The Importance of the Arts

The Case

It is no secret that the social constructs we live within largely shape our opinions and those of our peers. What we are taught, what we see and what we hear are all major contributors to what we think. In a world full of contradictions, it is interesting and concerning to consider which sources and angles might influence the youth of the UK. After scrapping art history a-level, Michael Gove proposes that we should implement the abolition of other arts subjects, such as classical civilisation.
He suggests this on the grounds that alternative subjects are “more challenging, more ambitious and more rigorous”, a short-sighted assertion which makes me wonder how many young, impressionable minds this could affect. 

Although these cuts are currently restricted to A-level, leaving arts degrees open for the time being, the arts will not be left unscathed. Buzzwords like ‘soft’ and ‘weak’ will inevitably contaminate subjects such as art history and classical civilisation, making them less compelling for budding bachelors of the arts.

In Defence of Classical Civilisation

In an ever-diversifying country like the UK, there is an increasing necessity for us to develop an understanding of differences in culture in order to create and maintain a harmonious society. The aspect of classical civilisation which focuses on religion is a way of opening our minds to what it means to possess cultural identity, and encourages us to contemplate pertinent social issues including the history of women’s rights.

Additionally to religious outlooks, the classical world is a boundless source of philosophical theory which inspires the kind of analytical thinking imperative to everyday activities. Plato’s Republic, for example, can be seen as a kind of thought experiment, prompting discussion of ideas about human virtue, metaphysics and political ideology. A text which explores, and invites us to explore, political ideology and concepts such as tyranny allows us to tap into current events on different levels and from different angles.

In Defence of History of Art

Similarly, art history is a useful subject for interpreting current events. The aforementioned Independent article contributed the idea that subjects like art history are important to be able to critically assess the abundance of visual propaganda we see every day, a particularly significant observation in the current political climate of the UK.

Not only does history of art help with understanding events today, it also allows us to contemplate past social and political movements, offering fresh perspective and enabling a grasp on contemporary attitudes. A friend of mine, an Art History and Curating student, has expressed the importance that art has played a key role in the realisation of social, historical and political movements such as feminism. The world is in a constant state of flux and, to incite positive change, art is one of our most useful tools.

A particular concern is that with the decline of art history, we will almost definitely see a decline in future curators, putting the UK’s cultural substance at risk. The existence of galleries and museums is not only economically beneficial but also personally enriching and entertaining.

The benefits of arts subjects are endless. If you question whether or not your passion for the arts is valuable, rest assured that arts subjects have inspired and influenced some of the greatest thoughts and movements since the beginning of civilisation. Recognise that the arts, collectively, are one of the most powerful and profound forces on humanity.

By Polly McLachlan

Mon 17 Jul 2017