Whether people are willing to admit it or not, the arts are currently under attack in our nation's education. Funding is being pulled away from the arts or, in some cases, arts programs are getting cut from the programs offered entirely. Sometimes this is done in an effort to allocate funds to another department, like sporting programs, and others it's done in an effort to cut corners in a tight budget. Despite the quality of excuse, severely cutting the funding of arts programs or arts programs altogether can be highly detrimental to the students' overall educational experience.
'Bye, Bye Birdie' 2011 (High School)
Let's start by breaking down the broad-sweeping term, "art programs." The arts generally refers to creative courses, such as music, performing arts, sculptures and paintings, literary arts; the list goes on and on. These programs encourage understanding of the human experience, empathy, and introduces students to cultures in an accessible way. For example, for a student that struggles in history classes, may better gain an understanding of the material through plays or novels about the events; examples of these would be the Charles Dickens novel A Tale of Two Cities or the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I. Art programs can help to nurture students' education by providing an alternative for those with different learning styles.
In addition to providing an alternative way of comprehending the material, arts programs provide creative students a necessary outlet. So frequently, students that thrive in the arts tend to get bored in other areas of study. Think of it like elementary students with recess: they need that outlet for their excess energy, just like creative students need an outlet for their creativity. Without the creative outlet, they tend to lose focus in their other courses which can lead to a decline in their grades.
The various arts programs also provide students with necessary cultural exposure. Plays can help them see what it was like to live in the historical moment they're reading about; books can help you put yourself in other people's shoes and better empathize with others; writing can help you gain a better perspective on your inner thoughts and feelings; music and performing can help you come out of your shell, while being a part of something truly beautiful and poetic. These are all traits that, when nurtured properly, play a large role in making someone a good person. These aren't the only ways to nurture these traits, but they're easy, effective, and often the best way.
Vocal Students at James Madison University
The various arts programs also provide an excellent way to bond as a group and nurture friendships. Programs like theater, band, chorus, and art provide a naturally bonding-friendly environment that encourages strong friendships to grow over stressful performances, trips, and a lot of time being spent together. Strong friendships like the ones these programs can create are necessary to a successful and happy childhood and life. Athletics programs also help to increase bonds such as these, which I, in no way, am attempting to diminish. However, not every student is an athlete and each student should be allowed a program in which they can thrive.
'My Antonia' by Willa Cather
These programs provide a necessary function in public schools across the world and cancelling them would be doing an incredible disservice to students. Arts are every bit as valuable to a well-rounded education as athletics and should be allowed to thrive. While that's easy to say for someone not involved in the budgeting allotted to each school, there have been some creative ways counties have come up with to avoid facing a budgeting crisis. For instance, counties with several schools serving less students have considered merging the schools into one larger school. This could help a number of issues including but not limited to having greater interest in each class, higher budget, encouraging independence and self policing, etc. I know it won't be easy to find an alternative for budget cuts, but we have to at least try. Arts programs are too important for us to let them die out.