As a mother the tears well up because I feel helpless in the decision of budget cuts, as an artist the tears well up from frustration and anger.
It absolutely boggles my mind that education, teachers, and the growth of our nation’s children, both physical and mental, are ever on the chopping block when it comes to State and Federal budget cuts. But the threat that our schools face now, of losing music, art and physical education has me boiling. Why are these subjects no longer considered “core”?
I’ve heard, read and seen over and over again the problems of an obesity “epidemic” due in large part to inactive lifestyles, so where is the justification of cutting PE? Many children are introduced to sports and physical activity that may not be affordable, or offered by parents outside of school. You want a healthier and more active generation; then let them learn how to create that life through their school education. With very brief outside recess times, what are the plans for keeping children active? Can we please remember that these are children that we’re talking about; children who are innately wired to run, play and let loose the energy they are already keeping pent up for a good 6 hours a day.
Music teaches so much more than how to sing a song. There is math in music, if it really must be justified in such a way, so to cut this entity that I’m sure we all embrace routinely in our lives, seems ridiculous. I discovered my musical talents in school, where my Junior High School choir teacher forced us to learn how to read music. For that I am forever grateful. Because of her, I was able to teach myself piano years later, and learned the joy of being part of the composition. It was one way for me to find peace and joy in my life as a turbulent teen. Again, many families do not have the finances to pay for music lessons and education outside of the home. Many parents don’t consider involving their children in such activities, for whatever reasons. School should be a place where children can discover their talents, their interests and passions in a safe environment. There could be a child in a music class right now who is discovering the joy of reading notes on a score, or discovering a natural talent for rhythm, tonality or even composition. Could the next Mozart, Beethoven or Bach be waiting to be set free in next year’s class? We may never find out.
The idea that Art is not “core” to life is absurd and ignorant. I am a volunteer at my daughter’s school, helping with extracurricular arts activities. One of my biggest joys is seeing how many students really want to create, really get excited about making something all their own, sharing their stories in expressive ways. Our committee has goals to make art accessible to everyone, and to allow the children to explore on their own to discover and embrace their own talents and visions. We also love broadening the views of these young minds, to understand that art is not just a painting in a museum, or a photo-real drawing or landscape. For some of us, art is a way to understand our own emotions. It is a creative place that can be survival for some, it is a safe place to go when the rest of the world is making you miserable. This was very true for me for many years. Now my world has brightened, and so has my artwork, enough so that I am building a business with it. Which brings me to my final point- Art is money. Art means career opportunities.
The idea that cutting the Arts from schools because it won’t help future generations get jobs is a load of manure. One thing we are striving for as Art parent volunteers, is to legitimize the dreams that are tucked away inside so many young people. The car you drive to work, the building you work in, the building you live in, the clothes you wear, the furniture you use, the pillows that decorate your room, the packaging you buy your foods in…I hate to break it to you, but all of these things are here because of artists! Architects, Graphic designers, Fabric designers, fashion designers, sculptors, etc., etc., they are all involved in items that we use daily. Doubt it? Then take a moment sometime and google Nike. Take a look at the man and the process behind the Air Jordan shoe series. Once you realize how creative people impact our everyday lives, you will understand how creativity is empowering, not optional.
Still not convinced that these are undeniably important components to a child’s education? Then I challenge you, to walk up to each of the 120 students that chose to stay after school last month to learn about and create art, individually, and explain to them why they will no longer have this opportunity at their school.
The kids get it, do you?
If the arts have impacted your life in a powerful and positive way, or if you had a life-changing moment in a school PE, Art or Music class, or if a teacher in one of these fields impacted your life greatly, I ask you to please share your story. Let’s let our leaders know that these areas of life are not optional.
Featured image was created by my daughter, Loren Belz, age 6