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Arts in public education:

Lessons behind the ordinary

By Patrick Clark
On February 22, 2012

I do not doubt the fact that our educational system is in need

of enthusiastic math and science teachers. It is evident based on comparison of test scores that we are behind a significant number of first world countries. In fact, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the United States ranks 25th in science and 17th in math behind countries such as South Korea, Australia and Norway. Obviously it is in the best

interest of our society to make an attempt at closing this gap and pushing for a more rigorous education of our children. Unfortunatly, due to the emphasis on math and science many propose that arts programs be cut in order to spend more time and energy on improving the math and

science test scores. Yet, I wonder if cutting these programs is really what is needed for improvement in these areas.

My major is music education. Now, I know you will say I am biased when I say that there really is no need to cut an arts program in a school. Of course I am. I have spent the past four years of my life preparing and working so that I can educate students in music and help them to discover the

benefits of learning a musical instrument or singing. However, let me argue a legitimate reason for keeping arts programs in schools that has nothing to do with my own desire for a job. So much of our culture today is based on the arts, both visual and aural. Consider for a moment

watching a movie like Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter. I can not imagine trying to watch either of those without its soundtrack or sound effects. As an experiment, view the opening scene of Star Wars muted. I will guarantee

when you turn the sound back on that you will be happy some band director taught composer John Williams in the 40's. The emotion and effect that is added to the experience

is beyond anything that can simply be acted out or done

with visual effects on a screen. Speaking of visual effects, are they not pieces of artwork in themselves? Originally, animated movies were all drawn out in the traditional manner before being transferred to film. I pity all the children that never get to see a newly created Disney movie because a school administrator decided that painting, drawing and sculpture is not "necessary" to the education of their students. I respectfully, but adamantly, disagree.

Moving away from the movie scene, one can see that there are a variety of things in everyday life that require the need for an artist. For example, a bridge or roadway, though maybe not glamourous, need an architect to design them.

At the risk of potentially insulting architects I would say that they are, at a very simple level, artists. I could name several other significant fields such as interior design, clothing design, carpentryand business administration. But my point is that the arts foster creativity and imagination in a

way that we need as a society, not only in order to enjoy that life but also to survive it. Therefore, I propose that school administrators take a long and hard look at the long term

benefits of not only keeping the arts in their schools but also encouraging them instead of looking at the short term and basing their decisions off test scores. Use the arts for their benefit of creativity and broad thinking and they will do nothing but help students, test scores and our culture in the long run.


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