In recent years, a lot of attention and funding has been given to educating our nation’s youngsters in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math (aka STEM). Arguably, this focus is for good reason since careers in these subjects are high paying and competitive.
But what about the arts? Not every student wants to be an engineer, doctor or scientist. And even if a student wanted one of those STEM careers, what’s wrong with teaching him or her how to wield a paintbrush as well as a stethoscope?
With the priority on STEM and other core subjects, an education in the arts has often been treated as a luxury, especially when schools have limited budgets. The New York Times reported in April that a number of low-income public schools in South Bronx and central Brooklyn put arts educations on the chopping block due to spending cuts.
But now, in an announcement from mayor Bill de Blasio, New York City will be spending a whopping $23 million to boost arts instruction especially in undeserved middle and high schools in next year’s fiscal budget. According to Metro, the spending plan also allocates $5 million for the hiring of 120 certified teachers, $2 million to launch a support team in each borough to guide hiring and curriculum, as well as $7.5 million to spruce up facilities (some of which are dilapidated) at schools.
“For too long, we had underinvested in arts education and cultural education in our schools,” de Blasio said. “And it was time to right that wrong and do something aggressive about it.”
A well-rounded education is essential. Research shows that the arts encourage students to stay and succeed in school (as we’ve seen at the fictional William McKinley High on Glee). The arts also improves academic performance — including higher grades and scores on standardized tests — regardless of socioeconomic status.
“For people who think that the arts is another way to waste time or to build in something else, that’s not what it is,” schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña told Metro. “The arts, in many, many ways — particularly in middle school — make kids come to school.”
Maybe one day, our nation’s attention on STEM will be redirected towards STEAM instead.