Cutting the arts in schools.

An arts advocacy friend at the Kennedy Center sent me this video. While the content of the video is inspiring, I had to dig a little into the situation that prompted the production.

One area news source, The Mercury Online, posted the same video to encourage community dialogue. The comments are interesting. If one has been keeping up on local school board conversations, it’s apparent that the conversations about school budgets are similar in districts all over the state.

The situation is dire. The new PA Governor has set some pretty drastic cuts to school districts around the country. The ripple effects of job loss will be seen immediately. But what about the ripple effects on the students? What will the impact be for a community value of the arts?

After the educational report, “A Nation at Risk” came out 28 years ago, huge reforms in schools were enacted; including the “No Child Left Behind Act.” But as our current leaders make decisions, it seems they’ve forgotten recommendations of this report; which actually INCLUDED the arts in the curriculum.

Twenty-eight years ago, curriculum discussions often separated subjects. But how often do we apply our knowledge of subjects separately? In learning, as in life, disciplines mix. To value the arts as a part of that mix, is to value THINKING and COMMUNICATION. Don’t we want students to know how to challenge themselves and to learn from failure? Engaged students become citizens who seek improvement in life, in the small and larger circles that impact themselves and their neighbors.

Twenty years from now, will we have a community of citizens who value the arts enough to support the investment we’re putting into the Steelstacks? Will they understand the impact of community gathering for human expression beyond entertainment? Will they understand that exploring doesn’t guarantee an outcome; but that it may be part of the new invention? Will they embrace discipline for purpose beyond the pay check? Will they value continued education for themselves, their children, their neighbors?

Are we losing sight of foundations needed for the greater good? The arts teach compassion and empathy as much as design, aesthetics, history and culture. Here’s another video that says it pretty well.

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