Art in public schools is being cut constantly. In late 2017, Pennsylvania’s Scranton School District experienced a devastating $19 million budget shortfall. In response, the board decided they had no choice but to layoff 89 employees, the majority of which were teachers in music, art, and physical education.
This scenario plays out regularly in school districts across the country. Art programs in public schools are identified as the most responsible places from which to make cuts. Art is seen as frivolous and expendable compared to math, English, history and science, seen as more critical to students’ development and job prospects.
We at IPaintMyMind feel this reflects a profound misunderstanding of how art education benefits a student’s personal development, academic prowess, and professional prospects. It also misunderstands the trajectory of the current economy, which favors creative talent more and more every day.
Articles we’ve published explain how art education can improve proficiency in reading, writing, and math, boost discipline, attendance, and test scores, improve graduation rates and societal cohesion, and connect young people to a wider world. But those only begin to lay out the wide-reaching benefits of art in schools.
Formal art education in America spawned in the 19th century from the idea that new industries would increasingly require creative design components and the workers to create them. When children create art, they are problem-solving and are all but forced to innovate in order to create something new out of nothing.
Today, science and tech firms employ thousands of artists and designers to build websites, design cars, craft electronics, curate retail spaces, and formulate advertising campaigns. Countries we equate with strong education systems and economies, like Germany and Japan, require school children to study the arts every year and devote more classroom time to arts than the United States.
Art education can inspire entrepreneurship. When Staten Island’s New Dorp High School had their arts budget cut, students made and sold silk screened T-shirts, street portraits, calendars, calligraphy, and buttons. Their efforts kept the art program funded and earned them a profit.
Art education can help pay for college. Millersburg High School senior Michael Blasser earned a $20,000 scholarship to Susquehanna University based largely on work he did at a private arts school, Capital Area School for the Arts, 30 miles from his home.
Art education regularly saves students from academic failure. Millions of young people not naturally attracted to math and science find art class the only compelling motivation to attend school. Students who appear unengaged in other subjects often gladly devote extra-curricular hours to their art projects.
Studies on divergent learning styles reveal that traditional classroom methods – lectures and written tests – deny many students the opportunity to absorb and demonstrate knowledge in ways that play to their strengths. A struggling student who more naturally conveys knowledge through visual manipulation will have few avenues for expression outside of art class.
Science will no doubt continue to reveal the cognitive and psychological benefits of arts education. We hope you will join the growing ranks of stalwart protectors of arts education by supporting art programs for students both young and old.