Thursday, July 22, 2010
Fine Arts Department Budget Cuts, What it Means for Your Child and What You Can Do as a Parent
I am sure you are aware of the nationwide trend of downsizing, even eliminating, art programs in schools.
What is not entirely known is the impact of removing the fine arts from the education of children.
'Champions of Change, the Impact of the Arts on Learning' is the most comprehensive study on the subject of students involvement in the fine arts and how it relates to academic success.
The study builds a strong for students achieving higher levels of academic success and in higher overall numbers when involved with fine art.
Per the study:
- 82.6% of 8th graders earned mostly As and Bs who were involved heavily in fine arts versus 67.2% earning As and Bs who were not.
- 30.07% of the respondents who participate in fine arts performs community service where only 6.28% of the respondents who do not participate in fine arts perform community service.
- Students who are not heavily involved in fine arts have more than double the chance of dropping out of school by the 10th grade.
- 56.64% of the respondents who participate in fine arts read for pleasure where only 34.Chances are you will a handful of musical instruments in good condition gathering dust in a garage or attic.
These are only some of the findings in this study.
Fine arts help teach students far more than how to draw roses in a vase, or how to play the violin.
They help stimulate the creative part of the child's mind, teach discipline, instill a sense of pride, accomplishment, and self-worth.
These attributes not only help students do better academically, but do better in their adult life, with their career, their new family, their emotional well being.
So what do you do if your child's school has had major cuts in their art program?
Your first option is, of course, private lessons. You need to be cognizant of the pros and cons in this option.
Lets look at the pros first.
First, due to budget cuts and pressure for schools to ensure their students score well on standardized testing (oddly enough the students who are involved in the arts score better on average) the arts get less attention that other subjects in school. Thus the quality of instruction suffers.
Another plus in private fine art education is that your child's success is directly tied into the instructors income.
A public school teacher who has half of their art class receive failing grades will still be paid the same at the end of the week.
The equivalent in the private art instruction world would mean a bankrupt business in a very short order.
Providing private art classes is a business. They must produce a good product or risk not being around in the future.
The major con to private lessons is of course if you cannot afford them for your child.
Private lessons cost money. Knowing the benefits of a child being educated in the fine arts, I would happily drive a less luxurious car, or eat out less often to ensure their fine art education.
However if you are living on a fixed income this may not be an option.
To wrap up this point, private lessons are great, often better than what is provided even in schools that have ample art and music budgets.
An alternative solution may be needed if you you are on a limited budget.
There are things that you can do to help your local school raise money for their art programs.
First and foremost is fund raising. This can be gone about in a variety of ways.
For example in my high school in Burbank California a parent spoke to executives at NBC studios. Weeks later, NBC donated high-end production and editing equipment for our high school. Everything for the fine art of film making was at our school.
Long short or no, local businesses or celebrities should not be ignored when trying to solve this problem. In return they get good PR.
Of course you have the traditional events to raise funds. A car wash, garage sales, silent auctions, etc.
The real make break point for the above types of fund raisers is having the right person in-charge to ensure that all the details are taken care of and everyone is doing what they are supposed to be doing.
If no one shows up to the car wash because no one knew about it, it won't do anyone much good. Nor will the dozen cookies at the bake sale.
Organize and communicate.
I know a good amount of people. More pertinently I know people who know more people than I could ever hope to know.
When confronted with the difficult task of refitting your schools classical music program with instruments, it can seem overwhelming.
On the other hand, with a group of hundreds of students and adults it looks like this.
An email/phone call/mailer goes to your network about the problem.
Get your network to scourer their homes and the homes of people they know for instruments to donate. Last year I gifted a nice classical guitar that had been idle for years to a school.
Perhaps you find a few instruments in great condition that have been sitting in closets and garages untouched for 20 years.
Then invite everyone with a pulse and $20 to a bowling fund raiser. You make $20 for everyone who shows up. 50 people show. There is a $1000 right there for new instruments.
The following week target local businesses and parents in your network to gift items of worth for an auction. You get kids to pass out fliers and put up posters around town, put up announcements in craigslist, your local paper, and of course make sure everyone in your network knows and that they are telling everyone else.
The auction is a success raising $3,000.
When you have enough money for the instruments have the kids study hard and put on a fund raiser concert, charge $10 and put the money aside. Somehow someone will manage to lose a tuba.
It is plain to see, a dedicated group can accomplish much more than an individual.
What happens if your school is so strapped for cash and so over crowded that they cannot afford the fine art teacher let alone the space for art classes?
And what if there are no reputable private fine art instruction schools local, or you cannot afford them at this time?
At this point you have to take matters entirely in your own hands. However you are not entirely alone!
There are products on the market, that for a low cost, can still help educate your child in the fine arts.
Here is an example, for a onetime payment of $30 you can have you child take online violin lessons with Violin Master Pros.
There are also online lessons and DVD instruction programs for other musical instruments, writing, drawing, and more.
Any will be far more productive than another evening of video games or cable TV.
Beware of asking uncle John - who plays the piano - to teach your child. If someone demonstrates knowing how to do something well, it by no means demonstrates they can teach it well!
Bad lessons can very quickly turn your child off to the arts. Even if a huge donation is made to the school and the arts are saved, it will do little good if your kid is sour on the arts.
All in all our societies viewpoint must be changed in regards to how important the arts are to our children and our future.
It is irrefutable, children perform better on standardized tests when involved in fine art. Yet many schools will cut art and music to focus on getting better scoring results!
A small fraction of this nations defense budget could easily pay for art and music programs nationwide.
Many parents have the viewpoint, 'if it is not reading or arithmetic then what real use is it my child'?
Yet in the top science schools in America all have a extensive fine art programs in their universities for a reason. It helps students perform academically!
It is our job as parents, budget cuts or no budget cuts, to ensure that our children receive the fine art education that they need.
If we don't do it for our children, who is going to?