Our view: Show me the Monet

Sometimes – too often – the arts need defended. And the New Yorker can’t do it all on its own. The Summer Kent Stater will now lend a hand.

The New York Times reported Monday that arts programs in colleges across the country are cutting back, getting phased out or otherwise losing strength to save money. Washington State University killed its department of theater arts and dance. The University of Arizona removed $500,000 from a fund that brings in classical music, dance and theater performers.

What a sad thing to eliminate a whole program. It’s sadder still to cut performances and to not be able to pay fine arts practitioners.

No one at Kent State’s College of the Arts was available before this went to print to say whether they’re going to be injured. But it’s safe to assume they will be. Our administrators talk about putting “butts in seats.” That’s how colleges make money: the revenue from students taking their classes.

But teaching a student to play a piano isn’t the same as teaching a student about market equilibrium. Teaching fine arts is often one-on-one (expensive); teaching economics can happen in a lecture hall (profitable).

So it has never been financially logical to teach arts in schools, and when a school is broke, cuts have to be made.

But don’t cut the arts. We need those. Yeah, it’s a tough statement to prove. Art is wrapped up in emotional justifications and opinions.

When defending art, it’s difficult not to summon dramatic language that doesn’t mean much to people trying to balance a budget.

We’re going to try to draw some benefits of art that give it the material worth that utilitarians always demand.

Here are some statistics about people who study music: One study from the University of Toronto Mississauga shows that children who learn to play the piano increase their IQ at the same time, likely because of the memorization, tonal perceptiveness and emotional expression of playing.

Music makes you smarter.

And here’s another thing. Think of all the longest-lasting institutions of history. There’s a correlating similarity among them: They all have great art.

The Roman civilization was around for more than 1,000 years. The Chinese Dynasties made a very long run of it – hundreds of years for each one. The Roman Catholic Church: 2,000 years.

Granted, the great art may not be the cause of their longevity. These are also some of the richest institutions in history, but they all had the same inclination to keep beautiful things around them.

A strong nation needs beautiful things, and higher education plays an indispensable part in creating it.

It’s invaluable.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Summer Kent Stater editorial board.