As election season rolls around in the U.S., there are many subjects brought to light and one of the biggest hot button topics has to be education. It is easily glossed over by people who may feel it doesn't directly impact them or have the belief that everything is fine... the truth, however, is a bit alarming.
A recent study performed by Kent State University is worth checking out; the information might surprise you. Less than HALF of students ranging from elementary to high school are performing at their grade's expected standards. Even more upsetting is that, the number of below-standard students rises as the years progress, resulting in a shocking 74% of students who will graduate high school and not be at the educational proficiency expected for college.
What is the solution to solving a clear education crisis? Kent State University believes the answer lies in The Arts. As funding for schools plummets, the first to get the axe are, sadly, extracurricular activities such as music, theatre, art and dance - but can we really afford to lose these vital courses?
I got together with a few of my fellow staffers to discuss how important these classes were to us growing up and the lessons we still take from them today in our everyday lives.
For myself, I studied theatre, improv and debate. To this day, I will tell you that my success lies heavily on the lessons I learned in those hourlong classes each day.
Improv showed me to roll with the punches, to think quickly on my feet when the unexpected comes, and that success can only be achieved when everyone works together. In my day-to-day job I rely on my public speaking skills to engage with strangers, I am able to problem solve when something doesn't go as planned, and I know how to formulate my thoughts when I need to speak to a group or even prepare for an interview.
In addition to its use today, it was these class I looked forward to most in school. It was a time when I could free my brain from the pressures of numbers, words and formulas and just let my mind wander. There was never a wrong answer or a bad idea. I had a bond with my classmates who were all pushing for a common goal.
I look back fondly on the nights we took bows on stage in front of our peers much more often than the letters written on top of my paper or the endless bubble sheets I filled in. I graduated with honors in both English and Mathematics, something I truly believe I would have not achieved if it wasn't presented and encouraged to grow through my art classes.
A fellow staffer, Ross, also shared his experiences in school and how music helped him find his place in this world. Music was a part of his home and his upbringing and a daily occurrence growing up. At school he felt like an outsider and craved a way to express himself.
"At school, music was really all I had. I enjoyed English and Drama, but the passion was with my trusted piano and guitar. It was a way of sharing stories with people who would not have normally listened," he said.
For him, it was about a form of communication and a freedom from pressures and social depressions that would eventually inspire a career, a trip across the ocean and a lifetime of happiness and expression through music. It is frightening to think where he would be without the tools or educational support from his music teacher.
Ashley also had a unique experience. Music in school provided an outlet to express herself. It helped her bond with her father. Her favorite memories are class trips and moments when being a part of the band made her feel like a part of something greater than herself.
As a teenager, Ashley struggled to fit in but it was her music teachers that took the time to notice her and help her when she was at her lowest.
She noted, "The arts in general played a vital role in my education experience, and I honestly don't know who I would be without the help, guidance, and influence of my arts teachers."
As a mother now, she never wants her child to miss out on those opportunities she had.
Collectively, we all agreed - we wouldn't be the people we are today without the influences of The Arts in school, and it isn't just us.
Kent State University's study backs up our stories with facts. Facilities around the country that still teach music have a notable increase in attendance, grade point average and graduations.
It is time we stand up and make it known how important these classes are to the youth in the country; the future of education is not worth compromising. I encourage you to look into how you can help your local schools and ensure they provide this critical stage of education.
How have The Arts impacted your life? Share your stories and help us inspire anyone who still questions the importance of art in the classrooms today.
You can check out the full infographic here. It is certainly worth your time.