According to the American Heritage New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, 3rd Edition, fine arts are...
Art that is produced more for beauty or spiritual significance than for physical utility. Painting, sculpture, and music are fine arts.There are other definitions out there, so be careful.
- Should we consider an individual or a societal framework when considering the advantages or disadvantages of either side? In other words, should we ask how this will benefit students, or how it will benefit society?
- How narrowly should we define "fine arts" and "athletics?" What about the intersection, such as synchronized swimming or figure skating?
- Is a "balance neg" possible? Can we value them equally?
- How much do statistics or other empirical arguments matter in this debate? In other words, should we aim for measurable success, or will abstract concepts carry the day?
If the overall purpose of education is to promote intellectual growth, which better accomplishes that? Fine arts, which might be empirically connected to higher test scores? (Secondary debate: do test scores matter?) Athletics, which provide motivation for many students to study hard, to pass their classes in order to play?
If the overall purpose of education is socialization--gearing students to be productive members of society--which better accomplishes this goal? The arts, which promote creativity, critical thinking, and engagement? Sports, which promote collaboration (and competitiveness), hard work, and exercise?
Perhaps Maslow's highest priority is the true purpose of education. Which better gets us there?
Shouldn't education make us better people? Which is more likely to make us empathetic, selfless, reflective, well-mannered?
Maybe all those sports just raise testosterone and adrenaline levels and make us more aggressive and surly. Music, on the other hand, breaks down cultural barriers and promotes global harmony. (Pun intended, sorry.)
Which stands to benefit more students? Which costs more or less? Which has the greatest overall impact on academic achievement?
Which leads to the formation of good moral habits?
Other thoughts or directions for research? Suggest them in the comments, or ask questions. I'll do my best to answer.