Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal announced that No Child Left Behind is, quite frankly, not helping students become more proficient in reading of math. Instead, they are at a standstill. Educators and politicians alike are grappling with what we should do to make sure this generation receives a top-notch education. Indeed, education as a whole is a difficult political topic to face as hyper-competitive America is forced to deal with the fact that it is not number one at everything.
There are those who think we should focus more on science and math and forgo other topics. However, a recent Edweek article revealed that there are also those who are trying to push the arts into public school curriculums where science, technology, engineering and mathematics (or “STEM”) have been put at the forefront.
The reasoning behind STEM is simple: make sure children are prepared to engage productively and successfully with our forever-evolving technological world. However, by leaving the arts behind, curriculums that enforce STEM are depriving these children of a truly balanced education, which could be damaging to them.
I agree with those who believe that an arts education is just as valid and important as a science/math education, and I think it would be a true disservice to exclude the arts from a K-12 education. Students need to exercise their brains in different ways as they develop to make sure that they gain the skills they need to function in our diverse society.
School is about learning what our strengths are. School is not necessarily about memorizing facts or being able to master calculus. I don’t remember the intricate details I memorized for my AP world history class and I certainly wouldn’t want to take a stab at algebra II, let alone pre-calculus and beyond.
But I don’t think I “failed” high school, and I don’t think high school failed me. Instead, I learned that I am a writer, not a scientist or mathematician, and I learn visually and through interaction. Luckily, I was afforded an education that granted me the ability to discover this. My hope is that future generations also have the ability to see their strengths. They deserve a well-rounded education so they can pick out their strengths and challenge themselves by confronting their weaknesses. They deserve to be treated like human beings and not like robots being trained to out-smart other countries. Once they discover their talents, they can carve out a future that is suited to them.
I don’t think America has anything to gain from trying to force everyone to study math and science extensively while cutting out the arts. Some people are quite frankly not able to master these fields, and it does them a disservice to force them to try while simultaneously denying them the ability to improve in what they enjoy doing and what they want to do in the future. After all, we can’t have an entire generation composed entirely of mathematicians, scientists, and technology gurus.
High school is about experimenting. How can students experiment when a crucial section, the arts, is missing? Will future generations not be able to learn discipline from dance class, an appreciation of song lyrics from music class, the ability to express themselves on paper through art class? I know I would not be the person I am today without these classes.
I agree that the government should be looking for ways to reduce spending. This is not it. Introduce vouchers for schools and actually hold schools accountable for the money they receive. But do not take away the arts. They are an essential part of education, and we cannot afford to lose them.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons