Guest Commentary

Caroline Meek: A high value for arts in education depends on fully funding schools

The Arts Club at Sumner Academy of Arts and Science in Kansas City, Kan.
The Arts Club at Sumner Academy of Arts and Science in Kansas City, Kan.

“How can we turn our back on an endeavor which increases our children’s cultural intelligence, heightens individual sensitivity and deepens our collective sense of humanity? I suggest to you that we cannot.”

— Alec Baldwin

I’m a sophomore at Sumner Academy of Arts and Science, and lately I’ve experienced firsthand what can happen when our education plays second fiddle to other priorities. Being involved with theater and choir, I speak for my fellow students when I say that programs like these change lives and should not be taken lightly.

America values a good education. And rightly so, as it is an essential component in maintaining a functional nation. Children grow into adults, rising to take their places in the business world; to do so, they must be educated. For this reason, it is logical to say that a sizable emphasis should be placed on our schools. This value, however, appears to have become trivialized in our state.

With recent budget cuts for schools, it is hard to believe that quality education is being encouraged. One example of an unbalanced structure can be found in the difference in the funding of affluent areas versus under-resourced ones. Cutting millions from finances further exacerbates the situation. In a nation whose banner cries for equality, allowing students to receive less-than-sufficient education goes directly against our core values.

Even if a district has enough funds to support the “basics,” such as English and math, students’ learning will not be complete without opportunities to be instructed in the arts. Even if they were merely a “nice thing to have,” there would still be ample rationale to warrant investing more resources into such programs. However, the arts are more than just a luxury to be discarded during setbacks.

As William Bennett, a former U.S. education secretary, put it, “The arts are an essential element of education, just like reading, writing, and arithmetic…music, dance, painting, and theater are all keys that unlock profound human understanding and accomplishment.”

The recent news that Sumner’s theater classes are being discontinued is tragic for students, and Sumner Academy of Arts and Science will not be the same for those of us who have dedicated hours to the program. The performing arts help students discover and express themselves; studies in areas such as music have been proven to improve students’ memory, learning and more. At the least, equal and adequate funding for core academics is indispensable. Support for the arts is just as important.

Raising generations to be prepared is something that cannot be neglected. What would a multimillion-dollar phone company be without the creativity that inspires their innovative designs? Or a successful car business without the actors and actresses who appear in their commercials? Are we to sacrifice originality for blind functionality and assume that America can operate on a black-and-white equation for success?

There is no growth in cutting down the green sprouts. An action that forces schools to discontinue programs such as theater is not a step forward. “Logic will get you from A to B,” Albert Einstein once said. “Imagination will take you everywhere.”

America is a growing nation, and students need creativity and self-expression just as much, if not more, than the ability to solve a math equation.

We must support those who represent the future of our country by making education a priority. Failing to do this is hindering the success of our children and nation. Every student, every school, and every district should be taken into account, so that no one is deprived of the complete education that will equip them for the world we live in.

Caroline Meek is a student at Sumner Academy for the Arts and Science in Kansas City, Kan.