The fact that the arts are essential to life is a concept oft-repeated in this column, as is the idea that exposure to the arts is a necessary component of education. Well, guess what! Ohio Governor John Kasich agrees with me. He said so in his State of the State address on April 6.
Well, he didn’t exactly state “Marilyn is right” in his State of the State, but he did recognize that arts education is critical to a “well-rounded education.” When discussing the subject, the Governor said that he will recommend expanding STEM education to all grade levels; the letters in STEM stand for science, technology, engineering and math. But he went on to say, “Personally, I like to call it STEAM… to add a capital A for the arts.”
Here’s more of what Governor Kasich said in his address regarding the subject: “Any student who’s going to succeed later in life, including someone choosing a technical career, is going to need creative skills and know how to apply critical thinking. Those skills are best developed by exposure to the arts.” After pausing for the the big round of applause that followed his statement, the Governor smiled and said “Science, technology, engineering, math and the arts. Arts community, did you ever think you’d see a conservative Republican say this?”
Following the laughter that ensued, the governor remarked “We believe it; because these are all essential for success in twenty-first century careers.” And I say, “Thank you Governor Kasich, for recognizing this truth!
Statistics show that, regardless of socio-economic status, students with an art-rich education achieve higher test scores and grade point averages and have lower drop-out rates. SAT scores for students with four years of art and/or music education in high school are on the average 100 points better than those of youngsters who only get one semester of such study. And, as the Governor pointed out, exposure to the arts sparks creativity and innovation, skills sought by business leaders and prospective employers. Beyond those very real advantages, the arts inspire and ennoble us, helping us express our values and build bridges between cultures, bringing people together across various boundaries including age, ethnicity, religion, social status, and even time itself.
Government support of the arts is not new, having famously occurred in ancient Egypt, Greece, and Japan, as well as in medieval and Renaissance Europe with glorious, lasting results. Today, state support of the arts represents less than one tenth of one per cent of budget expenditures. The return on this minuscule investment is tremendous; the arts help communities prosper, not only through direct contributions to local economies, but also by contributing to the perceived vitality of a region and acting as a magnet for businesses. Funding the arts pays off in ways seen and unseen; whether they realize it or not, almost every citizen benefits from the arts in some way even if they never attend a concert or view an art exhibit. Ohio’s governor understands that, and we can all be grateful for his insight.
Marilyn Delk is a director of the Darke County Center for the Arts and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Viewpoints expressed in the article are the work of the author. The Daily Advocate does not endorse these viewpoints or the independent activities of the author.