I Have a Gripe

February 1, 2011

The Arts & Music Should Still Matter in Our Schools!

Filed under: Education,Finances,General Annoyances,New Jersey — alvb1227 @ 12:43 pm
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As all my readers know, I am a great proponent of the arts in our public schools. I have said repeatedly I am the person I am directly because of my involvement in my school’s music program growing up. I even married a band director!

Well, yesterday I read an article on NJ.com about a string teacher that was laid off in Paterson, but he still comes to the town on his own time on Saturdays to continue to teach his kids at a local church…for free. He uses his unemployment check to buy instruments and he makes his own instrument repairs. This makes me proud, sad and angry all at once.

First, I am so proud of this teacher. He personifies all that is right about New Jersey education. A large majority of teachers in New Jersey (as well as around the nation) take their role very seriously. They look at their position in the community as a true calling and understand the responsibility of shaping a child’s future.

I am sad that such a good teacher lost his job. You can just tell what he does is so important to him. He gave up a lucrative career playing music around the world to teach in a district with at-risk youth. He should be applauded instead of laid off.

I am angry that, as usual, the arts and music are considered fluff in schools today and are often the first thing to be eliminated from a district. There has been study after study that the arts and music have a direct impact on how well a child does in school. If we are trying to make such a huge push on math and science, you would think that schools would everything in their power to have their students succeed. Those tools to succeed should include programs in the arts and music. But no, it is much more important to do standardized test after standardized test. Yeah, that really makes a difference.

While it is a movie, if you have ever seen “Mr. Holand’s Opus,” this actually has some very true moments. While I love this movie, it makes me angry because hits a little too close to home. There are two quotes from this movie that really ring true to me:

“Well, I guess you can cut the arts as much as you want, Gene. Sooner or later, these kids aren’t going to have anything to read or write about.”

“The day they cut the football budget in this state, that will be the end of Western Civilization as we know it!”

Today in our society, we are too quick to cut the arts and music over sports. We value professional sports players who are often terrible role models for our children. Just look at Michael Vick, Ben Roethlisberger, Kobe Bryant, Dante Stallworth…I could go on and on. The real role models are our teachers, police officers, fire fighters and members of the military. But they are just considered “ordinary,” so they really don’t count. Teachers are mocked more than revered. And while our New Jersey Governor claims to not be in the business of bashing teachers, his constant assault on the teacher’s union has trickled down to an even lower opinion of teachers by the public than before.

I was never a “sports kid.” I was a “music kid.” I understand sports have an important place in today’s schools, however, music and the arts should not be immediately cut as a cost saver. All too often sports are one of the school’s “sacred cows.”

So, I say shame on your Paterson school district and all the other schools around the nation that are so quick to cut the arts and music without fully understanding all that music and the arts do for their kids.

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