According to an article from Usnews.com, public schools in the United States are experiencing a decline in art programs. More than 80 percent of school districts across the nation have faced budget cuts since 2008. Another source, Sfasu.edu, says art departments are the first to experience these cuts.
David Durbak, an art professor at Palm Beach State College, expressed his thoughts about the necessity of art programs, especially in liberal arts schools.
“A liberal education has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with ‘liberal’ meaning the classic sense of being well-rounded,” Durbak said. “It gives you the opportunity to have several different types of academic studies in order to make you a more well-rounded, well-educated, liberal thinker.”
Durbak also mentioned funds from U.S. taxpayers as a contributing factor to the disappearance of art courses.
“In any state, in any government, you have a choice: you can have low taxes, or you can have quality government programs,” Durbak said. “Lately, America has been choosing low taxes. If you have low taxes, you have no funding.”
Another factor involves art’s counterparts: science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also known as STEM programs. According to 2018 statistics by the Pew Research Center, employment in STEM careers has grown 79 percent since 1990, from 9.7 million to 17.3 million, exceeding overall U.S. job growth.
Tiffany Gardner, an art teacher at Bessemer City Middle School in Bessemer City, N.C., explained why school districts prioritize STEM jobs over art.
“[Art] is not as lucrative of a career,” Gardner said. “You’re not going to go start making a set salary; you’re not going to do anything like that, so that’s very discouraged in schools.”
Gardner also said public schools teach students how to pass state regulated tests instead of encouraging creativity. These tests do not include any art portions; therefore, art is not a major concern in classrooms. She believes that this fact hinders a student’s creative inspirations.
“A lot of the time, kids are not creative anymore. I spend half of my time teaching them and challenging them to think outside of the box,” Gardner said. “Because [teachers] teach to the test, [they] take away all of those creative aspects which takes away their ability to think that they can do creative jobs later in life.”