Sadly these days, it’s pretty common to see entire schools districts without any music or arts teachers, or adequate funding for supplies and instruments. This situation leaves many educators scrambling to integrate music and arts into other areas of the curriculum – often paying for supplies out of their own pockets. They know their students deserve the opportunities to learn music and arts, and they’re forced to take it upon themselves to make it happen.
So how did we get into this dire situation? Unfortunately, federal laws passed in 2001 officially tied standardized tests results to federal funding, and imposed severe corrections on schools where goals were not met. These corrections were so harsh, they included repercussions like complete removal of all faculty. Seriously – every single teacher could get fired if students didn’t perform up to predetermined test standards. Survival of schools relied on math and reading test scores, so principals and school boards around the country were forced to reallocate resources toward these “core” learning areas, leaving the arts (and many other important subjects) effectively cut from curriculum. As Biggie once said, “No music, mo’ problems” or something like that…
Since 2001, the problem has continued to get worse. In May this year, plans were announced to cut funds for the Education Department by 13.5 percent, or $9.2 billion. Although this money is not earmarked for arts cuts in particular, in already ailing school districts, these lost funds will be accounted for by cutting “enrichment” subjects – you guessed it: music & arts.
How did we drift so far as to nearly smother out the joy of music & arts education? The problem is rooted in public perception. To many, the arts are considered a luxury, when in fact, many scientists and educators consider them essential.
The arts stimulate brain development. For very young children, shaking a tambourine or moving a paint brush helps develop motor skills. And by elementary school, making art (as any parent can attest to) gives children a passionate subject to talk about, which aids language development as they eagerly explain the story told in their art.
The arts also improve the areas of the brain that process math. “Learning music improves math skills because, at some level, all music is math. It’s about time signatures, beats per minute and formulaic progressions. Performing music, therefore, reinforces parts of the brain used when doing math,” according to Brain Balance Achievement Centers.
Both music and arts are important for older students, too. The Florida Department of Education cites studies and overwhelming data showing that students who take more arts classes have higher academic achievement in all measures and are less likely to drop out. When you consider that creating art and listening to music helps to decrease stress and boost moods, it’s no wonder kids that kids exposed to the arts are more likely to stay focused and in school.
Music and arts education matters beyond just the school years. When students learn music and art, they learn to take risks, generate ideas, and make decisions. They become “the kind of people society needs to make it move forward, [they] are thinking, inventive people who seek new ways and improvements, not people who can only follow directions,” says MaryAnn Kohl, an arts educator and author of numerous books about children’s art education. In essence, when we train kids to think creatively, solve problems, and be in tune with their feelings, we’re helping them become good citizens – the kind of future leaders who will determine our collective outcome.
Music and arts education are vital to success – success as individuals, and success as a society. It is time to change this devastating downwards trend that’s slowly eliminating creativity and expression. So, we’d like to introduce ourselves. We are Inspired, and we are on a mission to eliminate the funding gap for music & arts education. We believe all children should have the opportunity to learn through instruments and art supplies, regardless of where they come from. We believe all people who want to help support these kids should be able to, without obstacles and restraints. And most of all, we believe we can truly change the world for our next generation.