When I was younger, I was incredibly shy. I hated talking to people I didn’t know, and I often had my independent little sister order for me at restaurants. Despite being shy, my mom knew how much I loved to sing and made me audition for the church musical in the fourth grade. When I realized I was cast as the lead, I was terrified to step out onstage. The minute I did, however, I was instantly at home.
Ansleigh Harrison performs in her first show, Candy Cane Lane, 2007
The shy, awkward, little 10 year-old girl that existed in my body vanished as I sang my first note. The worries of the school day vaporized as I began acting. The stage became my place of peace.
And now schools all over the United States are slowly weeding out several forms of fine arts programs.
In 2012, The National Center for Education Statistics released the results to a nationwide survey that was sent out to k-12 schools during the 2009-10 school year regarding arts education in primary and secondary public schools. This was the first survey taken regarding this topic since the 1999-2000 school year.
The U.S. Department of Education noted that “for theater and dance in elementary schools, the percentages of schools making these art forms available went from 20 percent 10 years ago to only 4 and 3 percent, respectively, in the 2009-10 school year. In addition, at more than 40 percent of secondary schools, coursework in arts was not required for graduation in the 2009-10 school year.”
In just one decade, the importance of arts within schools has dwindled significantly.
The arts are a necessary tool in human development. Whether we notice it or not, we all use some form of art in nearly every aspect of our lives. We use drawings in our explanations, we use music to de-stress or learn certain things, and sometimes we even act a certain way when we are around certain people. It has been proven that learning a musical instrument can actually boost a child’s ability to focus. Art is a form of therapy that allows human beings to express themselves. Although not everyone uses the arts in a therapeutic way, fine arts are still an important part of society. Cutting these programs out of our public schools diminishes the opportunity for students to learn about or pursue the arts.
If I hadn’t been able to participate in theatre and chorus programs in middle and high school, I wouldn’t have realized that I wanted to pursue theatre as a career. I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to form a family within the theatre and chorus departments, and I wouldn’t have been as happy had I chosen to pursue my second choice career.
Arts programs give students the opportunity to explore an extracurricular activity that stretches and challenges their minds, as well as their bodies. The shy, awkward, little 10 year-old Ansleigh wouldn’t be where she is today without the arts programs in her high school. Other kids are not as lucky to have been allowed such an opportunity as she, and so many others, had. We need fine arts in schools to round out our students and push them to break out of their comfort zones in order to strive to be the best they can be.
“Opportunity is not a lengthy visitor…”-Cinderella, Into The Woods
Ansleigh Harrison performs her first lead role as the Baker’s Wife in Into The Woods, 2014