In recent times, the economy has plummeted at a horrific rate. We can see it in our everyday life, from how much our produce costs to the price we pay for gas. But one thing that we may not see until it’s to late is the damage caused by the funding cuts for the arts programs and education in America. In addition to impeding American children’s educational and moral development, we revert to a poor cultural quality by lowering our standards of arts education due to the poor economic condition of our nation.
Even though this should be one of the more important programs for our government’s Department of Education to devote their time and efforts to, it has been severely neglected. In February of 2010, 300 teachers of the Des Moines Public School system were notified that they would no longer be needed to teach their subjects in the following school year. The positions that were cut due to the downsizing of the schools faculty were mostly those that taught art, music, and physical education.
The reasoning behind this drastic measure taken by the Des Moines Public School system, says Twyla Woods, Chief of Staff of Student Affairs at Des Moines Public Schools, is to preserve core classes. This argument is entirely logical; however, it fails to acknowledge the necessity of the arts in the lives of America’s younger generation (KCCI). Doehm 2 Those behind the educational budgeting have greatly underestimated the wealth of skills that teaching our children to learn such musical skills as simple as playing the piano can afford them.
In an issue brief given by The Economic & Technology Policy Studies department of the National Governors Association Center for Best Practices titled “The Impact of Arts Education on Workforce Preparation”, they state various ways that the incorporation of the arts in education can improve America’s children’s skills. The basic skills they present are; better oral communication, better reading and understanding of the material, and enhanced writing skills.
According to this publication, higher-order skills that the arts offer adolescents are; better decision making, creative and innovative thinking, also strategy and problem solving. (http://www. nga. org) In a study conducted by a research team, a group of children who received piano keyboard lessons were compared against a group of children who received computer lessons as well as a control group. The results of the spatial-temporal tests that were administered to these children after training showed a significant improvement in only the group of children who received piano keyboard lessons.
The team then deduced that “music training produces long-term modifications in underlying neural circuitry in regions not primarily concerned with music” and that “an improvement of the magnitude reported may enhance the learning of standard curricula, such as mathematics and science, that draw heavily on spatial-temporal reasoning. ” This study gave scientific evidence of the real value music carries in the education of children (Rauscher). The skills that the arts bring people as a society are irreplaceable and the benefits Doehm 3 hat they give us cannot be obtained by any other form of activity. So by depriving our children of this necessary form of mental stimulation, they are also being deprived of ways for their minds to grow to their full capacity. It hardly seems rational for our government to remove the arts from our children’s curriculum. Our government allots 16% of the national budget towards education while offering 11% to welfare programs. Logically, the education of our younger generation should take precedence over the unorganized, unjust, and inefficient welfare system.
However, there is an array of opinions concerning this topic of our national budgeting. (http://www. usgovernmentspending. com) In today’s society the value of the arts has been diminished and dwindled significantly. In civilized history, art, drama, and dance were cornerstones in any cultured persons education. Bach, Van Gogh, Da Vinci, Mozart, Shakespeare, and Charles Dickens are all pioneers of our cultural richness and helped to shape mankinds views on life, love, and every human emotion. But today one cannot find anything even remotely close to the amazing minds of our predecessors.
How could one possibly expect the next generation to surpass us if we are constantly withdrawing their resources to learn and grow? They can’t, and so a solution to this crisis must be found before it comes back to hurt us more than we had ever anticipated. A good example of the benefits of a quality musical education is the famous Yo-Yo Ma. Starting his education of music at a very young age, his father beginning to teacher him cello at the age of 4, and this espouser to music guided him to later pursue his higher Doehm 4 education at Julliard. Continuing to go on to graduate with a thorough liberal arts education from Harvard.
He is now strongly committed to educational programs, he even conducts classes for all types of people. Old and young, musical and unmusical alike. (http://www. yo-yoma. com/yo-yo-ma-biography) Josh Groban, a “pop-era” singer, is another good example that having the means for our children to pursue their musical aspirations is key. Groban’s own mother taught high school level art, and his dad played trumpet for as long as he could remember. Groban’s success would never have happened either if it had not been for his espouser to the arts from a young age.
First, music being brought to his attention by his parents, and then the means to proceed with his career being handed to him, by way of his education at the Los Angeles High School for the Arts. If this school had not existed he would have never had the chance to chase his dream and become the famous singer he is today. (Gantz) Another benefit that teaching the arts has, is distracting children from irresponsible or unhealthy behavior. By giving children a program in school that holds their interest and offers a challenge, they are more likely to attend school and not skip classes.
Also it provides something that they can continue to practice after the bell has rung and class is dismissed. In many cases having a way to direct emotion and thought through the arts has helped children to avoid falling into the traps of their peers. Luis Cancel is a child helped by the arts, he grew up in the South Bronx and was involved in gangs from a young age. But then an eigth grade art teacher taught him how to Doehm 5 better channel his issues through painting and drawing. “She helped me translate the three-dimensional world onto a two-dimensional plane, really helping me redirect my energy. said Cancel, who is now the director of cultural affairs for the San Francisco Arts Commission. (Grantz) Long term side effects of a lack of a musical education could include: the lack of motor skills and thought processing, creativity to find new solutions, and the loss of a passion and appreciation for beauty and craftsmanship. These are just a few of the many things that would vanish if the arts disappeared from our education system. In schools all across America the arts are being cut; teachers are losing their positions.
Even if there is a teacher to teach, often times they don’t have necessary supplies to efficiently teach their subject. In the Milwaukee Public School system their school received the VH1’s grant to help their music department build and furnish a piano lab. But the school was forced to return the $25,000 grant because they had no teacher for the impending new music facilities. While they were giving up their funds others are scraping and searching for ways to fund their programs as cuts are being made. (Hurley) In L. A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa proposed a $6. 73-billion budget for 2010-11 meaning a 2. % reduction in overall city spending, this requires a 24. 8% slashing of the government’s commitment to the arts. An almost full quarter cut in money being pushed into the arts. Villaraigosa has proposed taking $415,000 from arts grants to fund four earmarks of his own that have not been subjected to the usual competitive application process in which expert peer review panels score and rank proposals. There are cases just Doehm 6 like this spread across the whole U. S. (Boehm) A huge part of the mystery and haze that surrounds the lack of funding dedicated to the arts is the lack of publicity about how severe the crisis truly is.
By bringing the problem to light we can search for a solution. There are some associations, community efforts, and organizations that are attempting to help fight the decline. But they’re struggling, and without support from the government it is difficult to keep afloat. In the midst of this art education catastrophe, organizations such as VH1’s Save the Music Foundation have saved many schools from sinking in the weight of budget cuts. A story of the success this program had was when, in 2006, the foundation gave a grant of band instruments to Elizabeth Hall International Elementary School for their music program.
Three years after the school received the grant the school’s music teacher wrote the VH1’s Save the Music Foundation to thank them for their help, and tell them about a child who especially benefited from their efforts. “Sarah is a fifth grader who has a very difficult life at home, a life that involves being juggled from household to household, and living below the poverty line. She is identified as a student at risk of dropping out of school and not achieving to her potential.
Because her school now has a music program, Sarah not only had the opportunity to learn to play the alto saxophone, but also develop important skills for school and life. Sarah’s excitement for learning an instrument motivates her to work hard in all of her school subjects. The use of hard work and dedication she has learned through practicing her instrument has transferred to her perseverance and focus for other subjects in school. Sarah is just one of many students I Doehm 7 could say the same about at Hall. I know band is enriching and in some cases saving their lives and is having a profound impact. writes the teacher in her thank you letter. In Minneapolis schools alone the foundation has provided the schools with $225,000 worth of instruments to help the children learn. (VH1) Another way for schools to succeed is for the administrators to pursue grants from various places. There are a few different ways for their schools to apply for them, one of them being on a state level. Organizations such as the San Francisco Grants for the Arts exist solely for the purpose of keeping alive the culture the arts afford the area and nation. There are also grants on a national level, such as the National Endowment for the Arts.
In addition to these private organizations, companies such as VH1 have applications for grants to fund musical education. In Hawaii, we have The Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts who provide grants through the HSFCA Biennium Grant Program. 115 grants were awarded through this program, a grand total of $1,526,313. Their grants support arts education, art in the community, heritage preservation, presentation and performing arts. “We are exceptionally pleased to be able to make this support available at a time when the quality of life of our residents and visitors has been so severely impacted by the poor economy.
Mahalo to the numerous organizations that continued to provide essential arts and cultural programming despite the challenging times,” commented Ronald Yamakawa the executive director. Even though Hawaii State Foundation on Culture and the Arts has helped the arts community immensely, they are also being affected by the economy. Since July 2009, eleven important staff positions were cut from their faculty (HSFCA). Doehm 8 We must take action in our children’s educational future, and find a solution for this crisis soon.
But despite the grim out look, the few who strive to keep the arts alive in our schools bring a silver lining to the horizon. Find ways to educate those in your community about this dilemma, and then go out and take action. Write a letter to your state, or email a senator. Their purpose is to represent you and your community, so let them know that you see a problem with the lack of arts in your children’s schools. And lastly the education starts first at home, show your children what culture and the arts are, and you might just plant a seed for the next great musician, artist, or actor.