Dear future president:
There are many social concerns that have required reform in our country since its inception. These include male superiority, political injustice, poverty, and racial injustice. A concern that might not be considered as important is an issue involving the arts: specifically the performing arts. The performing arts have been a vibrant sector of our country since our nation began. Rarely does one come across a person who has not viewed or participated in some form of the performing arts. In the lifespan of America, the performing arts have developed and shaped cultures. It is such a rich part of American Heritage, and yet I feel that the performing arts are being politically and financially overlooked. I have a proposal. Our nation needs to take action. We need to value the performing arts with funding. I’m aware that this concept may seem vague, but let me enlighten you further.
One example of the devaluation of the performing arts is the saddening truth that children are simply not being exposed to the performing arts in their early and adolescent education. According to Valeriya Metla from Law Street (TM), in 2008 more than 80% of schools nationwide experienced major budget cuts. Due to these cuts, by the 2009-2010 school year, only 3 percent of schools allocated funds for dance classes, and only 4 percent taught theatre. When it came down to making tough state decisions, the performing arts were the first to go. I now ponder on the question of why the performing arts are not being financially prioritized in our public schools. Clearly, the federal government is not helping our country keep arts programs in our schools.
Another illustration of the government devaluing the performing arts, involves the low salaries for those who dedicate their lives to the performing arts. Broadway performers dedicate their entire lives to perfect their art. They begin their training in elementary school, work endless hours to get accepted into respected college programs, move to a big city to pursue their dreams, and travel from audition to audition for years. The rare few that at last achieve their “big break” make as little 1,509 a week after years of training. This is the equity union minimum for Broadway performers. Exceptional performers who never make it on Broadway, but perform in smaller venues, cannot survive on their artist salaries alone. According to payscale.com, the average teacher makes around the same amount right out of college. They have never had to perfect anything, and they make as much money as people who have been training their entire lives. Engineers can earn an average salary of $66,890 at the beginnings of their career. A lawyer can go through a three year law program and earn an annual salary of $133,00! Why do performers go through such effort for such a non-rewarding salary? Why don't performers become engineers? It’s a lot less effort than training seven days a week for a lousy salary! The answer to this question is simple. It is because performers are driven by their passion. And they believe that the world is a much better place with art in it. I believe that the government should value their passion as well.
Finally, the last example of the government not valuing the arts involves the fact that performing arts are not accessible to all social classes in our nation. According to The Los Angeles Times, in June of 2014, the average price of a Broadway ticket crossed the 100 dollar mark. For most families price makes a Broadway show completely inaccessible. I believe that seeing Broadway performances should be a practice that all people can access. Everyone should have access to the highest quality performance our nation has to offer.
It is clear from my statements that the United States government is not prioritizing performing arts programs. In this country the way we demonstrate value for something is to allocate funds toward the cause. I propose that the government should be routing funds to support arts program in public schools, creating ways to help struggling artists financially and developing funding programs to increase accessibility to professional performances to all people. You might ask, however, “ What is the return on this investment? Why should the government value the performing arts? Why should the government prioritize the performing arts with their funds?” According to The Washington Post, students who study the arts in school are statistically proven to have better standardized test scores. We live in a global economy, and compared to other countries the United States is no longer producing the most educated children in the world. The literature is pretty clear that children who study the performing arts and are exposed to the performing arts, overall have a higher intelligence and go on to higher levels of education. This is a great service to our country. Of course, the performing arts also add rich cultural experiences to our lives. People feel emotions they have never experienced before. Dance, singing, and acting help shape people’s perspective on life. They teach people life lessons that result in personal discovery. You cannot capture that value in dollars. I believe that every American should have access to these discoveries. This is a topic I am clearly very passionate about, and a topic our countries officials need to consider.