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With the budget shortfalls most cities are currently facing, many school leaders are on the lookout for ways to cut costs. Unfortunately, one of the first places they may look to save money is Fine Arts programs. Many people do not see courses in Art, Drama, or Music as academically necessary.They see them as “extras," programs that, while good for students, are not vital to students’ success. And admittedly, there are many students that do not take advantage of their school’s arts programs.
But what about the ones that lose their shyness in Drama class? The ones that build their self-esteem--and win college scholarships--in Band? What about those students? How is it fair or beneficial to take those programs away from the students that they benefit?
The United States Department of Education agrees. Originally the webstate stated that “the arts are essential to every child’s education, which is why the arts are one of the core academic subjects in No Child Left Behind (NCLB)." In 2012, a writer on Ed.gov breathed a sigh of relief that the fine arts are still alive in the schools. If the government agrees, then why do some school systems still try to cut these valuable programs?
The answer is, of course money. There is just not enough to go around at times. And many school leaders choose arts education as one of the first things to go. I do not believe any of these leaders act maliciously, they just do not realize the myriad of benefits arts programs can provide.
In my own classroom, I have seen art, drama and music projects bring out students who normally sit staring out into space, lost in daydreams. And I am no artist, believe me! The projects I have designed and assigned have been rudimentary at best, and even then I have seen students thrive. All they needed was an outlet other than pencil and paper to express themselves. Imagine what trained arts teachers can do.
Here are a couple of interesting facts that I discovered while researching this article.
"The arts encourage self-directed learning, helping to develop the capacity of students to strive for greater success." Read more at IncredibleArt.org, a website for educators.
“An eleven year study examined youth in low-income neighborhoods and found that those who participated in arts programs were much more likely to be high academic achievers, elected to class office, participate in math and science fairs and win academic awards," by Lindsey Fry on Prezi.com
After knowing this, who could argue that arts education does not benefit our students and should not remain in our schools? After all, if we allow art to slowly slip away from us, what will happen to the future Beethovens, Da Vincis, and Shakepeares?
I believe the key to retaining our arts programs is through education. Not the education of our students, but the education of those that write the budgets and spend the money. If those people know the value of a high-quality arts program, they will be less likely to cut those programs, benefiting us all.