Should the arts be essential?
June 11, 2018
The arts are not essential
The arts are something that are celebrated in most schools, including Glen Rock High School, but should they really be required?
In Glen Rock High School, all students must complete a total of ten credits in art classes in order to graduate. The art classes consist of sculpture and ceramics, basic art and design, photography, interior design, graphic design, concert choir, theatre, and many others. However, not all students wish to take part in ten credits of art classes.
Some students are not interested in the arts and don’t benefit from these mandatory classes. Glen Rock High School offers a multitude of other electives such as writing classes, business courses, and also AP science courses. For people disinterested in the arts, taking any of these academic electives would be more beneficial for them and their future. Not to mention, students with busy schedules would benefit more from an option period, where they would be able to work on their assignments in school.
Many think that students and young people should be exposed to different forms of art in their developing years. This is quite understandable, but by high school, students have already taken the four types of exploratory arts in middle school and art classes all throughout elementary school. Therefore, students already get enough exposure to arts, and if they decide they enjoy it, they can sign up for more classes.
The majority of high school students are not very interested in the arts, which is demonstrates in studies of how many students major in art. According to a study by the National Center of Education, only 96,000 out of 1,895,000 bachelor’s degrees in 2014-2015 were degrees in the visual and performing arts. This proves that the majority of kids aren’t serious about art classes, and these kids wouldn’t be gaining any useful skills or knowledge most of the time.
Since they are disinterested in the course, many students do not put a lot of effort into their art classes. As a result, the teacher(s) may be upset with the lack of effort. Plus, this could bring down students’ grade point average if they do not receive good grades for something they’re not motivated to learn about.
Art classes tend to get in the way of many students’ scheduling for their high school courses, including myself. Personally, I am not going to be able to complete all the courses I want to in my high school career due to the arts requirements. Since I have no interest in studying art or having an art-related career, I would rather take more writing or business courses. For example, instead of singing in a choir, I could be learning more about money management and personal finances, which would far more useful throughout life.
Art classes are also not as impressive as more academic classes on college resumes. In place of an art elective, students could even take AP electives. By taking AP classes and earning college credits in high school, students can save time and money by not taking extra classes in college. Therefore, taking AP classes proves to be a far more productive use of time.
Overall, art classes should not be mandatory for high school students to take because, not all students have an interest in the arts. Instead of spending time in class that they don’t enjoy or learn from, the students could be benefiting by learning more useful information in other electives.
The power of the art elective
There are three identities that most directly impact my current (and future) academic careers. I am a Glen Rock High School student, I am mentally ill, and I am a self-described artist.
These three identities all bring me to be a firm supporter of a high school’s art electives. To many, they may just seem to be lighthearted, insipid activities at best, pointless time wasters at worst. However, there are many unseen benefits to art electives, making these classes crucial parts of one’s academic career.
As a Glen Rock High School student, the burden of the art elective requirements are not unfamiliar to me. However, I embrace these so-called “restrictions”. Art electives force me to go beyond my comfort zone and experience new forms of expressing myself. I would have not tried such escapades if I could completely dictate which high school classes to take.
There is an attitude apparent in many high schools that classes like math or science are the most “necessary” and far more important than an art class, or drama program. This is far from the truth for a student aspiring to work in the entertainment industry. Of course, it would be absolutely absurd to allow an aspiring artist or musician to skip out on crucial math classes, not necessarily because they must go through the invigorating task of memorizing the law of cosines, but because of the important skills in problem-solving and critical thinking mathematics excels at teaching. Similarly, taking an art class bolsters students’ motivation, self-esteem, and overall satisfaction in life. We, as a society, must realize that it is immoral to forego certain lessons for others due to their apparent “importance”, and just because one class may be deemed more useful than another, doesn’t mean that we can ignore the clear benefits of another.
As a person with mental illness (generalized anxiety, to be precise), art classes give me a place to allow myself to recover from the unrelenting stress I face on a day-to-day basis. I am not alone in my struggle. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, an estimated 31.9 percent of adolescents have an anxiety disorder. These rates are around ten percent higher than the anxiety disorder rates in adults, making this problem teen-specific. The fact that many teenagers are practically bombarded with stressors, especially in school, cannot be ignored. Stress can have numerous effects on one’s body and behavior: fatigue, lack of focus, and heightened substance abuse are only a few disastrous side effects. This is more than just a few teenagers feeling stressed out about classes- this is an epidemic.
Those “useless” art classes one may feel forced into taking can change that. Such art electives can give many students a reason to wake up in the morning- creating art is a known stress reliever, no matter what one’s talent level is. In a 2016 study measuring participants’ cortisol levels before and after making art, results proved that participating in sessions of making art significantly lower levels of cortisol, and that participants even reported that such art-making sessions were relaxing and enjoyable.
Finally, as an artist, I have come to realize that classes that build my creativity are just as, if not even more, important than a class that is far more logic-focused. However, I am able to understand that to become a well-rounded member of society, it is necessary to take classes that may not seem to tie into my future college major or career. It should be any school’s responsibility to equip its students with tools they can use to live happier and more successful lives in the future. There would be absolutely no debate over whether to allow students to skip a school’s class in basic algebra- everyone is aware of the necessary benefits derived from it. The same is true for art electives: no matter how inapplicable Photo I may seem to you, there is a reason these classes are required. The arts can teach lessons as well: life changing ones, one that teach and help and save children.
The kids can be alright. And the arts, of course, can guide them along the way.
Photo Credit: Caroline Geoghegan