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What are the disadvantages of having arts in the school curriculum?

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Jonathan Beutlich, M.A. eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12), Professional Writer

bookB.A. from Calvin University

bookM.A. from Dordt University

calendarEducator since 2014

write6,263 answers

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Tough question.  Honestly, I don't believe that there are any disadvantages to having art in a curriculum.  I think it is an integral part of teaching the whole child.  

Unfortunately, not everybody feels the same way, which is shown by how many schools have cut art programs from their curriculum.  I can lay out a few of those arguments for you.  

One suggested disadvantage is that running a robust art program is expensive.  There is some merit to this argument.  Art supplies cost more money that math supplies.  Many people feel that money should be spent on "reading, writing, and arithmetic."  Those are fairly cheap subjects to budget for.  

Additionally, schools right now are making big pushes toward STEM.  Science, technology, engineering, and math.  Given the choice between paying for art or paying for STEM, schools are choosing STEM, because that is the big push in education right now. 

Another possible disadvantage to running an art program is that art classes are generally not required courses.  That means class sizes are likely smaller.  That's great for an advantageous student/teacher ratio.  Unfortunately, budget wise, it looks like a teacher is being paid equal amounts of money to teach fewer students.  

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ws3 | Student

In answer to your question—“What are the disadvantages of having arts in the school curriculum?”—I propose that there are no disadvantages to including arts education in a school curriculum.

Sure, there are arguments made in favor of discontinuing arts programs in schools: the high cost of running an art program, the arts’ supposed irrelevance to core subjects (math, science, reading, and many humanities disciplines), and the smaller number of students served per art class. Yet each of these arguments can be countered.

In a 2009 study the average cost per pupil by subject for a given school district was broken down as such: Foreign Language classes, $564; Electives, $512; Science $446; English, $434; and Math, $328. Art classes would fall into the Electives category, and thus can be shown to be not prohibitively expensive if examined as a component in the entire school curriculum.

Another group of study results proves that offering a school-based arts program increases not only proficiencies in reading, writing, and math, but that it raises graduation rates and achievement levels on standardized tests. These studies also demonstrate that schools have fewer disciplinary infractions and increased attendance when there is a functioning arts education program.

Many artists—including visual artists, writers, musicians, and dancers—were accomplished in other fields of inquiry outside of their artistic practices; think Leonardo DaVinci and his designs for machines (engineering) or his knowledge of human anatomy (biology). Having some artistic training can lead to discoveries in areas of core study. Many of the greatest physicists of the 20th century had artistic interests; Richard Feynman played the drums and danced at any opportunity.

The same 2009 study cited above reveals that AP (Advanced Placement) and Honors courses require more funds per student to operate. These courses are generally attended by a smaller number of students than “Regular” courses. Remedial courses are also attended by smaller numbers of students. If numbers-in-attendance becomes a rigid criterion for a course’s inclusion then it follows that the brightest and the most in-need students will be offered fewer academic opportunities.

Making art, and other elective courses, unavailable presents a dangerous narrowing of the education system, one that penalizes difference and seeks to produce a limited range of learners and a restrictive breadth of knowledge. An invested and responsible sense of choice in directing one’s education can lead a student into new areas of interest, which could lead to unthought-of careers. 

In a world saturated with information, audio, images, and content it is economically foolish to discontinue students’ art education. It is creative workers who produce all of this content and all of these images.

Art is one of the oldest human endeavors. There are cave paintings that date from 40,000BCE; art making may predate language use. Denying such an integral part of our collective experience to students would mean cutting them off from an area of expertise that is unique to our needs and is, and has been, practiced and supported in every human society.

heulian | Student

It is difficult to argue the disadvantages of incorporating the arts into a school curriculum because usually art and its inclusion in school is seen as a positive addition.

Of course the financial cost of incorporating art into a curriculum could be seen as some as negative or a disadvantage however, it is difficult to not then argue that other subjects are costly thus negative for the curriculum.  

Requiring students to participate in art who are not interested is perhaps a disadvantage but it seems that optional participation usually how art programs in schools are run.  In lower grades a brief art period may be a requirement thus, to those that don't enjoy art this may be seen as a disadvantage for those particular individuals.  However, again this is a difficult argument to make because participation is subjects a student is not interested in teaches students how to cope in the many situations they will face where they will not enjoy what they are doing.

Art is enjoyed by so many students and has so many advantages however, the main disadvantages of employing art into a curriculum would be the financial cost, requiring students to participate when they have other interests, and the idea that certain forms of art can be seen as "recreational" and therefore art does not have a place is a school system which is based strictly on learning without creativity and the other gains an art program can provide.