With more and more budget cuts cropping up everywhere, the British education system is beginning to feel the strain. Many schools are having to consider cutting down on the more creative subjects that are being deemed unnecessary and of little significance in producing the next generation of professionals.
It is not only many government officials that see this cut on the arts as a positive step to make – several members of the older generation that I have discussed the topic with have similarly agreed. To many, subjects such as art, music, drama and photography are considered to be a drain on the taxpayer’s money – after all, what good is learning to take a photo going to do? But it is these people who are underestimating the value of creative subjects. It is these people who spent hours looking for the right painting to hang above the mantlepiece, have enjoyed many trips to the theatre or cinema and most likely sit on the train to work every morning with music of their choice blaring through their headphones.
Yes, it is true that not all those who study music will become the next Mick Jagger, in the same way that not every art student will have the fame of Frida Kahlo or Picasso. However, it is also known that not all English students will create works as brilliant as George Orwell, yet English, a “traditional” subject, is not being considered for cuts. Whilst English, maths and science are all compulsory up until the age of 16, subjects such as drama may not be offered to many students, stripping them of any choice. How will these students discover a new talent or passion? How will they gain confidence in themselves, begin to generate communication skills and express themselves? A day at school without any form of expression – a day made up of numbers, dates and words – seems one of utter misery to me.
But the problem with ending the inclusion of creative subjects in the syllabus would not only be the resulting boredom of students. It would lead to a hole in the British culture. With no musicians, artists, photographers, dancers or actors, we’d lose all sense of ourselves. We’d be importing art and music more than ever before, and whilst appreciating the creations of other countries is important, we’d have very little to show for being British. Similarly, those who study something may do so simply because they enjoy it, not because they expect to pursue it. I studied Law at A-Level to find that whilst I enjoyed it and it interested me, I would probably not make a brilliant lawyer. However, the skills that I gained when studying Law I was able to transfer across all of my subjects, helping me to become a relatively well rounded student.
Often, even “traditional” subjects look to art to help students fully understand them. When studying the romantics, it was impossible for me to fully understand the period by reading a few poems, and so we were encouraged to look at paintings of the time. Similarly, when studying Hamlet we were told to watch the stage production if possible, to fully understand the presentation of the play. GCSE and A-Level history students look at sources, including photos, paintings, inscriptions and articles, throughout their courses. It is clear that the arts are necessary in fully grasping the topics of other areas. Unlike what many may believe, it is awfully difficult to teach a subject straight out of a textbook, just like how it is difficult to keep a class of 30 interested in poetry without showing them a rap version found on YouTube. Different medias and platforms are used in schools on a daily basis, and not only in art or music classrooms.
Without offering students choice in what they study, we run the risk of creating generations of clones who exceed in academia but have completely neglected creativity. The government is wrong in considering allowing cuts in creative subjects across Britain, and should be instead focused on creating rounded students, who have had access to a range of education and are therefore able to form their own decisions on what they wish to pursue. Criticisers of so called “doss subjects” must first think about how often they themselves are happy to appreciate the arts before they ready themselves to reject them.