More than just “The Arts”

Columns Opinion

Why the arts are critical to keep in schools

By Melissa Green Photo Editor

The debate doesn’t need to be about whether arts or general education is more important; they both have their own contributions to a well-rounded development andthey can enhance and reinforce each other in more ways than one.”Image from”
Throughout the years, the debate of keeping the arts in schools has become one of the most fought over topics. From early elementary through high school, there is discussion about cutting the arts from the educational system altogether.

If I had to argue that I would side with those who believe that the arts are crucial for a child’s education, from K-12. Whether it’s music, painting, drawing, theater or even writing a creative story, the arts are a vital part of personal development.

Students who have been immersed in the arts at a young age have a wider set of skills to utilize when they graduate. Skills that include attention to detail, critical thinking and being deadline driven.

A study conducted by Virginia Penhune at Concordia University found that musical training, particularly instrumental training, produces long lasting changes in motor abilities and brain structure. The earlier a child starts instrumental training, the stronger the connection between the right and left hemispheres of the brain.

These changes last into adulthood and are proven to affect the ability to listen and communicate as an adult. Without being given the opportunity to partake in an extracurricular activity, such as music, fine arts or theater, students would miss out on valuable cognitive and interpersonal skills.

Students who are engrossed in the arts also have a higher chance of moving on to higher education and achieving higher grades, compared to those who have little to no opportunity for arts in K-12 education. James Catterthall, in his 2009 book “Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art: A 12-Year Study of Arts Education,” elaborates on his studies of 26-year-olds who had either a high or low involvement with the arts from grades 8-12. Seventy-one percent of the 26-year-olds had attended a school with a high focus on the arts and attended college directly after high school, compared to the 48 percent of the same age range who attended a high school with a low focus on the arts. Of the 71 percent, another 39 percent attended a postgraduate institution.

Without the arts in schools, a lot of unseen talent will be lost. With budget pressures and an increasing focus on STEM education, the arts are being crowded out of curriculums.

What’s the loss?

An indisputable chance for the child to express themselves, a sense of play, fun and discovery, and to develop creative skills needed in today’s business world.

Many students are able to find a hidden talent when exposed to the arts, whether it be in communication, public speaking or even the ability to see colors in just the right way to create the next Mona Lisa. Without the arts in schools, a lot of unseen talent and potential will be lost. Yes, science, reading, writing and math are important, but think about what you’re really missing when you defund the arts.