Hello! As some of you may know, I am going to Front Range Community College part-time to earn an associates degree in business. This spring I decided to get my English credit out of the way. I signed up for ENG121 with Andrew Blade and rediscovered my love for the written word. What follows is the persuasive essay I wrote for that class. I thought it was worth sharing. Enjoy!
Cure for Society’s Ills: The Arts for Everybody
Violence. Misunderstanding. Bias. Hatred. They are all around in our culture. Something isn’t working, and we all suffer the consequences. How can we better prepare our citizens to be caring, productive members of society? Surprisingly enough, the answer may be engagement with the arts.
Exposure to the arts encourages the “…balanced intellectual, emotional and psychological development of individuals and societies.” (UNESCO). It helps us to think critically and creatively, learning to think for ourselves and see a range of possible solutions for any given problem. Frustration and despair can be products of restricted thinking: if you cannot see a way out of an unpleasant situation, or if you can only see one way out. That often leads to discord and violence. Practicing any of the arts, however, gets people in the habit of stepping back, assessing the situation, and reflecting on possible solutions. It is simply part of the process of making art. A society of people who habitually assess and reflect cannot help but be fundamentally different, responsive rather than reactive.
Data collected from art programs in prisons bears this out. Studies of California’s Arts-In-Corrections (AIC) program show that inmates who participated in the arts had statistically significant increases in “life effectiveness skills measured by the attitudinal scales: Time Management, Social Competence, Achievement Motivation, Intellectual Flexibility, Emotional Control, Active Initiative, and Self-Confidence.”
(Brewster). The longer they
stayed involved in the program, the more they improved and the better able they
were to rebuild their lives after release from prison. Artist-prisoners were
also much more likely to seek out other educational opportunities available to
There are also benefits for people who are exposed to the arts without actively participating. The experience of taking in a performance, piece of writing, or a physical piece of art such as a painting or sculpture “presents a perspective on reality that challenges preconceived ideas and makes kids look at something from outside their comfort zone.”
Seeing the world through someone else’s eyes, trying to understand their
experience, what it must be like, can only lead us to become more compassionate
towards others. If we learn to imagine ourselves in another person’s situation
and understand how they got there, it is much more difficult to hate them, no
matter how we feel about their actions. Compassion seeks to understand and
assist, very different from judgment and condemnation.
Children and teens who are involved in the arts are more likely than their peers to finish school and be successful. According to Karen LaShelle of Creative Action, “Those who participate in the arts are more likely to do well in math and science and be involved in civics. They benefit from social-emotional learning that helps them manage their emotions, be aware of themselves and succeed later in life.”
(Smits). That can make a huge
difference, since “72% of business leaders say that creativity is the number
one skill they are seeking when hiring.” (Americans for the Arts)
I know a lot of people think that the arts are a waste of time and money, especially when budgets are strained. There are many other, seemingly more practical subjects we can invest in, like science or vocational training. Those subjects are valuable and should not be ignored. But a balanced approach that includes education in the results in citizens who know how to think and feel, solve problems, express themselves, and actively contribute to society on every level. Involvement in the arts “enhances social adaptability and cultural awareness for individuals, enabling them to build personal and collective identities as well as tolerance and acceptance, appreciation of others.”
(UNESCO). Aren’t these the
qualities we would like to find in our neighbors, children, co-workers,
The next time funding for the arts comes up in conversation, think about what it means for us, as individuals and as members of society. Are you satisfied with the status quo, people reacting with little thought and no awareness of how their actions might affect themselves and everyone around them? Would you rather see another school shooting or a student production about the difficulties of navigating our culture? Will you support practices that help all of us become better human beings and more conscientious citizens? Like everything else we value, it does cost money to fund the arts. Take the time and energy to talk about this vital issue. Can we afford to support the arts at all levels, for all people? We must find a way. It costs us too much as a society not to.
Americans for the Arts. https://www.americansforthearts.org/by-topic/arts-education/10-arts-education-fast-facts. 6 November 2013. 24 March 2019.
Brewster, Larry. "http://www.cjcj.org/uploads/cjcj/documents/brewster_prison_arts_final_formatted.pdf." 2014. cjcj.org. 23 March 2019.
Smits, Jill Coody. "Why all parents should care about art education." The Washington Post 28 July 2017.
UNESCO. http://www.unesco.org/new/en/culture/themes/creativity/arts-education/. 2012. 22 March 2019.