Like many school districts, the one in which I live with my family is facing a budget crunch. The school board introduced an operating funds levy to the ballot in March, only to watch it fail miserably at the polls. To balance the budget, programs had to be cut – and art classes were among the first to get the ax. The move begs the question: does the educational system foster future opportunity? No, it does not. Rather than embrace the future (and present, for that matter) job market, our school systems continue to favor archaic tradition over workforce preparedness. Idiotic laws like No Child Left Behind do not foster a diverse and capable workforce; rather, they strive to create carbon copy cyborgs from our moldable children by standardizing all aspects of education. Moreover, they emphasize the wrong subjects. One of the biggest peeves I have with the educational system as a whole is that, despite the fact that we live in a capitalist society in which the single most important factor to one’s success is money, so very little time is devoted to teaching our students how to make, invest, spend and save their money. It seems as though the ability to achieve as an adult – which should be the precise purpose of a childhood education – is not deemed important. Art classes not only foster creativity and individual expression, they also serve as the foundation for myriad well-paying jobs. Students who ultimately follow an art-driven path can find work designing graphics, websites, products, homes and buildings, public facilities, computer systems, and marketing materials. Art students do not necessarily become artists; they’re graphic designers, industrial artists, art directors, UI developers and engineers. Schools devote very little time to artistic pursuits (or scrap them altogether), while classes such as history are continually pushed on our children. I’m a bit of a history buff, yet I can’t think of a time when the countless hours I spent in history class have helped me professionally. The same goes for geometry and even English. The biggest issue isn’t the classes themselves, but which classes are part of an education that fosters future opportunity. Given the limited opportunities for those who pursue history, English and geometry in post-secondary education, we have to ask ourselves: does our educational system prioritize the right classes? I think not. I’m not saying that every student should receive heavy art training, but I am saying it should be available to those who pursue that path. Rather than memorizing bygone (and largely irrelevant) dates, students should be solving design dilemmas. Add in the fact that many history texts proliferate misinformation, and we have to ask what the point of history is altogether. The future is rife with opportunities for creators – the artistic-minded – and new opportunities continually emerge as technology introduces new platforms: mobile apps, augmented reality, 3-D printing, digital marketing. At the same time, those with history degrees largely face the same career opportunities: teachers and professors, museum curators and archivists, or some job that has nothing at all to do with their chosen education path. History can lay a foundation for good (and needed) jobs, certainly, but the sheer number of opportunities pale in comparison to those afforded by art. So why is there such a disparity between the two when it comes to education emphasis? We don’t need a legion of graduates in 2020 to know what year the Byzantine Empire fell or to erroneously believe George Washington couldn’t tell a lie. What we need is a smart workforce with individual strengths who can design solutions to problems – the foundation for which is laid in art class. It’s time for our government to stop standardizing education and to start allowing for regional and individual variation, to untether teachers from archaic curricula, and to foster a future in which variation in education allows for individual achievement and huge societal strides. It’s time to stop cutting art classes and to start considering art as a mainstream school subject that, for many students, can lead to fruitful and satisfying careers.
Art vs. History: Schools Are Funding The Wrong Classes
July 14, 2013
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