The school year is starting again, and we are reading about school boards who decide to cut budgets by cutting arts  and music education.

I wonder how much of this is elitist, where the superior educated school board figures the hoi polloi doesn’t need such things.

When I was a doc living in a Pennsylvania coal town, the board decided to cut art education…we held a protest, and in a town of 3000 at least 200 parents came, and one by one we saw blue collar workers get up and say how the art teacher helped them to love art and how much they looked forward to art class.

And this reminded me of my oldest adopted son who could not close the grief of his parent’s death, but found expression in art and photography. I could follow his healing, as his pictures turned from black and angry to bright designs, and his photography started echoing the beauty of the Appalachean countryside. No, he could not express his heart in words, but art helped him to heal.

Actually, I am for teaching kids the basics of math and English. But I wonder how much of the emphasis of getting rid of frills decreases the ability to learn even these subjects.
Recent studies show that music training increases the ability to concentrate and helps with coordination…so even above and beyond the joy of music there is a “Mozart effect” that encourages the mind to learn  other things:

The arts also teach that neither words nor numbers define the limits of our cognition; we know more than we can tell. There are many experiences and a multitude of occasions in which we need art forms to say what literal language cannot say. When we marry and when we bury, we appeal to the arts to express what numbers and literal language cannot. ..

Finally, the arts are about joy. They are about the experience of being moved, of having one’s life enriched, of discovering our capacity to feel.

There are deeper things to learn about the world than the flat mechanical worldview of bureaucrats who worry more about children passing a test than in children learning the wonder of numbers and words and music and design.

My step daughter, a professional artist, puts it this way:

I have a Christian world view which leads me to think that the most beautiful art in this world is only a dim reflection of what is to come…


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest kind Clinic and Fishmarket. 

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