Monday, November 5, 2012

The Value of The Arts

When I woke up this morning, I had no idea what to write about today. Fifth day of NaBloPoMo and my ideas are already running dry? Rough. And then I stumbled across an article in The Atlantic and knew what I wanted to blog about.

Should Science Majors Pay Less for College Than Arts Majors?

My degree in theatre and I both say, "No," followed by a resounding, "Go to hell." And that was the polite phrasing.

Basically, a Florida task force is recommending that the Florida state university system find a way to lower the cost of tuition for students majoring in topics "in high demand by Florida employers." So probably math, science, technology, business, et cetera into eternity. The Atlantic goes on to present a bunch of different possible problems that could arise out of actually implementing these recommendations, but really what it comes down to is that our society is continually devaluing the arts and that infuriates me to no end.

I had the privilege of being able to take a Creative Drama course during my undergraduate years in the literal birthplace of the Creative Drama movement, Evanston, Illinois. Theatre, and Creative Drama specifically, allows people to live out situations that they might never have been confronted with and offers the opportunity to see the world through someone else's eyes, if only for a few minutes. Children benefit from exposure to the arts. Evanston public schools have a mandatory semester of Creative Drama every year from kindergarten through eighth grade. After observing in several of those classrooms, I can say with the utmost certainty that those children were some of the most understanding and cooperative children I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

There is such a move these days toward standardization in education and frankly I find that tragic. Apparently, I was one of the last graduating classes from my public school district that actually had some say in what classes I took and how I wanted to spend my time in school. My sister, currently a junior in high school, is constantly frustrated because she feels like her teachers and administration aren't listening to what she wants. She has no idea what she wants to do after high school and is nearly always feeling the pressure to decide. She loves to make things, to learn, to meet new people. She is also incredibly budget-conscious. There is no doubt in my mind that she would have a terrible time studying something she absolutely loved knowing that she would be paying less if she were studying something that the government deemed worthy.

And that perhaps is the crux of it. No one should be able to define what is valuable when it comes to education. I am tired of having to defend my decision to major in theatre to anyone and everyone. I am bone tired of people sending me articles that list "Theatre" as one of the least employable majors, and that's not even taking into consideration that most of those lists only consider acting when they think about theatre.

Education is a valuable thing. Education is also a deeply personal thing. You have to want to learn. You have to be excited about your studies. If you're not, then it's a waste of everyone's time.


  1. I have to admit that I didn't click over and read the artice you linked. I'm afraid if I did, I'd just get blindly angry. Just wanted to say that I agree with you that studying the arts, or history, or anything else, is less valuable than math, science, and engineering, or whatever it is that some people deem more "relevant" or "realistic" or "valuable to society".

    When I was attending community college back in the early 1980s, I knew a woman who was studying engineering. It was rare enough back then for a woman to be studying that, that I asked her one day how she got interested in engineering. Her answer was that she wasn't interested in it. She said she hated it, but "there's more money in it." I thought tat was just sad.


  2. You hit the crux of the problem. This is some people in government legalizing the devaluation of certain groups of people...again.