The Value of Arts

April 29, 2018
By Guesswhojust BRONZE, Aurora, Colorado
Guesswhojust BRONZE, Aurora, Colorado
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

The arts and sciences are both a part of everyday life. However, there is a sort of false division between them, despite the fact that they need each other. Science needs perseverance and creativity, and the arts require discipline and rigorous practice. They both need observation and attention, and are used and needed to help the world. They teach patience and teamwork: they are not opposite and neither is better than the other- they are equal. However, the sciences are usually given top priority (just look at any American education system). This is despite the fact that, when one is submitting a resume, even if the job aimed for is heavily math-based, the application will not once ask to solve a quadratic equation or to discuss the importance of the mitochondria. One would need to write their skills and experience, write their way in by discussing their education and why they believe they deserve the job. But how would the applicant know? How would anyone know, when significance is placed heavily on the sciences? The arts should not be treated like they are the lesser part of education because that affects the treatment of both the sciences and the arts, physcologically affects the brains of the ones learning it, and diminishes the brilliance easily found in the arts.


The view works double-fold: while the sciences are raised up, the arts are brought down. Beginning in as early as kindergarten and carrying on to college, the order of importance is set. Generally, it is accepted: Ken Robinson, a British author and speaker, once said in a TED talk: “you were probably steered benignly away from things at school when you were a kid, things you liked, on the grounds that you would never get a job doing that. Is that right? Don’t do music, you’re not going to be a musician; don’t do art, you won’t be an artist.” And that’s how it goes: medicine, which is known to be one of the most difficult career fields, pays a very high income- and unless you are Rowling or Riordan, being an author would not be enough to make a good enough wage by itself. And it makes sense, one might justify, because it is years of medical school and residency and internship- writing’s just a hobby. But then, one can learn open-heart surgery and how to apply anesthesia- absolutely no one can be taught people, events, and worlds that came purely out of their own heads. And while we have actors and musicians just as we have scientists and mathematicians, as Ken Robinson said, “there isn’t an education system on the planet that teaches dance everyday to children the way we teach them mathematics.” In high school, for example, a math class and a science class are required even for those uninterested, but if one is not interested in studying something like drama, it is okay because it is not needed- it is a club, an elective, an unimportant part to the education system. This is all despite the fact that the arts are not just interesting or important, they improve the user’s brains.


One of my best friends, who takes an AP class and is in an advanced math class, still enjoys writing fiction stories during boring classes. I myself often draw during math class, and so do a couple of my other friends. An explanation may be found in a research paper written by Dr. Khan and a lecturer in biological sciences, illustrates how arts improve student life: “The arts reach students not normally reached, in ways and methods not normally used. (This leads to better student attendance and lower dropout rates.) It changes the learning environment to one of discovery”(Khan & Ali). Studying the maths and sciences is often about analytically memorizing and using different formulas. This is not necessary in the arts- it is not about memorizing facts, but about exploring different possibilities, giving an opportunity to extend across the choices the arts provide. And it is not too hard to see how art does all that- there is a wide variety of arts, each capable of engaging different parts of a person. Ice skaters and ballet dancers will get feet strained and full of blisters, yet keep going at it. People in band, choir, and theatre will spend hours standing and practicing- and do it all over again. Fashion designers and painters will stay up working, easily forgetting to do simple things like eat or sleep. The arts stretch those who practice them physically and mentally, teaching patience and determination. The paper states that “the arts provide challenges to students of all levels.”(Khan & Ali). Psychologically, these arts affect the students for the better- through them, one can learn to improve in different aspects of their choosing and bond with others over their shared interest. The students learn to develop themselves and their skills, which applies not just to the art of their choosing but to every-day life and other school subjects. Authors Khan and Ali write that “the Burton study of more than 2000 children found that those in the arts curriculum were far superior in creative thinking, self concept, problem solving, self expression, risk taking, and cooperation than those who were not” (Khan & Ali). It makes sense, of course: writing is easily a way of expressing yourself through story, and these forms of art are more than capable to help students with learning to solve problems both by themselves and with the help of others This provides them with an outlet, and encourages them to think outside of the box. The arts give the creative freedom to take risks and explore in a way that other things cannot. If they help so much, then, why is it that sciences are seen as the better side?


Sciences and maths stimulate the brain’s logical and critical thinking. With branches of the sciences like STEM around, students can learn so much more: it is needed to have them to help with learning. Victor Pereira, a Master Teacher in the Harvard Fellowship program, stated on an article on Usable Knowledge that “the nature of science itself is: make observations of the natural world, try and identify patterns, ask questions, find answers, ask more questions” (Shafner). And it is true: biology is the study of life itself, and chemistry is the study of matter- and everything's made up of matter. The sciences give the kind of teaching that no arts can, letting students learn about the world around them through details, learning different arrays of life. By focusing on the sciences, students can benefit from gathering knowledge about the world around them and learning to apply it. Science is everywhere and in everything, so studying it helps both in education and out, lasting until college and after. An author on Stem Village, a website for an online education program in STEM, writes that “we need skilled STEM experts to help develop the next successful antibiotic or cure for a disease. We need engineers and developers to create the next new phone or a computer that learns faster than a human” (Carmody). And is that not just one of the many wonders of science? We have all kinds of devices around thanks to the melting pot of science, technology, engineering and math put together to create them. Diseases have been cured and people’s lives have been saved through the studies of these different parts of science. Some of the greatest minds are people like Einstein and Edison, who invented objects and theories we still use today- using science and math, of course. The sciences are an important, even necessary part to life, and it should come to no question as to why they are given top priority.


If the sciences save lives and the arts give students something to do in their free time, then is it not obvious who the winner is? Helen Vendler, an Arthur Kingsley Porter University professor refutes that “books are still considering Lincoln’s speeches—the Gettysburg Address, the Second Inaugural—long after the events that prompted them vanished into the past. Nobody would remember the siege of Troy if Homer had not sung it” (Vendler). If scientific discoveries are great events, then writing is how they are immortalized. If mathematics make sense of the world, then art helps perceive it. The arts are more than fits of passion, they are the reason people showcase themselves with courage mixed with fear through the different ways that art provides. They bring about the attention to intricate details important to get a portrait to look just right, the love for something even if does not make as much money as a different job choice. Previous member of the Faculty Standing Committee on Admissions, Vendler, quotes a French poet that once said “art outlives the cities that gave it birth” (Vendler). People know Shakespeare for his plays’ brilliance, not for how scientifically accurate they are. Arts preserve things lost to history: painting of medieval Europe and sculptures from Rome that help us remember these civilizations. It is not just history that it helps- it is the present. Vendler writes that “the truth is that many future poets, novelists, and screenwriters are not likely to be straight-A students, either in high school or in college. The arts through which they will discover themselves prize creativity, originality, and intensity above academic performance” (Vendler). The arts show that having a 4.0 is not everything, that enjoying what one does is more important than getting an A on an exam. Many people want to be unique or believe themselves to be special- yet students sit in math and apply the slope formula, without getting a chance to maybe create their own equation. But just as being well- rounded is okay, so, too, should being lopsided. Excelling in the arts but being below average in sciences should be just as accepted as shining in the sciences but struggling to not fail the arts: It is a two way street, yet so often it is only the latter that is welcomed.


Will being the president of film club be nearly as amazing as being champion in a Mathletes team? Will having been in the Olympiad always look better than having won a photography contest? We need to see that excelling in the sciences is just as good as excelling in the arts- it is not about putting science down, but bringing art up. Weaving clothes and words is important to the world, just as helping those who are sick and inventing new machines is important to the world. By placing more value on art, in how one views are treats it, as well  as requiring classes for arts as much as schools do for sciences, maybe those who prefer one over the other can both be proud of their different fields of accomplishment.


The author's comments:

As someone with a mother who loves science and friends who are all about the arts, I get to see the divide pretty clearly. I'll go to Pre-Med club, then help with the art gallery, or go to my pre-health program, then come home to write up a story. I thought it was worth comparing the two sides- and seeing how much further we need to go in supporting the arts.


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