Tennessee schools need art programs. Offering arts programs in K-12 provides many positive outcomes. First, art programs help children through self-expression and self-confidence. They strengthen cultural understanding, communication, identity and, for primary age specifically, also recognition. Art programs help with motivation and teach children to embrace and grow after failure. Contrary to what is commonly seen in STEM-focused subjects, learning from failure in a creative field tends to be more productive.
Although Tennessee has established academic standards for fine arts education, the guidelines the state follows date back to 1994. However, the issue of support for arts programs goes beyond regulation. Many see art programs as “less productive” than STEM. But when we look at the results that creative programs have on students, it’s extremely evident how beneficial they are to children in their emotional, personal and academic growth.
The fine arts are extremely sensitive and beneficial to children’s development. Many studies prove this. In the elementary grades, visual arts help to better recognize and identify shapes, colors, and sounds; develop stronger communication skills; and provide emotional outlets that are healthy and productive. In middle and high school, the fine arts become especially important for self-expression and understanding. Offering the arts to students this age creates a safe space for them to explore their identity and how they express themselves. The fine arts provide the foundations for confidence and acceptance that STEM education cannot provide.
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STEM – short for science, technology, engineering and mathematics – subjects are the main focus in schools, with many schools becoming specifically STEM institutions. Although STEM and general education courses are academically important, they lack many of the foundations on which fine arts courses are built. STEM courses do not offer many of the positive outcomes of arts courses, yet they are still more supported and seen as a better use of time and funding.
This may be true for high school-age students considering college or others working in STEM-related fields. However, children of all ages need a balance, and focusing only on objective and uncreative subjects can be detrimental to students’ emotional maturity, sense of self, and overall satisfaction with the school system. School systems, administrators, and teachers need to do a better job acknowledging the benefits of the arts. It is important to maintain and adopt the fine arts in the curriculum to provide children with a well-rounded experience throughout their educational career.
Growing up in rural Tennessee, the only art program I was offered in elementary and middle school was choir, with no other art classes or majors in my high school. School board members and teachers in Tennessee need to be further educated on the constructive impact arts programs have on students. I believe that if my classmates and I had offered better fine arts courses and opportunities, a greater acceptance of people from different cultures and backgrounds, greater self-acceptance, and maturity would have resulted. better emotional. Without the fine arts in schools, children miss out on key developmental skills that will help and benefit them throughout their lives.
Jenna Hudgins is a student at the University of Tennessee. She grew up in Rockwood.