Why the arts are essential

By Lindsey Schneider

I have always loved art. Drawing, painting, acting, dancing, singing, playing piano, you name it, and I’m up for it. In school, art helps me refocus, boosts my creativity and critical thinking and brings me joy. But when confronting the overarching fear of budget trouble and cutbacks in education, the arts need proof of their worth beyond the emotional benefits because numbers and facts win over those in charge of curriculum. In order to present a stronger argument for arts education, I turned to the facts and found three main benefits: Art lowers juvenile crime, creates higher academic achievement, and helps increase social and community involvement in students. Promoting the arts not only betters the student, but the school and the community.

One of the biggest payoffs for arts in schools is a lower crime rate. Long has it been acclaimed that art lowers crime, but a recent study proves these claims to be credible and factual. According to a recent study by YouthARTS Development Project, an afterschool program with curriculum in dance, music, photography, visual art and theatre targeting low performance, troubled students, there was tangible evidence for crime reduction through art. In Portland, 22 percent of delinquent and troubled students had a new court referral after their arts program, as compared to 47 percent before YouthARTS. Another study shows that investment in the arts delivers a one and half recovery through the criminal justice system and tax revenue. Keeping juveniles from committing crimes not only leads to less crime, but a more productive citizen that saves the government money and pays taxes.

Another advantage on the educational level is students that participate in the arts have a higher academic performance overall. According to the Princeton College Entrance Examination Board, students in music performance scored 57 points higher on the verbal exam and 41 points higher on the math portion (compared to the average) and students in music appreciation scored 63 points higher on the verbal and 44 points higher on the math. Additionally, the arts have been proven to boost social involvement, creativity, critical thinking and self worth.

Ironically, while the arts are being cut to make room for more math and science courses in an effort to boost America’s competitiveness, those very same countries (Japan, the Netherlands and Hungary) that are leading the way in math and science have mandatory arts and music programs in their schools. Arts education creates smarter, more aware students.

The last component of keeping the arts in schools is they increase social and community awareness in students. Theater, dance, drama and visual art can all be shared with the student’s peers, school and community, which creates a tighter-knit population. Fine arts can transcend all racial, religious and political differences that separate people on a day to day basis. Those students who grew up with the arts in their schools often have a greater involvement in the community through their art, and socially, and are more adept at communicating their views and ideas to their peers.

To conclude, not only do the arts bring students like myself joy, but help lower the crime rate, increase academic achievement and improve social and community awareness. On a factual level, as the arts in all grades have been shown to save the government money, it is counterproductive to slash them in the first place in supposed “budget cutbacks”. They help lighten children’s lives and give them something to strive for and be proud of. Our school system should seek to promote the emotional, academic and social growth of our students and communities.

Lindsey Schneider is a freshman at Homer High School. She enjoys playing soccer and competing in Drama Debate and Forensics.