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Should fine arts courses be present in American schools?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 12/6/2013 Category: Education
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,118 times Debate No: 41821
Debate Rounds (3)
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This is my first debate on this site. I'm currently doing a project for my high-school Composition class about arts in school, and I wanted to get a better understanding of some of the arguments against having the arts in school.

First round is for acceptance and opening statements. Second round is for main argument, and third round is for conclusions/closing statements.


I accept this challenge and thank my opponent for this opportunity to debate.

As the term 'fine arts courses' may be unclear to some, I will define it here as "courses from the [fields of] visual arts, music, dance, theatre, and creative writing" [1]. I hope this definition is acceptable to my opponent (if not, he is free to modify it in his Round 2 argument), and I look forward to his arguments in the next round.

[1] University of South Florida;
Debate Round No. 1


Before I begin, I'd like to thank my opponent both for the opportunity for this debate, and for clarifying my definition of "fine arts". In hindsight, I agree that it was rather vague.

In my research of this topic, I noticed that a recurring theme, if you will, was that the arts programs were getting in the way of more important courses. "Education dollars would be far better spent teaching students to write and speak correctly, to understand math, to pursue scientific study, or to gain a fundamental knowledge about business. Very few students learn to appreciate good music from school music programs... Classical music is not something that is in their radar. Why should we taxpayers throw away money to perpetuate programs that students don't care about?" [1] While the quote only talks about music programs, it's a fairly reasonable assumption to make that these people (or at least this person) feel the same way about visual art courses in school. (To be safe, I'll provide the definition of "visual art": "The visual arts are art forms that create works that are primarily visual in nature, such as ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, design, crafts, photography, video, filmmaking and architecture." [2])

I will continue by stating that these programs "[Teach] children life skills such as developing an informed perception; articulating a vision; learning to solve problems and make decisions; building self-confidence and self-discipline; developing the ability to imagine what might be; and accepting responsibility to complete tasks from start to finish." [3] I'll extrapolate on this: The arts may take away time from teaching students what they should know when entering a career. That is a definite con of theirs. However, arts programs fill in the space by teaching the students about a hobby, passion, or activity that "Nurtures important values, including team-building skills; respecting alternative viewpoints; and appreciating and being aware of different cultures and traditions", and "Plays a central role in cognitive, motor, language, and social-emotional development." [4] To put that in different words, it's teaching them to be a more accepting, sociable, caring person, rather than teaching them material that will increase chances of success. It is fairly simple to see the hole in the previous statement, that being "...rather than teaching them material that will increase chances of success." I too thought that that seemed like a major flaw in the arts programs' credibility, until I remembered that programs such as these actually can make someone a better learner. (I'm no expert on this topic, but I have a theory that I'll touch on later.) Should my opponent ask me to present concrete evidence of this, I would urge them to "Take a look at 2004 scores of the Scholastic Aptitude Test as reported by the College Review Board. High school students who took arts classes scored consistently better than their non-arts peers. For example, in comparison to their non-arts peers, students who took music history or appreciation course work scored an average of 63 points higher on the verbal section of the SAT and an average of 41 points higher on the math section. Similarly, students in drama, art appreciation and studio scored significantly higher than their non-arts peers... Scores from previous years indicate similar disparities between the scores for arts and non-arts high school students." [5] I myself haven't taken an SAT, but I looked at some college acceptance scores, and they ranged from about 550 to 750. With this in mind, a 63 or 41-point boost would make a notable difference.

As I mentioned before, I have a theory as to why this occurs. My theory is based on the idea that humans can only learn about a certain topic for about 90 minutes at a time, which is why high-school courses are close to or shorter than that length. Breaks are necessary, and if that break is mentally stimulating (studies have shown that virtually all regions of the brain are active during a high-level music performance), then it keeps the brain running at optimal capacity. If these breaks are also helping build the values mentioned by citations 3 and 4, then all the better. To say this a different way, it is wiser to have a fine arts class that allows you to take in the information from the rest of your classes more effectively than to replace that class with an academic course such as math or science, as that class is just one more thing to focus on, and will therefore likely reduce the amount of information you take in from the rest of your classes.



[3] & [4]:



I thank my opponent for his arguments and apologize for the relatively late post, I have had a couple of major events going on in the last couple of days and was unable to write a concise argument at the time.


I will begin by acknowledging my opponent's main arguments (paraphrased for the sake of clarity), which were:
(a) Art classes nurture important values, and
(b) Art classes help students be better learners.

(a) Art classes nurture important values
My opponent states in his first argument that:
Arts programs fill in the space by teaching the students about a hobby, passion, or activity that "Nurtures important values, including team-building skills; respecting alternative viewpoints; and appreciating and being aware of different cultures and traditions"

Despite how accurate the evidence may or may not be, I would like to point out that the argument my opponent makes is not supported with any statistical evidence to ensure its validity. The source my opponent used to justify his argument, despite being a valid organization, also lacks any statistical evidence to prove the statement that art nurtures important values, including team-building skills; respecting alternative viewpoints; and appreciating and being aware of different cultures and traditions. Moreover, the source is Americans for the Arts Organization, which (if one is unsure based on the name) is a clear advocate of the arts, leading me to further question the impartiality of the source.

I continue my attack on this argument by stating that despite the fact that the arts may achieve the ideals my opponent stated, there are more apt alternatives for teaching these values than courses in the fine arts. For instance, my opponent cited "team-building" as one of the traits that fine arts aid in development. Yet, clearly there are some arts, such as many forms of music, visual arts such as drawing and painting, and creative writing that require little to no collaboration at all. Case in point: the Mona Lisa, one of the most well-known and admired paintings of today, was done singularly by Leonardo da Vinci [1].

Yet, when one thinks of "team-building" the first thing that comes to mind is athletics. Sports today revolve around cooperation and teamwork, and in the words of Michael Jordan (former NBA superstar), “Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships.” [2]. Clearly, teamwork is necessary in sports, much more so than in visual arts. As such, it would make more sense to join a sports team at your school (which clearly are in abundance) than to pursue a fine arts option to build team skills. And this is not all. Respecting alternate viewpoints? Join the debate team. Appreciate different cultures and traditions? Take a foreign language. Whatever fine arts has to offer in terms of building idiosyncratic values, there will always be a more efficient alternative.

(b) Art classes help students be better learners.
"Programs such as these actually can make someone a better learner."
I cede the point to my opponent that arts do help students be better learners, as I have no evidence to refute his nor do I disagree with the point itself. However, I ask of my opponent, how many students are fine arts really benefiting?

According to the very source my opponent advised me to visit, the 2004 SAT statistics as found on the CollegeBoard website, only 300,000 students take art for a year compared to more than 1 million students that take Biology, Algebra, Geometry, and US History each, as well as over 500,000 that take World History, American Literature, US Government, Chemistry, Physics, and many more each [3]. Clearly, this shows that while art classes may help students academically, their benefits are limited to a very small demographic of the student body.

I will expand more on why art only affects a small demographic in my arguments later on when I present my case.


Now, as I have contested my opponent's arguments, I will now present my own. I have two main contentions, which are:
(a) Fine art classes are not worth the cost that schools incur as a result of supporting them, and
(b) Fine arts are not nearly as beneficial to students as other classes, which should be emphasized more

(a) Fine art classes are not worth the cost that schools incur as a result of supporting them
9412sfpf1We have all seen or experienced budget cuts in school funding in recent years as a result of various issues (which are a debate for another day). In fact, according to a review of state budget documents done by the Center of Budget and Policy Priorities, 34 out of 48 US States analyzed are providing less per-student funding in the fiscal year 2014 than they did in the fiscal year 2008, with over a fourth of them having greater than a 10% drop [4].

According to a CAF (Campaign for America's Future) report published in 2012, the areas most hard hit by these budget cuts are early education programs such as kindergarten and preschool, class sizes (which have swollen exponentially), special needs programs (such as Advanced Placement or those that aid individuals with disabilities), and, of course, fine arts [5].

These schools and these districts that have been the hardest hit cannot afford to offer fine arts classes with all else that they are losing. Schools simply cannot afford to sustain art programs with the current budgets that they are provided, and therefore the arts must be cut when critical learning elements such as teachers, textbooks, and class sizes are on the line.

(b) Fine arts are not nearly as beneficial to students as other classes
Fine arts majors have the second-highest unemployment rates, with 16.2% of fine arts graduates leaving college without a job [6]. On the contrary, medical science, nursing, therapy, pharmacy, agriculture, education, engineering, and finance have some of the lowest unemployment rates, all ranking under 5% [7]. Clearly, these other majors are all more profitable than fine arts in today's economy. We live in a highly competitive society, and despite the idealistic values set forth by my opponent in his argument, we simply cannot accept this level of weakness in our economy.

According to a NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) study conducted in 2010, accounting, business, computer science, engineering, and social science majors led the field in both the number of jobs offered and and pay levels [8]. In order to remain competitive, as stated in the preceding paragraph, we must devote more time and resources to these fields in order to stay ahead in the global economy. Despite the ideal benefits that fine art classes provide, they are subjugated by the economic downsides.


[NOTE] I deeply appologize if I offended any who possess an art major, I assure you that it was by no means intentional, and was solely intended to facilitate debate.


Debate Round No. 2


Again, I thank my opponent for shedding light on the potential invalidity of some of my arguments. In defense of my character, I had created the argument before I posed the question.

I concede this round. My arguments were idealistic, and I failed to consider whether or not schools could afford them. I'm all for arts in schools, but I realize that cannot be a global possibility.

I thank my opponent for allowing me to see the standpoint of my opponents, this debate and wish him luck in the future.


abyssal7130 forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 3
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by abyssal7130 2 years ago
I deeply apologize for missing the deadline for Round 3, unfortunately I have had many things going on in the past few days and was simply unable to type up some closing statements.

That being said, I would like to thank my opponent for an excellent debate, and I would also like to let him know that he did indeed have some excellent arguments, and he could have certainly rebuilt them in his third round. I wish my opponent luck in his career as a debater on DDO.
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