Follow the Money - Arts

The undervaluing and underfunding of the arts is largely a product of our state-school system that was established around the turn of the century by the financial elite including the Rockefellers, Carnegies, Gates, and Vanderbilts.  Compulsory state schooling was designed to reward rote behavior and obedience, not to encourage critical thinking and creative artistic expression. 

As Rev. Frederick T. Gates, business advisor to John D. Rockefeller, stated in 1913, the goal of the state education system was not to create authors, orators, poets, artists, painters, or musicians, but docile and responsive citizens:

“In our dream we have limitless resources, and the people yield themselves with perfect docility to our molding hand.  The present educational conventions fade from our minds; and, unhampered by tradition, we work our own good will upon a grateful and responsive rural folk.  We shall not try to make these people or any of their children into philosophers or men of learning or of science.  We are not to raise up among them authors, orators, poets, or men of letters.  We shall not search for embryo great artists, painters, musicians.  Nor will we cherish even the humbler ambition to raise up from among them lawyers, doctors, preachers, statesmen, of whom we now have ample supply."

         - Rev. Frederick T. Gates, 1913

During the years when children are most naturally curious and creative, they are forced to sit in highly regimented classrooms and learn standardized curriculum that suppresses their artistic inclinations.  Then, if they evidence restlessness, fidgeting, boredom or non-compliance, they are often put on Ritalin or other dangerous psychtropic pharmaceuticals.[1] Most students in the U.S., from elementary to high school, have little access to music, theatre, arts, or drawing classes. If they do, they are considered “extracurricular” and are not given equal weight to other classes. This is no accident. If students were to access their full range of potential, through critical thinking and creative expression, they would be more apt to bond with each other through shared creating instead of compete against one another, which would challenge the dominant power dynamic.

The suppression of art extends beyond the lack of encouragement and funding in the state schooling system. It can also be seen in who does and who does not get funding for their art projects. For example, hip hop and rap artists with positive messages are denied funding from record labels who are owned by major media corporations. These musicians are trying to challenge the mainstream messages of rap and hip hop that often degrade women, promote violence, and reinforce negative stereotypes, but they are rejected by major funders. Wouldn’t these companies want to help support a positive message and change public perception about communities of color? Judging by their funding, apparently not.  Their money goes to reinforcing the status quo.  Exploiting people of color is very common. Empowering them and their communities does not seem to be.

Throughout the last century, the financial elite through their “philanthropic organizations” have funded and pushed the state schooling system in an effort to suppress both critical thinking and artistic expression, and have also denied funding to artists that challenge the status quo in order to maintain their positions of power.



[1] It’s estimated that 20% of American children are being medicated (, and that 75% of Ritalin prescriptions are for children. ( )