The Arts and Humanities Actually Help Students Learn, So Why Are They Being Cut Back?

by Rachel Canzoneri

The arts and humanities provide meaningful works around the world, but are the arts and humanities valued enough in schools?

According to aaeteachers.org in 2012, a Department of Education survey suggested that art education was suffering the most among school budgets. The survey also reported that there was a particular decline in focus on the arts in urban districts.

Art teacher Amy Graunke said “Now that we live in a society that’s so data driven, and there’s such a strong focus on numbers, like the number of AP students and the number of dual enrollment students, this focus tends to hurt the arts.”

“It’s the absolute focus on testing and increase in required courses that has led to more emphasis on requirements and less emphasis on arts than we used to have,” said social studies teacher Paul Daly. Daly added, “Generally in school more time and energy is given to sports as well, because that often attracts more attention.”

“Obviously we can always do more to encourage students to advocate the arts, and our art club, our art department, and our National Art Honors Society all encourage art education not only for our school, but for others as well,” said art teacher and department chair Susan Maseth. Maseth added “We can always do more for the benefit of our students. Some of them struggle academically, so art is the only way they can really express themselves and find a comfort zone.”

Gym teacher Lee Palmer said “Kids need to do more than just the four basic subjects and be more rounded. The arts help teach creativity and problem solving and those are really good traits to have.”

According to dosomething.org, countries that have mandatory art and music education courses in school place consistently higher in math and science testing. However, usnews.com states funding has been cut in areas such as music, art, and languages in more than 80% of school districts in the United States. So if the arts and humanities can improve our learning capabilities, why are they given so little focus?

“There’s so much focus on making students college ready, the arts are unfortunately being pushed to the side,” said math teacher Chris Boothe. Boothe added “It’s really a shame because there are a lot of kids who have different forms of inspiration. So when they come to school and are forced to take all these college-based classes, it’ll offset that kid’s day, and they’re not gonna look forward to coming to school.”

This decline is evident in Walkersville as well — with the upcoming departure of art teacher Christine Stovall, fewer art classes such as ceramics are going to be offered.

“In some schools the humanities are just an elective, while in other schools they’re treated as a main class. At Walkersville, I feel they take foreign language seriously, so it does depend on the school,” said Spanish teacher and Department Chair Loyda Lugo-Goff. Lugo-Goff added, “But with the push for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) classes, our numbers have decreased, so as language teachers we need to learn how to get involved and promote foreign language. However, our French club and our Spanish club have done a lot to give foreign language a strong presence at Walkersville.”

While some schools feel the arts and humanities are treated seriously, other schools push it to the side and force more required courses. Though this does help students prepare for college, it causes a lack of creativity and problem solving among students-two life long traits that help students even beyond college.