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School system should value the arts

By The Staff

Times are difficult right now in the schools. Money is tight and some districts are having to choose to drop programs and let teachers go due to budget constraints. This is where we must consider carefully the best interests of the students, all students, before we decide to restructure the  curriculum and eliminate pieces of a child’s education.

My focus has always been on the arts and humanities. School was difficult for me, but music and art jump-started my brain, so that math and reading made sense to me. If it weren’t for the choral classes and the art room, opportunities to be in plays and make the literature come alive, my educational experience would have been flat and lifeless. My career choice in music and teaching was started by these early exposures in the classroom, and even in my retirement years, I am still involved in church music and art.

I was sad to hear that art has been eliminated from the Grant County Middle School curriculum. Four years ago, there were two art teachers at the middle school and when one teacher moved away, she was not replaced. Now the second teacher has retired, and she was not replaced either. True, there is a “humanities” teacher that was hired, but this is not the same as having an opportunity to paint or work with clay. Unfortunately, removing these “hands-on” classes at the middle school level is statistically a bad decision. At this age, children learns best by doing. There are so many biological changes happening at this age, scientific evidence tells us middle school students need outlets for creativity and active involvement promotes learning for them. Lecture classes aren’t the best way to inspire learning.

As I read the Grant County News, I was surprised to see two new sports activities were added at the high school level: tennis and wrestling, at a cost of $30,000. This is about the salary of a teacher for a year. Now, I’m not against sports, but how many students will these two programs actually serve? Maybe 20 or 40? Even 60 students would be a good number. An average art or music class has 25-30 students or more and these happen all day, so in a weeks time, the teacher involves 180-200 students every week. How can we justify not serving all these kids, while we initiate programs for such a small number in sports?

Once again, we have the arts vs sports. Why must this always be the case? Is one less valuable than the other?  Instead of fighting for the existence of the arts, can’t we acknowledge their importance and offer a balanced educational program that will serve every student’s gifts and talents?  There are many sports stars that are musicians and artists. They did not have to chose between the two, but were able to excel in both areas.  

Lorie Flerlage

Dry Ridge