During all of my schooling, I was super involved in the arts. In 5th grade I was the lead in our “Voices of Freedom” play, and up until high school I took part in all of the high school musicals, play, and everything in between. Performing and music have always been a big part of my life and something I have truly been passionate about. I feel very lucky that I had experiences at my school with the arts. There are many, though, that are not as fortunate. Due to budget cuts and the new push for STEM above all else, arts education seems to get pushed to the side. Funding for the arts in schools is being cut everywhere, and if this trend continues, a great part of the American culture will be taken away from our students.
In recent news, President Donald Trump is trying to cut funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. Although most school funding for arts programs do not all rely heavily on the endowment, some schools with students of low socioeconomic standing do need this funding to keep their programs alive. Programs in schools with students populations of lower class standing benefit greatly from the arts, as they have been proven to increase students success and number of students planning on going on to higher education. The programs that seem to have the most positive effect on students are the ones that are at risk to lose funding altogether.
Arts education has been proven beneficial beyond the allowance for creativity for students. Taking part in art classes at school can help students succeed in other aspects of schooling, like test-taking. For example, students that are involved in arts courses have shown in a multitude of studies that they perform better on tests. A study performed through UCLA showed that 41.4% of students, heavily involved in the arts, fell in the top half of the standard test continuum compared to 25% with less arts involvement. Additionally, if you look at studies done in regards to SAT scores, students with four or more years of music and art classes scored an average of about one hundred points higher than students who took part in no more than half a year of these courses.
Outside of the classroom, music and art classes have proven to help people develop skills that will be used for the entirety of their lives. By participating in artistic performances, students can increase their confidence and self-esteem. Whether you are giving a presentation for your company or introducing yourself to someone new, confidence is a very useful and important skill to have.
Especially in this day and age, it is vital for young people to grow up learning cultural awareness. As many paintings, songs, and plays come from different cultures, learning about and engaging in these different culturally based pieces can help create a strong sense of cultural awareness from a young age.
Arts education is vital to student success and should therefore be readily available in abundance to all students. I cannot speak for all high schools, but I know that mine in particular seemed to neglect the arts to make room for athletics and STEM programs. As I said, I participated in the high school musicals, and every year the directors had to choose a show based on the budget, rather than based on that year’s talent or interest. Additionally, all of the revenue from ticket sales that the show generated were given to the athletic programs, instead of back to the arts. I also know that the directors had to take very generous pay cuts in order to keep their jobs, and the theater class offered in school was taught by someone without experience in the field just so the school did not have to hire (and pay) another teacher. I know that unfortunately, my high school was not a rarity.
Luckily we still had these programs, whether they were ideal or not, but I know a large portion of schools in the United States do not even have a sufficient number of arts courses. Jill Hambek writing for The Washington Times writes about the Chicago Public School’s decision to close over 50 schools, resulting in about 1500 teachers losing their jobs. Not surprisingly, art and music teachers made up over 10% of the recently laid off population. Another instance, at Don Julian Elementary School in La Puente, artists doubled as teachers and came in every week to teach students and engage them in the arts. The article from the LA Times talks about how beneficial this program was and yet due to budget cuts, it was eliminated.
When schools start to lose funding, it seems as their art programs are first to go. If this trend continues, students will no longer experience arts education, nor reap all the benefits that come with it. I believe that the arts most definitely belong in schools and should be kept a part of education. In order for this to happen, funding needs to be added to, not taken away from, these programs. The arts have always been an important part of my education, and I hope that students will get to have positive experiences with art courses for a long time as well.