The inclusion of the arts in kindergarten through twelfth-grade education has demonstrated its value and importance by its positive effects on the cognitive and behavioral development of children. A research study conducted by the Brown Center found, “in elementary schools that the arts positively and significantly affect students’ school engagement, college aspirations, and their inclinations to draw upon works of art as a means for empathizing with others.” Since 2008, more than 80% of schools nationwide have experienced cuts to their budgets. Despite its significant impact, the arts are continuously the first to be diced on the chopping block. Oftentimes funding is more prioritized for STEM. An acronym that stands for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. It is important to examine the dangers and detriment of the arts not receiving as much funding as other initiatives like STEM.
Conservatives and Republicans have argued that the arts do not need to be funded because it is not necessary to society. Furthermore, it is a waste of federal tax dollars, because it lacks value in the workforce. According to the New York Times, “President Trump became the first president to make a formal proposal to eliminate the National Endowment for the Arts.”
The arts help develop creative thinking skills; however, Republicans and Conservatives do not believe there is a need for this to be taught or studied in school. Which is why both have praised the value of STEM, because it equips children with good critical thinking skills to solve real-life problems, in addition, to a rewarding well-paying career. Throughout the years more STEM programs and initiatives have increased across schools nationwide. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “jobs in STEM currently make up 6.2 percent of all U.S. employment.” Additionally, the majority of STEM-related occupations boast wages above the national average and demonstrate above-average growth.”
Despite the rise in popularity of STEM in the U.S. classrooms, research says otherwise about its success. According to the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), a worldwide study that evaluates 15-year-old students’ scholastic performance on mathematics, science, and reading, the United States ranks 38th out of 71 countries in math and 24th in science. This indicates that not all children are adequately prepared to take on the jobs of tomorrow. There are several factors that may contribute to this low ranking, such as institutional and systemic racism in the K-12 science classroom. Science teaching and learning often leaves untouched a status quo that threatens the physical, emotional, psychological, and intellectual well-being of historically minoritized learners, especially students from Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. In the current 6.2 percent of STEM making up all U.S. employment; the question to be asked is how does the BIPOC community factor into that percentage? These disparities and inequities in STEM make it unable for all children to have access to these initiatives and have confidence in achieving success in this field.
While creative-thinking may be a softer skill, it is just as necessary as harder skills. A recent report from LinkedIn, a platform covering over 660+ million professionals and 20+ million jobs, “placed creativity as the top skill in-demand by employers for 2020.” The ability to be creative will set professionals apart in today’s job market, across disparate sectors and industries. In addition to that a study conducted by Adobe on the importance and prevalence of creative skills taught in schools found, “a whopping 69 percent of educators worldwide agree there is not enough emphasis on these skills in today’s curricula, reporting that, these skills must be nurtured in our schools to ensure student success once they graduate.”
A lack of funding for the arts will decrease career opportunities and paths to children. Early access and introduction to dance, theatre, visual art, and music can broaden the future paths of children. The arts also are beneficial to those from low socioeconomic backgrounds. A report by the National Endowment for arts, “revealed low SES students who had experience in the arts were found to be three times as likely to earn a bachelor’s degree than their peers.”
Lastly, students involved in the arts have excelled academically. A study by the Arts Education Partnership shows, how different arts, like music and painting, help stimulate cognitive functions for academic performance. The research also lists, “ improvements in math proficiency, reading skills, scientific reasoning and content organization, all of which yield increased SAT scores and material comprehension.” The African proverb, “it takes a village to raise a child’ can be related to this discussion. It certainly takes a village to educate a child as well. In school communities across the nation, its academics, programs, and initiatives should be as inclusive as possible to ensure every child can grow to their full potential.
Arts is the Root (Why Arts in Schools Matter) Video: https://youtu.be/CRkusFzVVAU
The push for more funding for the arts in schools has been making strides. Over the past several years, Congress has continued to increase funding for Arts in Education. According to Assistance for Arts Education 2021, PAA member groups asked Congress for $40 million in assistance for Arts Education programs. A major change in the law is that while NCLB listed the “arts” as a “core academic subject,” ESSA instead lists the “arts” and “music”–alongside reading, math,
and a host of other subjects–in the federal definition of a “well-rounded education. “
The solution here is not to lessen the funding of STEM and have the arts receive more. It is to provide an equal amount of funding to both. Also, to create changes to remove inequities in K-12 classrooms. All children deserve equal access to opportunities and programs regardless of their racial and financial backgrounds. It would be wiser to integrate the arts into STEM and make more of a push for STEAM. This allows children to receive a more broader and well rounded education. Society cannot exist without its scientists just as much as it cannot exist without its artists. The two impact each other and intersect more often than people think. Funding for the arts means funding for a more equitable and inclusive future.