In an eloquent article reprinted in the Washington Post (see http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/wp/2014/09/29/why-the-kids-who-most-need-arts-education-arent-getting-it/), Michael Sokolove persuasively argues that the emphasis on standardized testing in public schools has often come at the expense of the arts. Schools spend so much time and effort on preparing students in reading and math—the primary focus of most standardized tests—that there is little room for art, music, and theater courses or teachers. In New York, for example, 28% of all schools do not have a single full-time arts teacher, and the figure rises to 42% in lower income neighborhoods.
Yet, the skills encouraged and enhanced by art classes—creativity, insight, expression—are exactly those which could be and often are the most beneficial to our society. Critics of the so-called “Corporate Reform” movement point out that many of the wealthy individuals leading the push for more standardized testing are doing so primarily to ensure a steady supply of competent technical workers, but the irony here is that focusing solely on the “academic” subjects leads to the kind of static, fearful work setting that causes such tragedies as GM’s failure to address the ignition problems it knew about years before most of the injuries and deaths occurred. And let’s not forget that companies which foster an open, less button-down atmosphere have often been profit leaders.
Supporting the arts is not just the right thing to do for abstract, “double-rainbow” kinds of reasons; it’s smart business and patriotic. The stereotype is that only tortured geniuses gravitate to the arts, but if we want creative, innovative, problem-solving citizens; we need to make sure that everyone has art exposure. We need more articulate advocates for just that, and I would encourage everyone to read this essay by Mr. Sokolove.