“A broad education in the arts helps give children a better understanding of their world…We need students who are culturally literate as well as math and science literate.” –Paul Ostergard, Vice President, Citicorp
“The arts are not just a nice thing to have or to do if there is free time or if one can afford it. Rather, paintings and poetry, music and fashion, design and dialogue, they all define who we are as a people and provide an account of our history for the next generation.” ― Michelle Obama
I was stunned by the recent news that the U.S. House of Representatives passed the new GOP ESEA bill, H.R. 5, also known as the “Student Success Act” by a 221-207 vote. According to those in the know, this is bad news for music education. I understand the pressure our elected officials are under to improve our national education system but they’re missing the point – a well-rounded education includes the arts.
House Member George Miller introduced an unsuccessful substitute bill that would have done more for arts education. Mr. Miller stated, “They fail to move beyond the narrow focus of reading and math to ensure students get a well-rounded education.” (source: NAfME.org)
What is a well-rounded education?
What does a well-rounded education look like? Will a student who scores higher on a standardized test, but doesn’t pursue anything else, have a better chance of getting into the college of his choice? Will our students be able to compete in the world’s economy without learning to tap into their creativity and imagination? Should we care?
D**n right we should care.
I agree with Mr. Miller that it is short-sighted and wrong to focus solely on the academic basics of reading, writing and ‘rithmatic when it comes to setting education priorities. Children deserve a well-rounded education. And it’s a pretty simple concept. I created my own visuals to show just how simple it is: if we eliminate or minimize the arts – the education we are providing is not “rounded” – it’s actually a bit pointy (see Exhibit 1: Education Without The Arts.)
And while it is a fact that most of the world’s students won’t become concert pianists or Picassos, they deserve the chance to dream – and to try. After all, the important lessons are learned through effort and from the experience.
This is how we became the adults we are today. We may fulfill certain roles, categorizing ourselves according to those roles; but if we dig deep, we know we are more than our labels. We enjoy rich, nuanced lives that are shaped by our interests and our education. We are complex. We are….well-rounded.
To The House of Representatives
Before their vote, I wish I could have addressed the members of the House of Representatives and said: Let he who was not influenced by the arts cast the first stone!
I would have encouraged them to think back on their own educations – I’m sure they were full of the arts. I know mine was.
All children deserve the same opportunity to explore their diverse interests – to dream and to try. Let’s not delude ourselves, a well-rounded education isn’t round without the arts. It’s that simple.
- Advocacy – How to Make a Difference (lauralamere.com)