Like Woody, I have had experience teaching Asian students. My experience comes from several years as a teacher at an Air Force base during the Vietnam war. I was priveledged to teach kids from all over the world--Asia, Europe, the Middle East and anywhere else Americans were stationed during the War. In addition, I have taught many kids of a variety of ethnic backgrounds in regular public schools. I also have a more recent experience, namely, my wife and I adopted a Korean baby 26 years ago. Here are my unscientific observations: Asian students tend to have an edge on hand eye coordination at an early age. They seem to have a high ability to balance left and right brain activities with equal skill and enthusiasm. Asian nationals, as opposed to those raised in the U.S., frequently come from countries where visual art is emphasized in schools and is an integral part of the national culture. I observed a similar penchant for the arts in kids from
the U.K. and Germany, where visual art and music are also a major part of the curriculum in schools.
With my own daughter, she was also able to strike a balance between an interest in art and more academic pursuits. She was an excellent student who was an outstanding artist. I was her art teacher for her first year in school, so I was able to directly observe her approach to creative activites. She was around art her whole childhood, and I made sure she was given the materials and resources to nurture her interests, which is something that many kids do not have available to them during their formative years. I did not go out of my way to instruct her or try to influence her choices, but, because I was a practicing artist, she was able to have art modeled for her. She also approached music, dance and athletics with equal enthusiasm.
I really think that what I observed was a nurture vs nature situation. Those kids raised in artisic environments or schools where the arts are valued tend to have a higher interest and skill level than those who don't. My daughter did not take an art classes in High School, not because she didn't want to, rather because of an academic track system that didn't allow for many "elective" classes in the arts. Fortunately, she had an art teacher and artist for a dad, and that supplemented her need for creative outlets. She is now a sucessful advertising executive, and uses her creative and analytical skills with equal ability.
I guess the lesson here is that the arts will be important to children if they are important to the culture. Not all students are going to become artists in later life, but the higher level thinking skills and creative problem solving activities that the arts provide can be the catalyst for creative thought in whichever career choices students make.