The nationwide battle: arts VS sports

Haley Seymour, Writer

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Sports vs. arts: an age-long dispute in schools all over America, so which do the teachers and students at BFA think are more important?

There is a debate of whether sports or arts are more important for future life skills; therefore the Mercury interviewed Geoff Murray and Eric Bushey, two members of the faculty at BFA, along with Peter van Vlaanderen (‘20) to discover their thoughts on the debate.

For some students, the arts programs are a break in their day. The students receive a period to express themselves through music, art, and dance, instead of going to an academic class and receiving a lot of work.
For other students, sports are a chance to exercise while also spending time with others with common interests.

Peter van Vlaanderen, a student who has participated in cross country, golf, track, and nordic skiing, along with playing the upright bass in the string ensemble class, shared his perspective on his involvement in sports and arts program.

“I’m not necessarily a fan of running or doing endurance sports but I do it because it’s good for me and I really like the teams. But I really enjoy string ensemble; it’s a new experience, I’ve never been in a band before, so I’d say they are about the same,” van Vlaanderen said.

Geoff Murray, a social studies teacher, current football coach, and former baseball coach at BFA, also shared his point of view.

“They both are important to developing the old phrase ‘sound mind, sound body’ from the ancient Greeks. I would say, generally speaking, the arts probably can be a little more lifelong; not that athletics can’t, but physically, over time, people slow down,” Murray said.

Murray elaborated on what he meant, saying: “You can still, at an age in the 70s, sit down and play the piano or play the tuba. It becomes a little hard to play pickup basketball at 75, although you can still play golf. Both contribute to developing the mind and body.”

Eric Bushey is the teacher of Beginning Guitar, Bands I, II, and III, String Ensemble and Jazz Band, but also an avid golfer. Bushey agreed with Murray’s claim of the arts being a more lifelong commitment.

“I think that the arts is something that you can do for a longer time in terms of your whole life. I don’t know anybody who was playing soccer at 103, but I do know someone who was playing saxophone until he died at 104,” Bushey said, mentioning the first band director at BFA and saxophonist, Sterling Weed.

Van Vlaanderen also agreed with the lifelong activity that the arts brings and references his own father. Van Vlaanderen’s father is 46 years old.

“I know my dad has been playing guitar all his life, and I know many other people do that as well,” van Vlaanderen said.

Edweek published an article in 2015 debating whether sports or arts are a better investment for kindergarten through eighth grade students. The article discusses how school boards must determine what their funding priorities are, making it more difficult to fund both programs adequately for certain schools.

Bushey, Murray and van Vlaanderen all agreed that both programs receive adequate amounts of funding at BFA.
“From an educational standpoint though, I think the funding and the emphasis on the arts as well as sports kind of balances out,” Murray said.

From a student perspective, van Vlaanderen suggests a similar belief in balance between the two.

“I’d say they’re about the same because for music you have to fund instruments and equipment whereas sports you also have to get equipment,” van Vlaanderen said.

As of 2013 in Philadelphia, city schools began approaching a $304 million budget shortfall, meaning many arts programs in the city would be cut, as told in an article published by ThinkProgress.

“I feel like at BFA, it’s pretty much an even funding. I think that they adequately fund the music department, and I think they adequately fund sports. I think at other schools there might be a bigger divide, although I don’t know for certain. I think a lot of it’s perception,” Bushey said.

The Washington Times published an article in 2016 about arts programs being cut from schools. The article discusses how Chicago Public Schools experienced a lot of anger due to laying off over 1,000 teachers through closing 50 schools, 105 of those teachers taught art or music.

The Washington Times article also mentions how arts programs have to get a lot of their funding from private funds. At BFA, from faculty and student opinion, both sports and arts receive an adequate amount of funding.

When asked about student and faculty interest in pep rallies and in school music showcases, both members of the faculty agreed that people paying attention during the assemblies were only a matter of interest. If a student is more interested in music, they will more likely pay attention during the band concerts, and vice versa for pep rallies.

“They [band concerts and pep rallies] both accomplish unity, just in different ways and in different groups of students. The arts assemblies we’ve had in the past have been really good at showcasing the talents of our students in dance, band, chorus, and our students also in specific art classes,” Murray said.

Bushey mentioned the behavior at the different events, and how certain students prefer different activities, reflecting in their attitude at both pep rallies and musical showcases.

“They seem different because pep rallies, by nature, are much louder. If I went to a band concert and people acted like they did at a pep rally, that would be really bad, that’s just not appropriate. But if you went to a pep rally and the people acted like they do at a band concert, that wouldn’t be appropriate either. That would be a pretty lame pep rally,” Bushey said.

Although both faculty members agreed on difference of behaviors within students, van Vlaanderen reflected how students felt about these assemblies.

“This may just be my oblivious mind, but I don’t remember a band concert last year in school,” van Vlaanderen said.

Van Vlaanderen also continued; saying, “I think that’s probably because pep rallies are more hyped up and people really enjoy seeing their school play a sport, whereas a concert is more quiet. It’s a really cool event to see your friends and your classmates play in a band, it sounds awesome, but I guess everybody is involved in the pep rally.”

All three interviewees declared that more people should attend all events that the school holds, whether it be a sports event, band or chorus concert, or an art exhibit.

To conclude, there is a balance between sports and arts bias at BFA. Students and teachers favor the programs that they have more interest, not the one they think is more important.

“More people should attend all events. Because whether it’s the arts, a drama performance, an athletic event, those things kind of bring the community together,” Murray said.

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