OPINION: Fine arts courses should be a graduation requirement at East

Members of East’s National Art Honors Society contribute to a mural to recognize the unity of the Oswego Police Department and Oswego East High School. The mural was unveiled in November. Photo by Ashlyn Pearson.

In order to graduate from East, students need to receive four English credits, three math credits, two-and-a-half science credits, and two-and-a half social studies credits, in addition to numerous elective credits. A mix of career-related and open electives are necessary to receive a diploma, but one type of class is notably left out of the list: fine arts.

Visual arts. Music. Theatre.

Outlets of creativity, emotion, and expression are being consistently disregarded by a significant portion of the student body. A lack of creative ability and diverse skills are beginning to hinder young adults in the workforce, as institutions encourage early development and strengthening of these skills. Being able to think outside the box and come up with new solutions to problems are just some of the useful things that are gained from specifically classes in this department.

Engaging with the fine arts allows you to unlock a certain part of your potential that is rather left untouched. The formulas and systematic thinking of other courses cause you to get stuck in a common system. When challenged with new problems, the average student falls back on the critical-thinking and deducing techniques taught in core classes. Improvisation, visualization, and even stating how you feel are difficult things to do if you are not challenged with spontaneity. 

Furthermore, life tends to be unexpected. Things happen quickly and fast responses are necessary. You may never find yourself in a stage setting about to perform or questioned by peers in an art museum about your latest piece, but using your imagination and personality to manifest solutions will come in very handy in any future path.

Personally, I believe that our school should create a requirement that all students take some form of a fine arts class, in addition to the current standards. 

The competitive society we live in seems to be demanding something out of the norm. Innovation and advancement require new levels of thinking that may have not previously been prioritized.

The University of Chicago is renowned as one of the greatest higher education institutions in the United States. They boast high academic and research achievements, including an appealing learning environment being the city. They also are famous for their rather interesting essay prompts.

For a vast majority of those who apply to colleges and universities, one must write one or several essays responding to questions ranging from leadership to hardship, struggle to triumph. UChicago is known for having essay prompts that reach past the basic form of questioning and strive to stretch the minds of those answering.

Should fine arts classes become a graduation requirement at East?

You may never find yourself in a stage setting about to perform or questioned by peers in an art museum about your latest piece, but using your imagination and personality to manifest solutions will come in very handy in any future path.

Some sample questions in recent years include:

  • “Cats have nine lives, Pac-Man has 3 lives, and radioactive isotopes have half-lives. How many lives does something else– either conceptual or actual– have, and why?”
  • “What’s so odd about odd numbers?”
  • “How are apples and oranges supposed to be compared?”
  • “So where is Waldo, really?”
  • “Find x.”

The university’s complex questionnaire has brought into light the formulaic nature of student expression. A number struggle with responding to the abstract nature of the prompts. 

Attributing to this confusion is an unopened facet of thought and knowledge. High school students are pushed through four years of scientific rigor, arithmetic thought-processing, and an overall natural, progressive system of obtaining and mastering skills. Little creative flexibility is allowed in these concentrations (for good reasons), but the vital aspect of creativity is lacking in the modern school setting. Unless they elect to take it, students are left without experience in these subject areas.

Drawing skills and musical exposure may not be readily present in the common workplace. However, just as argued with English and Math, there are imperative skills to be learned from these disciplines. Creating a situation where students are comfortably introduced to the fine arts is at the forefront of this potential change. Some people simply do not want to take an art class, while others have absolutely no experience or skill in musical endeavors.

For this, a possible solution.

When asked on her position of the potential new addition to graduation requirements, Acting teacher and East Theatre director Nicole Chandler said she has been positively influenced by the arts in her life, and would love to see more kids benefit from the enriching experience. She did say, however, that lack of ability could become problematic in the execution of a possible new curriculum.

“I wish that we had more of a ‘survey of the fine arts’ kind of course available because I feel like it would be unfair to those people who just don’t have those skills,” Chandler said. “I think it would be cool if there was an experience where, for example, I would teach for three weeks, and then Mrs. King … would teach, and then Mr. Rexroat … because it would be cool to have that kind of experience.”

Chandler expressed the belief that all students should be exposed to what the fine arts entail, but brings up a good point in the fact that natural capability does play a role in success in these courses, just as in other subjects. 

A Survey of the Fine Arts class would be a reasonable integration to make in order to deal with the lack of creative expression in teenagers. During their freshman year, students would be required to take this class (most likely a semester), where every two or three weeks, a different fine arts teacher would take over a introduce their discipline. After taking the class, all students would have had exposure to many different areas, including specific art, music, and theatre concentrations. Then, if they wish, they can continue on to take higher level classes in their topics of interest. 

Flexibility. Freedom. Exposure. 

All important to the human condition.

Math, Science, English, and Social Studies are all important classes. One is not greater or less than the other. Given that, fine arts is constantly swept under the rug and has a stigma of being for only a “certain type of kid.” My belief is that everyone could benefit from these classes in different ways. Whether it’s applying to college, working on a job, or just going through the motions of life, situations will arise that will cause you to think on your feet and particularly think in ways you have never before. An easy way to set yourself up for success in these scenarios is by engaging in the fine arts. Considered relaxing and enjoyable, they also leave positive feelings within, and allows you to connect with something beyond a formula. Something new and impulsive could lead to a breakthrough in expression, one that is often lost behind the symbols of a math equation. 

Alex Prince is a columnist for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

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