To Halloween lovers, October is when you get your fill of horror movies, costume parties, candy, and, more specifically, scary stories. Because they are nothing more than just urban legends, we get a kick out of the novelty of creepy chronicles.
But, do you know what’s really scary? A true story. The one I’m about to tell you is bone-chilling. People are disappearing; an epidemic is spreading. In fact, it’s already permeated Indiana. If it gets much worse, we might end up with a dystopian society without any original thoughts or freethinking. What tale from the dark side is this? No, it isn’t a George Orwell novel – it’s the decline of arts education.
The number of teachers is dwindling. Almost every state in the U.S. has seen a decline in the profession, not just from baby boomers retiring, but also from a lack of new incoming teachers. According to the Indiana State Department of Education, the number of new teachers receiving licenses has decreased by about 20% in the last year.
Potential new teachers are being driven away by constrictive requirements and severe budget cuts. Teaching positions are now harder than ever to fill, forcing schools to use substitute teachers for an extended amount of time or bring back retired teachers until someone is hired. Listen to this issue from the teachers’ perspective here.
As mentioned in the video, standardized testing has taken priority in the classroom. Demands placed upon teachers include incredibly high expectations that can cost them their jobs if they don’t meet them. Cathy Fuentes-Rower, a parent who attended the Indiana legislative hearing regarding the teacher shortage, testified with a powerful message. “You cannot say you respect teachers when every single thing they do is micromanaged by having to prove themselves with data. You cannot quantify joy, creativity and critical thinking. My children are not numbers.” Read the whole testimony here.
Children are missing key means of development in their education from misappropriated focus of test scores. Despite the No Child Left Behind Act requiring art to be part of the core curriculum, two-thirds of public school teachers believe that the arts are getting crowded out of the school day, according to Americans for the Arts. Children are lucky if they have music or art class once a week.
With less time in these classrooms, students lose their chance to gain a new role model that fuels their passion for the arts. People go into teaching because they want to make a difference in students’ lives. Many renowned musicians and artists credit teachers as mentors who always believed in them and why they continued to create art. These mentorships instill confidence and support students’ creative endeavors.
Without arts educators, some of our favorite artists might not have been encouraged enough to create some of their greatest works. With the teacher shortage, current students are already facing this reality. Is this the kind of nation we are going to become – artless?
We can escape this Twilight Zone episode through arts organizations. After school programs, opportunities such as Heartland’s Three Rivers Choral Festival, and even discounted student rates to exhibitions and events are aimed at keeping the arts in children’s lives.
In partnership with local schools, educators receive additional support from arts organizations to cultivate children’s participation in the arts. By entering into these new projects, students are exposed to creative pursuits and continue to design, compose, and write for generations to come. Together, we can make art happen.
This true American horror story doesn’t have to end in tragedy; there’s still time for a plot twist.