Last summer, as you may recall, the art critic for the Indianapolis Star
expressed the view that cutting art programs was a good way to help balance
the IPS budget because art programs for young children are relatively
useless. I wrote a letter to the editor which was not published, but which
was forwarded to Mr. Mannheimer. I received a response from him which was
far more reasoned and which, I felt, raised some legitimate questions about
the ultimate effectiveness of elementary art classes. I presented the
original article, my letter and Mr. Mannheimer's reply to my eighth graders
and asked them to respond. I urged them to be totally honest. The results
were so wonderful, I sent them all to him, and, just in case you have had a
bad day recently and might wonder what you are accomplishing, I'd like to
share just a few of their comments with all of you.
"If you think the art programs in the IPS school system are not very useful
or enjoyable, or that students don't profit from them, then you should work
out the quirks! If you don't find an art program worthwhile, that is no
reason to cut it out completely. Find a more qualified teacher, or change
the art program around a bit. A good art program is an essential part of a
school curriculum. From my art classes, I have learned many things, such as
how to look at the world from different perspectives, and unique ways to
"Art classes teach you more than just how to draw and how to color. They
teach you how to appreciate Art, all of the Arts. I don't think my interest
in music would be as great without art classes."
"I know that my wide knowledge in art and art history would not exist
without my school art programs. My talent would not be fed and therefore
put to waste. I might not even have discovered it without my art teachers,
and I am not the only one. With a teacher who knows what he or she is
doing, I have seen other students put forth their best works that make them
feel proud. If other school art programs are not up to the standards of a
community, they should ... be...improved so that a child such as I might
have a chance and future in art instead of (being) ignored or brushed aside."
"I strongly believe that the art program should be kept. I agree that it is
not being funded enough, so the idea and picture of art is being distorted.
People are thinking that art is drawing pictures with crayons and markers
and paint. Art is a way of expressing oneself."
"Even if a child is not going to be an art major...an education in art is
still good. It changes the way you look at a piece of art when you know
what is going on in it."
"When I went to Europe I had a much better understanding of the artist's
intention and the controversies in the art world at that time. This made
the experience so much more valuable...
My art work has also helped me in other subjects such as history. The
artwork from the time really shows you how different groups of people felt
about different things...you feel closer to the people of the time.
I think that every school should have a good art curriculum."
"(Art education) may not make a person a better artist in general, but for
most people, I think it improves or enriches their lives...Someone without
art education might go through their whole life "blind" to art. They might
not understand as well what it is or be able to enjoy it in the same way.
Art could pass them right by and they might not even know it...Maybe if we
got better art programs, instead of cutting them, kids would become more
interested in art and the art museums would start filling up again."
"When the teacher and the curriculum are thought-provoking and stimulating,
they can have a wonderful effect on the student. First of all. I believe
art is a good way to express feelings and ideas. It encourages analytical
thinking when creating or judging the piece. I also love the creativity
involved in it. Secondly, I think art can give a little boost to someone's
self-esteem. Knowing that you can create these wonderful things and
completing projects really gives you a sense of accomplishment."
"One may look at a painting and find his or her spirit inside it...We need
art programs that express the importance of art and all it symbolizes. If
we don't create healthier art programs, art will lose all of its importance.
I think our society needs to take action towards art programs now before it
becomes too late."
"...if a person acquires cancer, do we leave them to die? No, we do
everything we can to save them. So why, if art is hurting so much, are we
ready to give up on it, instead of saving it? Maybe art will never be the
same as long as we hold it in such low regard that we would even consider
dropping it the minute it hurt. How could any program flourish under such
...We need to embrace art just as we do math. Until that day, children will
never be able to explore the vast possibilities the world of art has to offer."
I could go on for pages, but you get the idea. I hope you find the above
as inspirational as I did. (I'm currently looking into adopting 33
eighth-graders.) "From the mouths of babes..."
Keep up the wonderful work you all do.