America: Time to Make a Sound Investment in the Arts
Isn’t it time America invested in arts education again? Every dollar and each minute spent on arts education is an investment, paying us back with improved student performance, a more vibrant economy, and a richer American culture. Despite the obvious benefits to our society and our fond memories of school art projects, we somehow have lost our way.
At the federal level, we spend less than 65 cents per student on arts education each year. And at the state and local level, resources are being cut, and the new emphasis on teaching only what can be tested leaves many schools’ arts education programs to die on the vine. In fact, a report by the Center for Education Policy concluded that instructional time for arts and music has fallen 20 percent since the enactment of No Child Left Behind.
Of course, schools need to focus on improving academic standards, but the notion that we can only teach either arts or reading is a false choice. Put simply, art in schools only benefits the teaching of the three Rs. The research is overwhelming; students involved in the arts do better in school, score higher on tests, and are more likely to graduate. Study after study concludes that arts involvement improves scores in both reading and math from the earliest grades through the SATs.
Beyond improving basic academic scores, ignoring the arts hobbles our country’s ability to compete economically. The movie business, the music industry, theater and non-profit arts organizations are vital engines of our economy. Hollywood alone accounts for 1.3 million jobs and more than $30 billion in wages. Beyond the direct impact of arts jobs, however, fostering creativity and imagination in our kids is essential to our economic survival. In today’s global economy, America’s competitive edge isn’t price. Our secret weapon is our creativity and innovation. Refusing to invest in that creativity is penny wise and pound foolish.
Ultimately, though, society isn’t judged only on test scores and economic statistics. We miss the bigger picture if we ignore the importance of art to the great American experiment and our attempt to build an enduring cultural heritage. “We must teach [our students] the rich artistic inheritance of our culture and an appreciation of how fine music enriches both the student who studies it, and the society that produces it,” said Ronald Reagan. “The existence of strong music and fine arts curricula is important to keeping the humanities truly humanizing and liberal arts education truly liberating.”
At The Creative Coalition, we know first hand the importance of the arts. For many, arts education was a lifeline through troubled years, and all of our members depend on America’s creative spirit for their livelihoods. We’ve got to find the resources and the time to keep arts alive in schools. If we don’t, we shortchange our kids, jeopardize our prosperity, and starve our culture.#
Robin Bronk is the Executive Director of The Creative Coalition (www.thecreativecoalition.org), the leading 501(c)(3) nonprofit, nonpartisan social and public advocacy organization of the arts and entertainment community focusing on issues of public importance, particularly the First Amendment, arts advocacy and public education.