When schools are facing budget cuts, the first place to go is usually the art department. Excess money tends to go to sports since well built sports programs can bring money and prestige. In our tech-reliant world, schools are starting to place value on improving engineering departments. In 2013 the Chicago Public School system shut down 50 schools, in the process laying off 1,581 teachers, 10 percent of those who taught either art or music. These cuts are inevitable as public schools are strapped for cash, but undercutting artists in schools reflect how we as a society view our artists.
Funding academic departments is seen as more of an investment towards schools, which in theory will get them into prestigious colleges and land prestigious jobs, in turn benefiting the public school. This idea spreads the belief that artists are not sustainable members of society. These beliefs are pushed forward by elected officials.
Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin suggested that students studying French literature should not receive state funding for college education, saying that “all the people in the world who want to study French literature can do so; they’re just not going to be subsidized by the taxpayers like engineers will be.” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio said the world needed “ more welders, fewer philosophers.”
The work done by artists is incredibly monumental to society. Comedy routines from Dave Chappelle to Hari Kondabolu have furthered racial understandings more than any diversity day workshop. You can learn more about American history after listening to the “Hamilton” soundtrack than in a history class, or so the advertisements claim.The nation of North Korea launched an attack on Sony Pictures after the satirical (though not that funny) comedy “The Interview” was made about them. If the people creating art can’t pay their bills then we have a problem.
Cutting arts also affect the creation of future scientists. The GOP have consistently been trying to cut the budget of the Corporation of Public Broadcasting, a nonprofit organization created by Congress to fund public broadcasting. Public broadcasting pays for organizations such as PBS and NPR . Due to the low cost to consumers, PBS is most popular for its children’s programming, PBS Kids (“Sesame Street,” “Arthur,” “Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood,” etc.) that are designed help underprivileged children be on track for school. Cutting this program may hold back students, students who could have grown up to be scientists.
Society needs to value its artists. There’s nothing romantic about starving and worrying that you might be evicted. But amid the doom and gloom, there is hope for artists. Due to the high number of individuals applying to engineering departments, you are statistically more likely to get into that college you want.