Few schools are immune to the pangs of budget constraints. Every district – at one time or another – is forced to make difficult decisions based on curriculum and activity-offerings, in order to operate within a set budget.
These difficult decisions made by school officials across the country more often than not impact creative programs.
U.S. News reported, in 2014, that more than 80% of U.S. school districts have had their funds cut since 2008, and the first programs to go are music, art, and foreign language.
The decision to turn toward the arts as expendable is based on the importance of strengthening students’ employable skills in math and science. However, neuroscientists and educational leaders (including Harvard President Drew Faust) fear that the loss of creative programs in U.S. schools will have a disastrous impact on future generations.
While math, English, and science are considered core course subjects, music, art, dance and others have the term “extra” affixed to their descriptions, as if they aren’t necessary in education. However, data has proved that young brains require creative nurturing in order to grow to their fullest potential.
Take music, for example. A study by Virginia Penhune at Concordia University suggests that early music lessons (before the age of 7) boost brain development. The study went on to state that the ages of 6 – 8 are a “sensitive period” when musical training works cohesively with normal brain development to establish long-lasting changes in motor abilities and brain structure.
The ongoing concern by parents and educators across the country is how will students be affected by this perpetual shift toward cutting back on creative programs?
Firstly, more often than not poorer school districts are the ones likely to be forced to cut back. This is particularly frightening because these districts are less likely to have other options to offer students (such as after-school programs). The results from this can include:
However, as the Concordia University study suggests, this isn’t just an issue of loss of creativity. Creative-minded students will likely find a way to pursue their dreams (although lack of school support may certainly slow down their progress). The real issue is that every student – creative-minded or not – will be affected by the cutback of creative programs. These so-called extracurricular programs encourage brain development, motor skills, and meta-cognitive thinking, all of which help to produce innovative, independent thinking adults.
Standardized testing and assessment are the backbone of education (currently). While this test/assessment environment helps to make teachers more accountable, it has also encouraged the notion that only one answer is the right answer. But how often is that the case, that there’s only one solution to every problem?
There is no one perfect answer in dance, music, or art. There are interpretations and perspectives. There’s the opportunity for a student to introduce her own influences and concepts. There’s the opportunity to explore and fail, and explore and succeed. With every new exploration taken, lessons are learned, skills are developed, and passions are formed.
The greatest innovative minds of our lifetime knew the importance of core subjects such as math and science. However, these innovators also understood that disciplines such as art and music deserve equal attention, respect, and funding in education.
Few people would stand for a cutback in math funding. Is it fair, then, to be so quick to cut back on creative programs, knowing now that a child’s development depends on these programs?