Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Arts and Education

The arts and humanities remain as important gateway experiences that lead to important learning opportunities for citizens. Accordingly, a range of commentators, scholars, and active citizens have been pressing for new and sustained efforts to increase the presence of the arts and humanities in American society. Of course, in a struggling economy, the arts and humanities face serious challenges.

James Vaznis’s Boston Globe article Study Urges More Arts Classes dwindle in Higher Grades” addresses the decreasing presence of arts in public education and its effects. According to Vaznis, the arts have been lacking, particularly in high schools, and most of the emphasis is being placed on testing. As a result, the arts are the first to go during budget cuts.

The decreased support for the arts has led some observers to call on the president for a larger financial commitment from the U.S. government. John Cavanagh, E. Ethelbert Miller, and Melissa Tuckey’s Nation article Stimulus: One Percent for the Imagination focuses on a petition asking Congress to spend one percent of the stimulus package on the arts. According to the article, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) created by the Franklin D. Roosevlet was helpful in creating jobs for low-income communities and artists. “The WPA created jobs for more 40,000 artists, musicians, writers and theater workers who were paid a living wage to create public works of art.”

Notably, the article also mentions how support in the arts could in-turn support black communities. “Money should be set aside to develop creative writing programs at minority and historically black colleges; currently, no creative writing program exists at any black college. This would create teaching jobs for many African-American authors.” With funding and Congressional backing, larger numbers of citizens might be encouraged to pursue careers in the arts.

--Massinga, Smith, Rambsy

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