I'm not altogether thrilled at the idea that public schools in this area are cutting art and music and other programs deemed "unnecessary" from their curriculums while at the same time serving breakfast and lunch at their schools during the summer. Unfortunately the schools have taken on the role as co-parent and are taking on responsibilities that traditionally have been left to parents. None of us wants children to go hungry, but is passing on the burden to the schools the answer?
I ask the question "what is the purpose of the public school?" I believe the purpose of a school is to educate children, period. However, that education shouldn't be limited to reading, writing and arithmetic. I'll admit there was a time I believed public schools should be primarily concerned with reading, writing and math, but as I got older I changed my mind about that. I realized the the importance of music, art, drama, literature, journalism and other extracurricular activities. Learning these things are vital in trying to build the kind of individual who is the future of this country.
Children spend so much of their time in school and they need to be exposed to a variety of interests and they need to be challenged. I don't believe in the "no grades" and "no points" so that kids can all feel good about themselves. I don't believe they should all be rewarded the same for their efforts either. I believe that we have to challenge these young people to work hard and put forth their very best effort so they each can find within them that thing that is extraordinary. We have to teach them that average isn't good enough, be the best you can be. There are great rewards in doing the best you can.
If you catch a child at a young age and expose them to a wide variety of things like those I mentioned above it could do extraordinary things for them. A child who does not excel in academics but is very interested in art or music or drama, could very well funnel the energies from their favorite activities into their academics, it could make them more interested, give them more confidence, make them feel more a part of things. An experience from my own life serves as an example...
When I was in high school I took an art class with Mrs. Shirley Akins , a funny lady who loved teaching art and enjoyed being around kids. She was fun and encouraged us and all the kids liked her very much. Now I'm not the artistic type but one of my finest contributions to the class was a head and neck drawing from a picture of Jaclyn Smith I cut out in a magazine. Mrs. Akins taught me about points and perspectives, shadows and lines and when I was finished, I earned an "A" in that project. I drew it by myself, with some hands-off instruction from her of course, but I did it. She took my drawing and taped it up in the class along with other great drawings from other students. It was in every way one of my proudest accomplishments. At that moment I felt confident. I never forgot that. Nor did I forget Mrs. Akins.
Another time in high school I was in this class I couldn't stand, heck I can't even remember what class it was but I hated it (probably computer class) and I asked my English teacher who I always called "Mrs. B" if I could take her Journalism course. I loved writing, I was good at it and sure enough Mrs. B talked to the principal and got me in her course. I earned an "A" in that class and I had fun doing it. I was the news editor and editorial writer for the school paper as well as on the yearbook staff. I felt so great because I had always looked up to the kids on the newspaper and yearbook staff, to me they were important. And here I was, a member myself!
The editorials I wrote for the paper were cutting edge back then. I wrote about drugs in professional sports, local happenings, the importance of teachers, stuff like that. I loved writing and I loved how kids and teacher complimented me on it. I wasn't popular in school, I was average and didn't have more than a few friends so for people to stop me in the halls and say "wow!" about my work, well that made me feel really good about myself. In fact, I wrote the senior poem in our senior edition of the school paper which printed just before we graduated. After I graduated and joined the military I would send Mrs. B articles about military life which she would have published in the local paper for me. Eventually I took over writing a few pieces in my mom's newspaper column which she had given up. I enjoyed reading my work, of course always thinking I could do better.
I may have had a gift for writing but because someone taught me how to arrange my thoughts and put them on paper. That someone was Mrs. B (and later my English professor who became a great friend to me!) Without having had Mrs. B to guide me, I may not have ever had the confidence to try. Same goes for Mrs. Akins, her art class gave me confidence. And it's not just me either, my sister was in Band and she LOVED it. Being in the marching band gave my sister confidence, she build friendships, she felt a part of something because like me, she was average and didn't have many friends. I saw a lot of kids like that in school, whether it was art or music or drama club or being in band, FBLA, FFA, Beta club, auto mechanics shop, playing basketball or whatever--they all felt a part of something important, it gave them confidence in themselves and it brought out the best in them.