Drastic Cuts

“The ____________ Public Schools Superintendent has proposed cost cutting measures that will force many students to travel by bus to another school to take band, choir and art classes.”

We continue to shift the focus of education from the bettering of minds and souls through the development of the ability to think and feel (through an immersion in history and literature and philosophy and logic and the arts) to trying to teach marketable skills.

Life without the arts — music, painting, sculpture, dance, poetry, literature, architecture — is life without beauty. Life without beauty is drudgery.

Is this the best we have to offer our children? Has anyone proposed cutting the football program? Or getting rid of the weight room? How about the boutique high schools with 3 assistant principals and better health insurance than anyone else in the state?

To quote the New Horizons website: Always among the highest expression of every culture, the arts teach us much about every historical period through its literature, visual arts, music, dance, and drama. Today it is recognized that to be truly well educated one must not only learn to appreciate the arts, but must have rich opportunities to actively participate in creative work. The arts are languages that most people speak, cutting through individual differences in culture, educational background, and ability. They can bring every subject to life and turn abstractions into concrete reality. Learning through the arts often results in greater academic achievement and higher test scores.

And an article from the New York Times from 1918, which is referring to literature directly, but which I believe addresses all of the arts as well as the times we find ourselves in:

“At a time when the habit of change threatens to unsettle all convictions and re-estimate all values, when war has concentrated the intelligence of the world on mastering the secrets of power latent in the physical forces of nature, when the readjustments of reconstruction direct attention to the practical needs of the importunate present, the American Academy [of Arts and Letters] wishes to record its abiding faith in those intellectual traditions and spiritual aspirations of humanity which in their sum constitute ‘the things that are more excellent.'”

Can’t say it better than that.

3 Responses to “Drastic Cuts”

  1. 1 jill
    March 23, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    Amen. I think this post says it all!

  2. November 13, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    I like this post but I don’t think it says it all. Too often the arts are associated with “beauty.” And I think that is so reductionist.

    Art is about much more than mere beauty. We can get along without beauty. We did for thousands of years. (I don’t think the Vikings or the Visigoths sat around worrying too much about beauty.) Art is about much more——it’s insight into the human condition, it’s a way to deeply analyze our problems and, here’s an important one, our SHORTCOMINGS. School administrators who say sports teach teamwork and discipline miss the point that art teaches that, as well as insight, self-reflection, deeper analysis of a situation, creativity, understanding of structure, history, sociology, craftsmanship…I could go on and on.

    There is plenty of art that is lacking in beauty——that’s ugly in fact. And I think that is a good thing. Art holds a mirror to the world——how do we learn today about past civilizations? Through their art. Ever think what the future will glean of us though our present-day culture? Ain’t pretty, is it?

    • November 13, 2010 at 5:42 pm

      I agree completely. I think anything that stimulates thought or self-reflection or an awareness of people or lives or cultures not your own constitutes “art.”

      Maybe what the present-day culture will reveal a lot about us; we might not like it, but at least it’s “true.” No?

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