What use is Art?

By Michael Edmonds 27/04/2014

I came across several blogs (e.g. here and here) reporting that a kindergarten in New York has cancelled its students art show as it is more important to prepare students for college and their future careers. At first I thought this must be a hoax but some websites are claiming that the letter sent to parents and caregivers has been verified. It reads as follows:

Dear Kindergarten parents and guardians:

We hope this letter serves to help you better understand how the demands of the 21st century are changing schools and, more specifically, to clarify misconceptions about the Kindergarten show. It is most important to keep in mind that this issue is not unique to Elwood. Although the movement toward more rigorous learning standards has been in the national news for more than a decade, the changing face of education is beginning to feel unsettling for some people. What and how we teach is changing to meet the demands of a changing world.

The reason for eliminating the Kindergarten show is simple. We are responsible for preparing children for college and career with valuable lifelong skills and know that we can best do that by having them become strong readers, writers, coworkers, and problem solvers. Please do not fault us for making professional decisions that we know will never be able to please everyone. But know that we are making these decisions with the interests of all children in mind.


If this is true (I’m still trying to convince myself that no-one could be that stupid) I feel sorry for the children at the kindergarten. Art has a range of benefits including developing skills around colours, shapes, contrasts and drawing. Plus, it is great fun. Children (and everyone else) need to be able to enjoy themselves, and art is one way to do this.

The underlying message of this letter is that art has no use in terms of employment. This is just wrong. Not only do many careers explicitly make use of art related skills, for example,  artists, designers,  illustrators and architects, there are many other careers where such skills are beneficial. This includes science and engineering where drawing skills, spatial abilities and a sense of colour can be extremely useful.

I think maybe Sir Ken Robinson needs to visit this kindergarten.


0 Responses to “What use is Art?”

  • Honestly? Yes, that is part of it, but it is still subordinating, subjecting art to the demands and usefulnesses of market thinking. Why can’t we simply choose not to be useful at al? Is laziness, sloth, idleness a sin? I thought we had surpassed the era of sins by now, the dark ages. There is a clear social demand on art, on its uselessness: to be free to do what one desires to, to invest one’s energies and efforts into something completely useless just for the sake of being able to do so.