In this era of hard budget choices, many cash-strapped schools have put arts programs on the chopping block. The stated rationale usually is that arts programs aren’t “essential.” Such statements, are, I think, code for “no one has to draw or paint on standardized tests, so we can cut arts programs without putting our rankings on those tests at risk.”
I believe that cutting school arts programs is a disaster not only for schools and students, but also for parents. The most treasured items in my office are pieces of artwork that the kids have created over the years. Some of the artwork has been created at home, but a lot of it was the product of a school arts class where the kids were assisted by a friendly and patient arts teacher who provided encouragement, ideas, and plenty of available arts supplies. My office would be so much poorer without Richard and Russell’s various paper mache, wire, clay, and paint and paper creations.
The most impressive thing about kid art is its absolute purity. The creative impulses flow out, unrestrained by notions of form or style or color conventions. A horse might be blue and a house might be purple because that is how the child wanted it to be. And when you look at the result it works, and it cannot help but bring a smile to your face.
For that reason, kid art continues to be happily displayed years after the papers that get an “A” are tossed in a box and forgotten. Parents of children in school districts where arts programs have been eliminated don’t know how much they are missing.
I recognize that math and science are important, but we live in a world where success often is the product of creative thought — be it the creative thought that leads to new invention, like the iPod, or to a new approach to providing a service, like Federal Express, or to some other product, movie, literature, or process improvement. Why in the world would we want to cut the one school program that is specifically designed to help children tap into their inner creativity and express it?