by Erica Millwater
While America may not be renowned for its Picassos, Monets and Michelangelos, it has embraced the concept of a well-rounded education that introduces youth to the arts since its earliest, Enlightenment Era days.
However, this long-standing ideal is now in jeopardy, as art programs have taken the brunt of school district budget cuts nationwide. Schools must reevaluate arts education for youth because its benefits are tremendous both inside and outside the classroom.
There is no doubt that the arts implement a different learning style that can enhance a student’s academic skills. Through learning about art history and making art—whether it be making crafts out of pom poms or drawing a portrait with charcoal—students are acquiring and practicing much larger skills.
According to pbs.org, art teaches students to be engaged in their work, be proud of what they put effort into and foster their creativity and ability to work in groups.
As a result, these cuts to the arts are particularly harmful because of their unequal nature. Inner city, underprivileged schools are often those with the poorest academic achievments. This is a signal that districts often interpret as reason to cut art and advance science, technology, engineering and math programs with the scarce resources they have. What they don’t realize, though, is that a paintbrush in a child’s hand may be just as powerful as a laptop.
So in schools like WHS that are lucky enough to maintain their art programs, more students should be encouraged to take advantage of them.
Some WHS students are so caught up in getting good grades or taking honors and Advanced Placement courses that they simply do not have time to spend in the arts. But even just one period a day of a different kind of cognitive work can relieve students’ stress, broaden their horizons and prepare them for the rest of their day, and the real world, in a unique way.
New Jersey should make the fine arts requirement two years instead of one, or offer more accessible, entry-level classes. And schools forced to cut art teachers and supplies, as many underprivileged schools have, could provide time for free drawing, or arrange visits from community art programs.
In our quest to improve academic performance during times of large-scale budget cuts, we must remember to keep our students well-rounded with the arts. If not, we won’t ever give these young Picassos and Monets a chance to shine.