance, Milwaukee Schools Revive Art, Music And Gym. Retrieved from 

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Investigating the Media Analysis of Art in Child Development. (2022, Apr 25). Retrieved from

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