By: Chris Long
Look at the class list at Heritage and one will notice the trend of the last few years, the cutting of arts electives. Heritage opened without many of the normal art electives. While other schools previously had a wider selection of courses, they have cut their arts electives, mainly because of lack of funding. One art class that has taken the hardest hit has been orchestra. Heritage opened up five years ago without an orchestra, but many schools in Wake County have been cutting orchestra teachers, making the few remaining teachers rotate around to many different schools, while some schools cut the program altogether.
Cutting arts programs does not only exist on the local level in Wake County, school systems all over the country have cut art programs, and the resulting consequences could be negative. According to ed.gov, in a survey done on elementary schools all around the country, the amount of schools with theater and dance classes dropped from 20% to 3-4% in only ten years. The two main reasons for the cuts to art programs include the No Child Left Behind Act and budget cuts. The No Child Left Behind Act mandated that the core subjects, English/language arts, social studies, math, and science, be considered most important and should be the main concern of students passing. Due to this mandate, many schools decided that their arts programs could no longer be sustained. The other reason for cutting art classes is because of budget cuts. Schools lower their budgets, and often the first classes to go include the art programs.
The alarming statistics about the cutting of art programs lie in the fact that according to dosomething.org, countries that currently lead the world in academics, like Japan, the Netherlands, and Hungary all require art education programs in order for students to graduate. Test scores in the US continue to lag farther and farther behind these countries, and while many people blame it on the course content, or the courses taught in the US, the real problem many argue is the courses that are not taught in the US, mainly art electives. For example, according to dosomething.org, elementary school students involved in music classes show greater brain development and memory improvement within a year than children who do not take music classes. Perhaps the committee reviewing Common Core in North Carolina should keep these statistics in mind while re-writing the academic standards for the state.