Home Opinions Defunding the arts is so passe

Defunding the arts is so passe

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Illustration by: Flor Barajas | Staff Illustrator

Art is invaluable to our society, because it provides an outlet for expression and gives opportunities to create something worth celebrating. With Donald Trump as president, this could be taken away.

Recently, Trump proposed a budget to Congress to eliminate several government run entities, including the National Endowments for Humanities (NEH), National Endowment of the Arts (NEA) and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

These programs are responsible for providing funding for humanities, arts and televised educational programs. Choosing to cut them is a grave mistake, especially when looking at the exceptional benefits these endowments can provide, and how little they cost taxpayers.

“We are disappointed, because we see our funding actively making a difference with individuals of all ages in thousands of communities—large, small, urban, rural, and in every Congressional District in the nation.” said Jane Chu, Chairman of the NEA, in a statement on the agency’s website.

According to the Congressional Budget Office, the United States spent a total of 3.9 trillion dollars last year. Combining the funds appropriated to the NEH, NEA and the CPB amounts to only 0.02 percent of what the United States spent.

Are these programs not worth 0.02 percent of taxpayer dollars?

The NEA provides grants directed towards state art agencies, thousands of organization, schools and artists. It provides Americans not normally exposed to it the opportunity to experience art. Forty percent of the grants the NEA provides go to areas suffering from high poverty levels.

Art has many benefits, especially in an educational setting. Researchers at John Hopkins discovered education in the arts provides students with numerous benefits such as increased motivation, memory improvement, motor control and phonological awareness­—one of the central predictors of early literacy. However, above the educational benefits, it gives Americans the chance to produce cultural elements to our society.

One of the responsibilities of the Public Broadcasting System, which is funded by the CPB, is to distribute educational programing such as Sesame Street. Sesame Street was originally intended to teach underprivileged children pre-kindergarten lessons because they could not afford it, all while including racially diverse characters and social issues. There is no acceptable reason the program should be taken away from Americans, especially those without access or the resources to teach their children from an early age.

HBO bought exclusive licensing rights for the show for five years. As a result of this deal, HBO will produce new episodes and PBS will be able to air the episodes nine months later. However, if the PBS stations are not funded, the episodes cannot be aired, and only Americans who can afford HBO will be able to watch. The original target audience would be completely missed.

A recent study published in the National Bureau of Economic Research found children who watched Sesame Street were more likely to meet standards for their grade levels. This program, along with several other programs currently airing, will be lost.

Art is an integral part of our society and will continue to be so. Cutting these programs would have devastating effects in many communities for a minute monetary trade off. Everyone deserves to experience art and the opportunity to be enlightened by it. Whether small children or senior citizens, it is universal and deserves to be funded.

–  John Lee is a marketing freshman

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