EDITORIAL: N.J. cares about art, just not enough
Eagleton poll reveals residents are divided regarding funding
One of the oldest debates involving education has surrounded the topic of whether arts education within the classroom is necessary in curriculum. People have posed arguments for both sides, making this issue one of the most cliched topics middle-school students write a persuasive essay about. But recently, in New Jersey, the conversation has shifted slightly after surveys issued by the Eagleton Institute of Politics were conducted throughout the state. According to the results of the survey, 90 percent of people living in New Jersey believe that having arts education as part of a school's curriculum is important. By looking at this number, one would assume that the age-old debate has been practically resolved and that there are no longer divides in the opinions of people regarding wanting to implement more arts programs. But the rest of the poll indicates otherwise.
Although New Jerseyans seemed to show unwavering support of the arts, only half of residents indicated that the arts were just as significant as any other subject. For example, when compared to English, 53 percent felt as though the arts were just as important. Compared to science it is 50 percent, and so on.
The biggest jump in numbers came when the conversation of the poll revolved around the topic of involvement in the arts. More than 50 percent of people in New Jersey reported that they had never taken a child to an event, fundraised or donated, volunteered or shared something on social media within the past year that had any relevance to arts within their local community. But despite this, almost 80 percent of students take part in arts education. Still, only half of New Jersey students feel as though their school does not allocate enough spending to arts education. The disparities within these numbers speak volumes about the evolution of this debate.
The problem here is not the realization that the arts are important. As the 90 percent have clearly stated, there is no issue in recognizing the significance of the arts. Instead, the underlying issue here is that despite this knowledge and recognition, people are not taking action. Whether this is in the shape of actually participating in art-related programs and events or recognizing that there is a lack of funding for the arts in many education programs, the concern stops at the identification of the issue. And this must be rectified.
People can argue that because they are interested in careers and education within STEM fields, the fate of arts programs and education is none of their concern. But this is untrue. When Rutgers puts natural sciences as part of its core curriculum for students in the School of Arts and Sciences, it recognizes that even someone who studies art needs somewhat of an education in science. The same can be said in reverse. The arts are a vital part of the humanities, and just as its label suggests, they are important to the molding of a well-rounded student.
Students need to realize that there is much more to be done than simply pointing out that arts are important. If you feel that something should be taught in school, whether or not it adheres to your area of study, you should be advocating for it. If everyone merely championed for their own field, then we would lose important aspects of the people within our society.
Arts education is not just about painting and singing — but rather fostering a creative sort of intelligence within students. And if you realize how important this is, you should speak on it.