As a high school student having participated in several art programs in my school, I am aware of how vital they are to my education and will become to my future. Yet, people such as Harvard President Drew Faust state: “Funds have been cut in more than 80 percent of U.S. school districts since 2008. The very first programs to go are often disciplines such as music, art and foreign language”. While I am privileged in this area, I have come to recognize some schools do not share the same fortune. What I have in good arts programs is not the case for many students in schools around the country who face the struggle of budget cuts, and have the arts first on the chopping block. It is clear that schools are suffering, having to cut the arts from their electives and extracurricular activities while funds continue to go towards the athletic programs. I am quite lucky to live in a school district that takes art and music programs seriously; they have had such a positive influence on me in terms of my attitude in a competitive setting, how it affects my behavior, and ultimately how that shapes my future. I would like it to be known that the arts have such a great influence on students and should not be neglected due to budget cuts, especially for sports.
One aspect of art programs that is essential to students is the positive attitude implemented in them. When students enroll in art programs, they are encouraged to have a mindset that competition is important when improving, whereas athletes are motivated to win for the sake of victory. David A. Feigley, Ph.D, a member of the Youth Sports Research Council, was analyzing the way coaches implement how important or unimportant winning is. Feigley states that, “The essence of sport is striving to win; without that attempt, the activity is of a different nature. For example, if two athletes of dramatically different skill levels are playing tennis, often the superior athlete will begin to teach the less skilled athlete. While admirable, teaching is not sport. Two individuals on a golf course who are more interested in being together as friends change the situation from competitive sport to a social interaction” (Feigley). Feigley is telling his readers that without winning, their sport loses its overall purpose. Feigley's argument is clear when he says that “teaching is not a sport”. He is proving that in sports, an athlete is working for their own sake - their own glory - despite the fact that the whole team feels like they benefit from the win. In the end, students are encouraged to only better themselves because after all, there is only one MVP in sports. In contrast, the arts have a far more constructive outlook on competition. It is false to say that the music department isn't competitive because having participated in it for the past five years, I can tell you that there is competition. Students strive to be first chair, receive first division ratings, or place high in a competition. The difference in musical competition is that it is not conducted the same as sports. In events such as Solo and Ensemble, band/choir/orchestra festival, and marching band, music students prepare a performance and receive a rating from adjudicators. While bands do receive a first, second, or third division rating - a very strict tier system - these placements have a greater influence on students than telling them they are the best or worst. After performing, the judge will not only give a rating, but the students receive feedback to improve their skills. For marching band, our school does not go into a competition with our eye on the first place trophy - to be frank, we’re happy to get anything but last. Our goal is to perform better with each performance and with that, make it to State Finals where we can display the success that came from our productive concept of winning. In music, students gain an attitude that competing is not a matter of winning or losing, it is a matter of critiquing the the exhibited skills of students to become better at what they do. This is different than sports, and in my opinion, it is more beneficial. Yet schools don’t like letting go of sports, and unfortunately when the school is running short on money, the arts programs must be cut. One of the many reasons I think this is a mistake is because the attitude towards competition is much healthier in arts programs.
Once a student develops the attitude necessary for success, it will automatically improve their behavior as well. When a music student enters an adjudicated event they go in with an open mind willing to take constructive criticism from an adult. This is not only building their ability to improve, but it also teaches the child how to act with maturity when interacting with adults. Additionally, students are encouraged to be respectful to other competing bands, respectful to judges, and respectful while watching other performances. In the event of solo and ensemble, a student's performance might deserve a second division, however, the judge may give them a first because of the way the student applied their feedback, and the way they presented themselves prior to performing. Just as music students learn respectful behavior, other students involved in art programs are less likely to be involved in violence because they can have a safer outlet for their emotions through their work, and motivation to improve. You see, sports are not only competitive in the way mentioned earlier, but they also include physical contact. What is the result of competition and physical contact? The result is violence. According to the Frontline article, High School Football Players Face Bigger Concussion Risk, “football players suffered 11.2 concussions for every 10,000 games and practices” (pbs.org). Seeing the amount of injury in football, America's most popular high school sport, is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to athletic violence. Take a look at hockey, one of the most violent sports, and not just by accidental injury but intentional fights breaking out so often that it is practically a part of the game. According to hockeyfights.com, a website dedicated to recording fight statistics in the NHL, there are 1,230 games in a regular season. 288 of those games include fights, 50 involve more than one fight, and the total number of players that participated in those fights was 269 players. The conclusion can be drawn that if a player is upset about something that took place in a game, they release their anger by hurting others. Some people may argue that sports are a good outlet for violent people to blow off steam but all that is doing is teaching the child to channel anger into violence, which can easily carry out of sports and into real life. Because of the self-competative, motivation driven nature of the arts, students benefit socially and physically in terms of their behavior.
Both attitude and behavior are two important influences the arts succeed at providing for students however they are meaningless if they don’t do what is truly important for the future of our country and that is to provide a successful future for our youth. It is a proven fact that students participating in art programs in their school perform better academically than those that are not involved in the arts. According to the National Association for Music Education, “Students who have experience with music performance or appreciation score higher on the SAT. One report indicates 63 points higher on verbal and 44 points higher on math for students in music appreciation courses” (NAME). The arts do not only benefit a student's grades, getting them to a better college, but they also builds the creative element to their brain that is so necessary for any meaningful job. The most important aspect here is that students are gaining skills that will carry them through a lifetime, whether they continue in the art field or not, the arts will improve a student's learning skills and be more likely to transfer over to the career they choose. When it comes to athletics, only a small portion of high school athletes continue with their sport. With the youth being such a vital part of the country's future it is important that they are influenced by skills that will prosper.
It is evident just how important it is for educational funding in art programs to be a greater priority. Without funds going to the arts, so many students are missing out on the opportunity to nurture creative brain activity instead of suffering possible brain trauma in a sport that doesn’t progress past high school. Arts programs have taught me integrity, not a hunger to win. Art programs have taught me respect, not belittling others. They have helped me carve a path for my future with skills that will prosper in any field. While funds continue to support the athletic programs, many schools are forced to drop art programs when in the end, these programs have far more value. As President, I hope that you take into consideration the development of the youth in the future of our country, and what their influences and opportunities are. Without a doubt, arts are the way to go.