In the wake of the economic recession, schools are cutting funding for arts education. When forced to choose between the so-called hard subjects and the arts, administrators invariably snub the arts. The explanation is as simple as it is inexorable: testing. There are no state-mandated tests for art or music, but there are tests for math and science. And because salaries and careers are affected by the results of these tests, the fine arts are left to twist in the wind.
The irony of the situation is that these cuts have had little to no utility. In other words, the test numbers are not going up. In fact, they are on the decline. So, we may be cutting vital subjects and getting absolutely nothing in return. Worse yet, we are left with students who are less excited about learning and dread test taking.
There’s a reason why art and music teachers are often the most popular educators in their schools. After hours of crunching numbers and going over their ABCs, kids need a break. That is not to say that art or music is easy. They’re not. But they do stimulate different areas of the brain. Rather than memorizing and repeating, students can open up a bit and express themselves in creative ways.
You can’t measure an open mind, which is one of the reasons why art programs are on the chopping block. But we do know that arts education has numerous benefits for young children. From an early age, kids are taught to express themselves verbally with words and terms that others can understand. The only problem is that this can lead to a kind of groupthink where everyone speaks and expresses themselves the same way. Art takes words out of the equation. It teaches kids that some things are simply ineffable. Rather than analyzing every little detail to death, they simply respond in a genuine and emotional way.