The art of the matter

Mill Stream Staff and Bella Murdock

In a time where standardized tests and numbers on transcripts are used to determine a high school student’s worth, students are not being taught the value of the arts. Occasionally, students take art classes as “blow-off” classes because they don’t feel like they have to try to get an “A.” But some students know they just need their two arts credits to graduate, so they take ceramics or 3D art to fill up their schedule when they don’t want to take “challenging” courses or they want a little GPA boost. They don’t appreciate the arts because they don’t think they have the talent for it or that it’s useful. However you don’t need to be completely involved with something to appreciate it. What those students don’t realize about art classes is that they are very beneficial not only the people who actually are passionate about art, but to everyone.

Things like painting, music, dance, and sculpture help artists say more than they could in what may be considered a conventional way. For those students who are devoted to an art, being able to express themselves in a way that feels right for them is what makes the arts so powerful. Not only do students use the arts to grow, relate to one another, and express themselves, they also give people something to be passionate about. Without passion or direction as a high school student, it’s pretty easy to start to feel lost. With all of the current talk about career paths and colleges, there’s a lot of pressure on teenagers to know exactly how they want the rest of their life to play out. Having something consistent, like a musical instrument, for example, gives students a wholesome way to pass time, and they will possibly find a career or hobby to hold onto for life.

If students were taught to treat the arts with same amount of respect as other branches of electives or sports, maybe funding for art programs wouldn’t get cut as often. Schools all over are turning off the tap when the budget gets tight because they prioritize sports, STEM, and medical programs. In some places, the football team gets a whole parade for one game, while the orchestra room has broken bows and chipped instruments. Sports do require lots of hard work and rigorous practice, but so do the arts. Show choirs have 24+ hour days for competitions where participants get to the school at 3:00am and come home around 3:00am the next day. Marching band works their butts off in the hot sun all summer perfecting their show. In fact, both marching band and show choir work so hard, they now qualify for a PE credit. And yet, the respect for the athletic department dwarfs the attention given to arts programs — even with the all of the successes in competitions the arts department racks up. This is not to say that the arts are more important, or the other programs are less valuable, but the inequality in their appreciation says a lot about the education system and its values.