The Fine Arts Future
Anna Campbell, Division 2, 10th grade #ws18e-s3d2

In the United States, we live in a reality where athletics are the main focus for most secondary education institutes, “creativity” is a carbon copy of what we see on television, and teachers and parents push STEM careers. While these attitudes may have benefits, many do not see that fine arts are quickly fading into the background. According to the National Federation of State High School Associations, programs in the arts are some of the first courses to go when it comes to budget cuts. While many people do not see the immediate effect of the loss of music, visual arts, drama, and dance in our schools, the lasting impact could be something we never expected and never wanted. In my rural Iowa high school with just over 200 students, the fine arts situation is devastating. With the administration attending and funding sports and ignoring the arts, bias is starting to take its toll. To make my school better, I would push for music programs to get the proper funding they deserve, show school administrators the positive effects of theatre programs, and push to make a fine arts credit a graduation requirement.

For most schools that still offer music education, their programs are underfunded compared to other student opportunities. In my community, the high school and middle school band and choir programs have to share an annual budget that is not sufficient. This money is hardly enough to keep the programs running. With endless instrument repairs, the cost of sheet music, and registration costs for students to have the opportunity to participate in honor bands and choruses, a quality music department needs more than a few thousand dollars. Just last year, my high school band received the first new band uniforms the school had purchased in over 40 years; with a recent spike in members in our middle school band, we did not have enough chairs for all of the band students to have a seat. Our show choir risers are precariously held together with duct tape, which could lead to serious accidents or injuries. Compared to the new sporting facilities and sports uniforms that the district purchases every year, the music’s budget is one of the cheapest. There should not be a difference in sports and music funding; studies show both programs teach similar skills. According to the National Association for Music Education, music refines memory, increases coordination, gives students better self-confidence, and teaches many other abilities. Music programs deserve better funding in schools.

Drama programs are one of the first things to be cut from financially struggling schools even though they provide a creative and emotional outlet for students. It is often overlooked that theatre has so many benefits to our emotional, social, and mental health. In my high school, acting has given the outcasts a place to connect and express their emotions, helped some of my friends have to courage to come to terms with their sexuality, and it has even helped me realize my views on social issues and have better empathy for other people. According to the Educational Theatre Foundation, drama is one of the top ways students can be exposed to social issues and have a better understanding of others. Many of the movies and television shows that youth are exposed to today are cookie-cut to make us want to look, act, and feel a certain way that is not genuine. Live theatre evokes true emotion for both actors and viewers; for students who are rarely exposed to authentic stories that teach us a variety of themes, drama provides a pleasant change. Theatre is a powerful way students can channel their emotions and learn from them.

The fine arts teach skill sets that are helpful in the workforce; therefore, fine arts credits should be a graduation requirement in high school. In the technological society we live in, it appears that STEM education is the best way to prepare youth for the real world, but this is far from true. Take the dominant technology company Google as an example. In a recent article by Dr. Cathy Davidson, a professor at the City University of New York, STEM training is not the biggest asset when hiring at Google. When reviewing the top eight required abilities of Google employees, STEM skills came last. The top seven abilities are soft skills, such as empathy, being able to connect and communicate with others, teamwork skills, and being a critical thinker. In fact, Google would rather hire a visual arts, dance, music, or theatre major who is sufficient in most soft skill qualities and uneducated in STEM skills than hire a computer programmer with none of the soft skills Google values. If the fine arts were required in high schools, students would be better prepared for reality than they would be with other education options.

With all of the different resources we have at our fingertips, the fine arts are seen as an educational tool of the past. We are slowly losing one of the most valuable means of schooling to superficial high school activities and careers that are feeding the current trends. The arts are fundamental. If arts education keeps going in the same direction it is going now, in a few decades, this country could be an entirely different place; there would be less creativity, less communication skills, less individuality, and more social problems because of the lack of empathy. All of this can be turned around and stopped if we only would give students easier access to participate in art-related activities. To better my school, other schools, and the education of every student in America, we need to better fund our music programs, push the positive effects of theatre in our schools, and make the arts a required study in our schools. The lack of arts is sending us towards a dark future, but we can change that; we can enhance not just the education of students like me, but also every student in every school.
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