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Does Our Future Have Art?

I know saying ‘children are our future’ is horribly cliché, but I’m saying it, and I don’t even like kids. But I like the idea of screwing up America’s future even less. When government officials cut public school funding, the first thing to get the ax is the arts, and when the arts go, students suffer.

Having access to artistic education benefits children in a myriad of ways. After conducting a series of sixty-two studies, the Arts Education Partnership found that dropout rates decrease, standardized test scores increase, critical thinking improves, and self-efficacy and self-esteem rise when schools provide students with access to the arts.

Former U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan echoed this sentiment, stating, “The arts significantly boost student achievement, reduce discipline problems, and increase the odds students will go on to graduate from college.”

Art betters people beyond the academic setting. When children view art, they experience the force of another person’s emotions. This understanding potentially prompts children to consider the feelings of others and act with compassion, and compassion is something the world is in dire need of as of late.

While art encourages people to consider the experiences of others, it also helps them step away from problems of their own. While being told ‘no’ is an obnoxious part of anyone’s day, there are children who face far worse deprivations. Some are called worthless. Some feel insignificant because they don’t enjoy the same luxuries as their peers. It’s easy for them to feel helpless. As much as we want to romanticize childhood as a time of carefree innocence, we have to pull off our rose-colored glasses and acknowledge that not all kids run into a parent’s loving arms when they take off their back packs at the end of the day, and performing artistic practices can be a cathartic escape.

Everyone’s brain works differently. Emphasizing logic-based subjects while ignoring the arts can cause less analytic students to feel inadequate. Engaging in creative practices gives those kids the opportunity to excel. At any age, struggling to understand concepts that come naturally to others is frustrating. This can lead to a person feeling like if they cannot get one thing right, they must not be good at anything else either, which can begin a downward spiral.

Art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable. At the weird liberal arts college I went to, I saw this quote tattooed on forearms and doodled on notebook covers more times than I can count, but the ubiquity doesn’t detract from the truth. Art incites change, and change is the only way we as a society move toward something better. I’m sorry (not really), but I don’t want to live in a world full of repressed individuals who lack empathy. I want world where people are problem-solvers who know their worth and think for themselves.

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