By Andy Doan

Last January, I sat alongside fellow students, parents and staff at a meeting with Superintendent Chris D. Funk and Senior Bond Program Manager Julio Lucas. Although cramped and irritated in G-3, we remained seated because we all held a common ideology: the Performing Arts Dept. at PHHS deserves better. In the end, we did not get approved for a new building, or any notable renovations—at least until 2021. But we will continue to fight because it is paramount that the arts receive more funding, since the arts are, indeed, valuable.

It doesn’t seem that way to many, however.

Now more than ever, students feel obligated to go into a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics)-related field, such as Computer Science, Medicine or Engineering, because that is where all the safe money is nowadays, supposedly, as if upon immediately receiving your brand spankin’ new diploma, you’re also granted an immediate six-figure salary as well—I know have been told to go into STEM for those reasons.

This ideology stems from the preconceived notion that STEM is more practical, more useful, whereas the arts are a luxury, frivolous in nature and fanciful in pursuit of. I do admit STEM is great, and is a necessity in society; however, the promotion of STEM should not be at the expense of the arts. The fact of the matter is, the arts are just as necessary. Here’s why.

  1. The arts help students succeed.

According to AFTA (American For The Arts), students involved in the arts are four times more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, three times more likely to be elected to class office and three times more likely to win an award for school attendance.

By all means, success is not simply measured by someone’s academic achievement, but the arts also provide unique opportunities and intangible lessons.

  1. The arts create a family for those studying it.

Art is inherently collaborative; artists often spend hundreds of hours grueling over the same material: the same music, the same script, the same dance moves. In that space, we cry, triumph and bond with one another; they become a surrogate family. For some, this is a calm respite from a chaotic home life; a sanctuary where they can, for once, freely express themselves—free of judgement, free of doubt, free of fear.

  1. The arts teach us how to be human.

As much as Art is a tool for human expression, it is also a vehicle for empathy that challenges our perceptions of society by exposing stories of those different from us, broadening our horizons, so we can connect with them, empathize with them, feel for them—I have connected with a young Black man grappling with his sexuality and identity in Moonlight; I have empathized with a gay man suffering AIDS in “Angels in America”; I have felt for a band of misfits trying to survive in Shoplifters. The arts taught me how to be human, and in a world that often seems deprived of its humanity, with actions fueled by hate and people divided by race, gender, sexuality and religion, it seems that we need the arts more than ever.

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