The Necessity Of Arts Education

The Necessity Of Arts Education

Why you can't put a cap on creativity.
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The arts have always been an important aspect of my life. Since both of my parents are professional actors, the power of creativity and artistic expression has always been a given in my household. As a child, you could usually find me drawing up an imaginary cartoon character, watching a story unfold on stage or staying up past my bedtime under my covers with a flashlight, concocting my own elaborate fairy tales.

While my options for artistic expression were slightly slimmer as I transitioned into elementary and middle school, I still had required art and music classes and was encouraged to the join drama club and other performing arts groups. However, within the first few weeks of starting high school, I realized that not only were my outlets for creativity sparse, but more often than not, they were unsupported by many of my administrators and city council members.

Every year when the city council would discuss the new school budget, the phrase “cutting back on the arts” was mentioned one too many times. Out of all of the things that were on the chopping block, art education was almost always at the top of the list. The sarcastic voice in my head thought, C'mon, is there anything left to even cut? We never had enough money to buy new art supplies, we never had enough money to buy new instruments, and we never had enough money to even think of building a performing arts auditorium. At this point, it seemed as if the only thing they could slash were the remaining scraps of the program.

While I wish that the defunding of my high school’s art programs were something out of a twisted reality, by no means was my situation an anomaly. In a recent Washington Post article, the author Tyleah Hawkins noted that:

“Schools across the country have slashed their arts programs in the wake of major funding cuts by state governments struggling to balance their budgets during the economic downturn ... These programs tend to be the first casualties of budget cuts in hard-pressed school districts already struggling to meet other demands of the academic curriculum, and they are rarely restored.”

It is one thing to cut funding for a program that isn't positively affecting a child’s education. What blows my mind, however, is that an immense amount of support from longitudinal studies reveals that arts education benefits language development, decision-making skills, inventiveness, cultural awareness and improved academic performance. Yet art education is one of the first things to be cut during a scholastic budget crisis.

A study completed by The Americans for the Arts reported that:

Young people who participate regularly in the arts ... are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to participate in a math and science fair or to win an award for writing an essay or poem than children who do not participate.”

Ironically, some of our biggest academic competitors such as Denmark, Hungary and the Netherlands have the arts as a mandatory core requirement.

So, for any educators, administrators, city council members or government officials reading this, please hear me out. While I may no longer be a student in the public school system, I know that my arts education had a significant impact on my development, not only as a student, but as a person. I can only imagine the wonderful contributions that other students could be making to the world if they had only been given the opportunity to be impacted by the arts. I know my request may be somewhat idealistic, but here are three things that I ask of you the next time you are faced with creating a new academic curriculum:

Make the arts a requirement.
If physical education is an outlet to exercise the body, then art class is an outlet to exercise the mind and spirit. Classes like mathematics and science require the use of the left side of the brain that is primarily responsible for logic and reasoning, whereas art and music exercise the right side of the brain, responsible for creativity and expressing emotions. By making the arts a core requirement, students will have the opportunity to strengthen both sides of their brain. They can exercise their logic and reason while simultaneously developing an emotional intelligence and awareness.

Encourage the arts just as much as you do athletics.
By no means am I trying to bash athletics in this point. I was a varsity athlete in high school and could go on and on about the physical and mental benefits of being a student athlete. However, if you offer 10 different sports, then also offer 10 different outlets for art. Allow students to have access to courses in drawing, painting, singing, band, film, dance, et cetera to attract students who have different artistic interests.

Invest.
This might be the hardest point to sell you on, but here it goes. I constantly hear people complaining about paying taxes, especially if they have a separate education tax. Many of us have this idea that if "we can't afford it," then we have to cut it. But here's the thing. It is almost impossible to generate an academic community of creative and innovative thinkers by setting a spending limit on the curriculum before you even create the curriculum. You are literally setting yourself up for failure. If you want our school systems to create inspired and inventive thinkers, be academically competitive with other nations and know that having an arts curriculum will generate those results, then you have to be willing to invest in them. You make an investment now, because in the long run, you know it will all pay off.

As I think back to the times when I would stay up past my bedtime with my flashlight as my lamp for the picture I was drawing or the story I was writing, I realize that my parents always knew that I was awake, but never told me to turn out the light because they knew that I was in the thick of my creative process.

To the educators, administrators and other local and federal officials who wield the power in creating their school's curriculums and budgets, please don't turn the lights out on your students, their stories are just beginning.

Cover Image Credit: BBC

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Austin Alexander Burridge, Volunteer Advocate, Shares 3 Great Reasons to Volunteer and Help Others

Austin Alexander Burridge is an avid academic who studies Environmental Science at Winona State University and believes that work in the service of others is a key pillar to personal development.

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Sometimes it's easy for someone to adopt a "me, me, me" attitude. While focusing on oneself, a person may feel nice in the moment, but serving and helping others will bring lasting benefits. While there are many great reasons to serve and help others, there are three universal truths that resonate with volunteers around the globe.

Austin Alexander Burridge's 3 Reasons to Volunteer:

1. Accomplishment

Often, people fall into a trap of focusing on themselves when they are feeling down. Maybe someone did not get a job they wanted. Or perhaps a person gets dumped by an expected lifelong companion. Maybe someone feels they have underachieved after looking at Facebook and seeing great things a high school classmate has accomplished. When feeling down, helping others is a proven way to improve one's mood and attitude, and it can provide a sense of pride and accomplishment. The act of giving to those in need is an inherently good action and leaves people with a wonderful feeling of joy.

2. Gratitude

One can become more appreciative of life by serving others that have less. Whether volunteering at a soup kitchen, visiting the elderly at an assisted living center, or helping families after a natural disaster, service enables people to be grateful for what they have. Seeing people who have fewer advantages, especially those who are spirited and thankful for small things, allows one to realize just how fortunate he/she is in life.

3. Friendships

Volunteering is a great way to build meaningful friendships, not only with other volunteers but also with those who are served. One of the most profound and fascinating aspects of these relationships is how volunteers will learn from those served and vice versa. As these special bonds are built, they lead to impactful connections that last for years to come.

Of course, these are just a few reasons to volunteer and serve others. One can never go wrong by helping others as opposed to merely focusing on oneself. Volunteering invariably and inevitably contributes to personal growth, development, and satisfaction.

About Austin Alexander Burridge: Helping others has been of paramount importance to Austin, and as a part of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA), Austin gave back to the community around him. He also has participated in annual peanut butter drives, The Minnesota Sandwich Project for the Homeless and collected canned goods for local food shelters. Additionally, Austin has a passion for the environment, which he pursued when visiting the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador, and the Amazon Rain Forest while studying at the School of Environment Studies, which investigates ecological systems and their sustainability

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Supporting Late-Term Abortion Is Actually The Opposite Of Feminism

Feminism is about gender equality and women supporting women- so shouldn't we support the unborn women of tomorrow?

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Before you read this, if you are someone who feels strongly that abortions are the "right" choice and that supporting late-term abortions is a step for woman anywhere, I do not suggest you read this article. However, I do want to write that I support conditional abortions- situations where the birth can kill the mother or where conception occurred because of rape. If someone rapes you, that is not okay by any means, and a baby conceived of rape can be terminated by the mother to avoid PTSD, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and any other mental health diagnoses. Of course, if a woman can bring a baby into the world to keep or give up for adoption, even if it was the product of rape, she should seek life for the innocent child rather than death. And what a rape victim chooses to do is neither here nor there- and it damn well is not anyone else's business.

So why should it be my business (or anyone's) if women have late-term abortions? Agreeing to murder out of convenience should not be societally accepted as okay. When the law passed in New York for late-term abortions, I did not picture 39-week pregnant women rushing to Planned Parenthood to abort their child because they got cold feet. I highly doubt that is the exact scenario for which the law went into effect for, and that was more so intended for women who did not realize they were pregnant and missed the time period to get a legal abortion.

Not that I support early-term abortion, because all abortion is the same regardless of when it happens during the pregnancy. Killing someone sooner rather than later does not make it less worse.

Excuses about how women are not ready to be mothers, do not have the financial means, would ruin their futures, they would get kicked out, lose their bodies, etc. are just that- excuses. Carrying a child for nine months might be an inconvenience, but killing someone will be on your conscience forever. If murders pleaded their motives to police as a way to justify what they did (excluding self-defense), what difference is it if a woman kills her unborn child?

Planned Parenthood might be taboo and have a stigma attached to it, but it does so much more than kill babies. Planned Parenthood is a place where girls can go to see OB/GYNO, get birth control, and learn about safe sex, protection, STDs, etc. Instead of stigmatizing it, young women should be encouraged to go to this institution for woman and feminism. Let high school health classes plan field trips there so that everyone becomes more educated on female health (boys included!). Female health education is very limited, especially in school, and many women feel that an abortion is their only way out, however, it's not. By becoming more educated, the rate of teen pregnancies can go down, as well as the need for abortions. Women educating other women should be the goal of Planned Parenthood, and abortions should be reserved for those who got raped or whose pregnancy cause death, health complications, etc.

Abortion might be giving women a choice- but who is giving the unborn babies a choice?

And of course the only way to 100% prevent pregnancy is abstinence, and if that is your choice then good for you, and if you choose to have sexual intercourse, good for you too. Be safe. No slut shaming here. Women need to continue supporting other women, regardless of their sex life. Women who have abortions are not "whores" and should not be labeled as such- they are just people whose biology reacted to another person's biology.

If you truly do not want to have a baby, please please please give it up for adoption and do not kill it. It did nothing wrong, and yeah, it might be a little inconvenient to be pregnant, especially if you are in school, but there are hundreds of thousands of people that would love nothing more than to raise your baby. Be a woman supporting other woman and give the gift of motherhood.

If you take away anything from this article it's this:



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