States are in a budget crisis, and far too often education is the first program to get cut, and when the education budget is cut the schools are forced to lay off employees, which in this case are the educators of our country’s future. When faced with the difficult position of having to choose which programs to cut, the decision makers too often choose the arts.
The study of the arts, whether its drama, music, painting, or pottery help students think in different ways, explore different ideas that cannot be expressed explicitly through the English language or math. No one suggests that students who take the arts are going to become professional poets, painters, dancers, or actors. However, the students that sing, act, dance or paint chorus benefit in many ways. Students learn teamwork, collaboration, and creative problem solving with other students. Often, these students develop skills they didn’t know they had, and invariably sitting in one of these classrooms is the next Rembrandt.
Schools in low-income neighborhoods are often hit the hardest. In those schools that serve disproportionate numbers of disadvantaged students, those who play in the band are more than twice as likely to perform at the highest levels in math as those who do not play music. In James Catterall’s study, Doing Well and Doing Good by Doing Art, poor students at high schools that emphasize the arts were more than twice as likely to earn a bachelor of the arts, as poor students at high schools that do not emphasize it. The Center for Fine Arts Education published research showing that students that were involved in fine arts classes earn higher test scores on their SATs and college exams than their counterparts.
Studies have shown that the arts significantly boosts student achievement, reduces disciplinary issues, and students that participate in the arts graduate from college more often. Arts education stimulates creativity and innovation, and these are essential skills for young Americans that will go on to compete in a dynamic job environment. One-dimensional candidates with knowledge but no imagination will not be as competitive in this fluid job market.
Perhaps Albert Einstein said it best, “Imagination is more important than knowledge, because knowledge is limited whereas imagination embraces the entire world.”