How a Cotton Turkey Changed My Life
A philosophical reasoning behind keeping art in public schools
When I entered 3rd grade the elementary school I attended had just built a new area for for the music and art department. By my 5th grade year, the school cut down to one each art and music teacher; Mr. Troutman and Ms. Yarrick. The same happened once I finished middle school. By 8th grade two art teachers went down to the lonely Mr. Thomson. Music was only available to those who signed up for the band. And, 8th grade was the only chance you had to take Drama with only one teacher who ended up quitting because of her workload. There was no dance or creative writing, but we did have three detention teachers.
By the time I entered high school I noticed the decline that was happening in arts. My drawing teacher, Mr. Adams, also taught Graphic Design, Painting, Art Appreciation, and headed the Art Club.I dropped a drama class because the teacher was so depressed this was her last year. The school district was dropping the theatre program and she could barely hold it together in class anymore. Not only did she suffer but her students did as well. The one saving grace was that she could come in and volunteer, unpaid, as the head of the Drama Club after school.
Now that I’ve gotten older I realize how important those art and music classes in my elementary years were to my development. Did I do better in math or continue on to college because of it? Not at all. What Ms. Yarrick and Mr. Troutman taught me went beyond painting and drawing...beyond Do-Re-Me-Fa-So-La-Ti-Do. Those classes taught me that brushstrokes and shading will be used differently in pieces. Notes change progressions in different songs. Life presents us with a different canvas every day and the notes or brushstrokes we did the day before may not necessarily work for the following day.
The next time you go to a city center or even out in nature look around you. The billboards, the anti-arts-education-funding advertisements, the designs on your Starbucks mugs, the rings in the trees, and the design of your car were all created by an artist of some sort. Art isn’t just important for creating enticing visuals or words for consumerism, it’s important for thinking outside the box and solving problems in our personal life’s. It’s been shown that the arts teach an attention to detail that can make or break a business deal or help you in finding your way back to a trail if you’ve wandered off for some reason. A simple thing like which line should be drawn first in a drawing could shape our future leaders to make the changes we need them to make.
Remember the three detention teachers I mentioned earlier? Even in those earlier years I thought it seemed odd to have more adults to do the reprimanding than to teach something as pleasurable and invaluable as art. Now, I look at numbers, in the U.S., and see a trend of funding violence (defense). In 2013 the United States spent nearly $1 trillion on the national security budget. Compare that to the federal government’s budget of $64 billion on education that same year and things seem out of balance.
What really struck me about this is the disadvantage those in poorer school district’s face. Since the inception of ‘No Child Left Behind’, students from these poorer school districts never scored higher than better-off districts--not at any age or in any state. Never. And, these are the schools where arts education funding is the first to get cut. Why not take a little of that $1 trillion and dump a little more into our education.
“If kids want to do art/music so bad then they can do it at home” is the number one argument I see against keeping art in schools. So, we’re saying to move children out of a supportive learning environment and away from their peers because we feel it is unimportant? This statement is ridiculous. Take that same argument and replace ‘art’ with any other subject. We are in an Internet rich time where we can learn to make a bomb or change a tire, so why not learn English, Math, or Science on our own time? Because, and is true for any subject, nothing can replace the classroom experience.
I can’t remember which grade but it was elementary school. Other than the library, Ms. Yarrick’s art class was one of the quietest classes I can remember being in. While making turkeys during Thanksgiving with cotton and wooden clothes-pins I compared mine to others in my art class. We were all too engulfed in the magical land that creating a turkey took us to make a sound or act out like children do. I ‘d imagine mine dragging its cotton wings on the ground and gobbling through a forest I’d never been to before. Then I’d look over at my classmate’s turkey and pretend I came across her’s in the woods. It brought my work to life while relating to other children in my class. This moment shaped my view of the world I’d refer to for the rest of my life...and it all happened in a mandatory art class in my public elementary school.