Arts course required for graduation under House bill

Posted April 9, 2013

— The House Education Committee on Tuesday approved a proposal that would require students to pass at least one arts course in middle or high school to graduate.

House Bill 127 next goes to the full House for debate.

Rep. Becky Carney, D-Mecklenburg, one of the bill co-sponsors, said she and other have worked six years to craft legislation that meets with approval from the state Department of Public Instruction. Allowing students seven years to take the arts course, instead of simply adding another requirement to the high school course load, accomplishes that, she said.

"The No. 1 driver with companies looking to recruit people to work for them is creativity and innovation," Carney said. "That comes from having exposure to the arts with our children."

The requirement would start with ninth-graders in 2016.

Although the bill had bipartisan support, some lawmakers criticized the legislation for requiring what they said should be an elective for students interested in arts.

"There are some things that are better taught to people who want to be taught than not," said Rep. Paul Stam, R-Wake. "How do you say you're dealing with basic education when you're requiring for graduation something that is necessary for society but not necessarily necessary for every student?"

Stam noted that schools in Chapel Hill required students for years to know how to swim to graduate before eventually dropping that requirement.

Rep. Larry Pittman, R-Cabarrus, said that he never needed any knowledge of the arts during his years as a minister or working in a packaging warehouse.

"I think art is a fine thing, and for those who have the talent and have the interest, it should be available. But it is not an essential," Pittman said.

Carney said the arts help keep some students interested in school, and other lawmakers said such courses provide skills far beyond drawing or playing a musical instrument.

"I can't sing, I can't dance, I don't have any real ability to draw, but I tell you what art brings to the table – perspective," said Rep. Craig Horn, R-Union. "Perspective is key to success in business, in academia, in life, and that's what an arts course would bring to kids here in North Carolina."

Rep. John Torbett, R-Gaston, said an arts requirement would ensure that school districts don't cut funding for such classes as budgets get tight.

Christie Lynch Ebert, an arts education consultant for DPI, said 75 to 80 percent of North Carolina high school students already take at least one arts course, and many middle school students statewide also take such courses. She said there are enough qualified arts teachers in North Carolina to meet the demand if classes are required for graduation.

Stam asked what would happen to students who transfer into North Carolina public schools as 11th- or 12th-graders, but Carney noted that 27 other states already have an arts requirement for graduation and that summer courses or outside activities, such as membership in a dance troupe, might satisfy the requirement.


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  • skeeter II Apr 9, 2013

    Years ago, when I was a Freshman in high school, there was a required study hall period.

    Now so much has been added that the students must do to graduate that it must be time to put a 13th grade in the public schools. You can not keep adding requirements and not take away something to make room for the new requirements!

  • Spock Apr 9, 2013

    Never trying because you do not have to inspires an overwhelming perplexity of irresponsible thought processes (or lack thereof). Art, memorization of math, and cursive writing are all aspects of an ability to "think outside the box" regardless of how good or how bad you may appear to yourself.

  • corey3rd2 Apr 9, 2013

    What's the point of an accounting course when the future job market shows these kids will have less take home pay than today's Hooter's waitress. They ought to take a course in scratch and win tickets.

    Art Pope just yanked $12 million from Wake County schools as his revenge. They are destroying the public school systems in order for their charter school pals to reap fortunes.

  • oddportal Apr 9, 2013

    I work as a stagehand on large broadway productions and am amazed at the amount of team work involved, the ability to ratchet a bolt and build a set safely. The concept of lighting and audio is wholly based on math. In fact there is a stupid way to lift a heavy box and a way you preserve your back. YES... Loading a truck is a learned skill. Art is not always a pretty picture, Art teaches team work, preparation and confidence to explore ideas.... Basically teaching these kids to be on time to work and perform their stage cues is some of the best job training we could provide them... Mush better than football or soccer

  • penny for your thoughts Apr 9, 2013

    So lets see if I get this right. We (NC) have one of the lowest SAT scores in the country, low graduation rates, high dropout rates, etc.....And an art class is going to help the students? Great.

  • outhousecat Apr 9, 2013

    When I went to UNC-W for a year, some sort of art class was required for graduation. I decided to take Beginning Painting, thinking it would be fun. OMG. The other kids in that class had been born with a paint brush in their hands and were only taking that class as a prerequisite for their Arts Degree.

    I almost went broke buying oil paint, and my talent was so negligible that the prof barely walked by my easel once each class, and then only to encourage me not to take up art. My GPA suffered mightily from that mess.

    If kids aren't artistic, they shouldn't be forced. To be honest, after being out of high school for over 30 years, I think my classes in English helped me in life more than any others did. Every kid is different, though.

  • ziva Apr 9, 2013

    JustAName and tas0417

    I totally agree..........

  • ziva Apr 9, 2013

    I sure am glad this wasn't a requirement when I was in school.

  • Cary1983 Apr 9, 2013

    Kids should have the option to take Arts courses, but financial literacy/responsibility courses should be mandatory.

  • whatelseisnew Apr 9, 2013

    Any such course should be an elective AND the students attending should pay for the use of the school, the teachers, equipment and any supplies that might be required. Our system is putting out illiterate people, fix that problem first by shutting down and replacing the K5-K12 system. Between the Federal Government, State Government, and students that could care less about education, the teachers might as well stay home. They have little chance at a high level of success in the sewer system known as public schools.