Whenever public school budgets get so tight that cuts appear unavoidable, it seems that the first targets are music programs, art programs and physical education. While this is a common strategy for cutting costs, there is not any real logic involved in these proposed decisions. Even though there has been a decided shift in the educational focus toward subjects related to STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), it does not mean that other programs are without value, and it is certainly not true that other programs do not contribute to student achievement in the STEM subjects.
Ken Fisher and many others would likely agree that music, artistic expression and physical activity all contribute to academic performance in essential ways. It has been proven over and over again that learning how to read sheet music and how to play an instrument results in measureable improvements in all academic subjects. In fact, just listening to the right kind of music can yield improved performance and more productive study sessions regardless of the subject.
The same is true of physical education programs, and there is an argument to be made that more of the school day should be devoted to physical activity. There is a clear correlation between frequent physical activity and academic performance, particularly as it pertains to the ability to focus for extended periods of time. As for the visual arts, it is well established that creative expression can stimulate critical thinking and help students develop improved analytical processes.
It should be quite clear that the arts, music and physical education are vital academic courses that benefit students across all subjects. Schools that cut costs by eliminating these types of programs have to understand that there is a tremendous academic performance cost that will result. The current perception in education places a greater value on STEM subjects at the moment, but removing non-STEM subjects should not be a consequence of this belief. If anything, there needs to be a greater focus on these subjects to ensure that students are getting the well-rounded education they deserve.