As the School of Music searches for its next dean, issues facing the arts in higher education are coming to the campus’ attention.
Last week, Jamal Rossi, one of three finalists for the position, visited Ithaca College to discuss what he would bring the the table if selected as dean. He said spending cuts in public schools have reduced arts education for young students. Those cuts, combined with a national focus on science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM programs, make it difficult for institutions of higher education to recruit students for arts programs.
The No Child Left Behind Act declared art a “core academic subject” alongside math and science, and President Barack Obama publicly voiced his support for art education. Still, according to a 2006 report by the National Assembly of State Arts Agencies, art programs in public schools are continuously being cut. The report found that poor, rural and inner-city schools are losing arts programs more than other schools.
During his first State of the Union address, Obama promised 100,000 new STEM teachers over the next 10 years. Last week, a bipartisan group of senators introduced an Immigration Innovation Act that would increase the number of STEM visas for highly skilled, American-educated immigrants to stay in the country. While STEM education is critical to building the next generation of American scientists, engineers and mathematicians, leaving arts education behind means sacrificing cultural awareness and shortchanging our education system. We must give arts and creative learning a place in early education as well as higher education.
The creativity that comes from integrating arts into public education is critical to creating leaders in all fields who can think outside of the box and express their ideas in a variety of platforms. Early education programs that ask students to think about more than facts, numbers and dates will aid them in higher-level thinking that is necessary to succeed later on. By allowing students the opportunity for self- and creative expression, arts programs provide a framework for individuals to be innovators and forward-thinkers.
While public initiatives to foster STEM education in the U.S. will help encourage students to fill open jobs in science and technology, educators must find ways to include creative learning in their classrooms.