One thing I didn't touch on in the education series was arts and electives. The reason was that I was trying for more of an overview. My hope was that by reading the series, novices could get a glimpse of how the system works, and how they can change it. Diving into particulars goes against that objective, because they're fleshed out by specific schools and districts; what works well somewhere may not work well another, and vice versa. However, I can unequivocally say: we need to have them.
When anyone over the age of 40 (as of 2018) went to high school, they left with practical knowledge. They had a shop class that taught them about cars or machines, home ec that taught the basics of life, drafting that gave them the skills for a decent job, and/or music and art that gave a taste for a creative outlet.
It used to be that schools gave these skills, so when you graduated it could be safely assumed that you had a basic knowledge of many things. This changed around 2008. In that time - in the name of transparency - the school, not the pupil, became the focus. Instead of asking what students needed and basing classes on those answers, schools implemented classes to improve their test scores. Thus, a student may have: English, Science, Math, Social Studies, Study Skills (all differently named), and one elective. This was done under the guise of increased class time and improved academics. But if you do the eye test (seeing with your eyes and trusting your gut over numbers), graduates can do less than ever.
Music and Art have a very important role in schools, and the importance cannot be overstated. Both classes give students a skill. Students start at one level and improve to another level. This progress comes only through practice, and increased skill and increased practice are correlated. That matters. Likewise, Art class produces beauty; students learn different mediums and use them to make beautiful things. Art is a process. So, you can mess up and fix your mistakes. This can translate to other parts of life. You can begin with one idea, but end with something completely different. Even more important: you leave with something tangible. At the end of an art class, you can hold something you made, something you worked on.
Art and Music foster a creativity that is missing from society. Many of our current problems are both divisive and boring. They are gone about in a boring way, and could very much use creative solutions. Creativity - much more than a historical fact or mathematic equation - is a transferable skill. When figuring out a note in a song, or a color in a scheme, you're forced to figure out how a particular part relates to the whole. You're subtly learning that the placement of this detail matters, and that it could be different. You also realize that creativity is a process. You may start something and completely change that thing. You might delete something you worked on because it did not work or make things better. Flexibility comes with the territory. Togetherness, too, matters. Music sounds best when done with a group. Art, too, is better in mass. These things matter.
There is also a type of student that traditional academics does not work for. The way math is explained makes no sense to the student. Reading is hard and boring for them. They take tests and fail so equate all types of learning with failure. For these kids, the Art, Music, and Elective classes can be ways to be good at a school subject. They can transfer these skills to the other classes.
Plus, Art and Music are fun. Fun should not be overrated. When you equate a place as fun, you put in more effort, have more stake in the game, and generally perform better.