Tuesday, March 1, 2016

'Riting, 'Rithmatic and Rhythm

I have always valued intelligent people.  People who love learning as much as they love the knowledge they acquire.   I have a some friends who really are impressive in how much they know and more importantly on the variety and diversity of subjects they can discuss.   I can listen and talk to them endlessly. I am always thrilled to have the time with them if a little humbled by their breadth of knowledge. 

In this spirit I have always liked school, there were subjects that I did not love (math - needed but not my passion, ok I barely tolerated it even though somehow I was always in some sort of honors classes, maybe that was fear of bad grades being brought home).  I love science, English and history are probably among my top two favorite things to learn about.  I could do without homework and the tests - ok who likes the tests?  One of the things I like more about the US college system is also that when you get to college you do not have to go to a specialized school, many of the EU colleges are designated by the degree you want to get, which forces people to take a number of core courses across a spectrum.  This is awesome because very few of us actually have a clue what we want to do at 18 - and we shouldn't  - college is very much about expanding your brain, and yes I know expanding your ability to make choices that will seem questionable or stupid later in the after hours.

In that spirit, while I applaud the idea of a single curriculum across states, I just do not want to become this test score driven nation.   Let's face it our kids do as well as and sometimes better than other nations on tests, in the same economic level.  That is the factor, economics,  poor areas with failing schools need to be fixed.  This is not a nice to have this a must to have.   However, focusing on rote testing, hours of it no less, and kids who learn less and spout out more for a test but retain less of it after the test are not the generation that will grow the future. That works well if you want assembly line workers, the kind that do not get a say but push a button.   We need to have more curriculum too available for those kids who want to be assembly line workers, fixers of the assembly line, builders and other jobs that are not necessarily best served with college degrees.

I am dismayed at how many schools have cut arts and music programs for the most ridiculous of excuses - they need more time to prep for the test.  You are not educating a whole person if you do not expand their horizons.  Music and art have been proven to increase learning skills and they expose our creative side.  They help us appreciate those things that do not actually translate to anything other than the pure joy of being seen or heard.   They connect us across our differences. Music and art must pose some threat to any institution that that wants to be autocratic, think religions and dictators, for they usually ban them.  They scare those types of people because they are too hard to contain once people are exposed to them, and once exposed it might free up the brain to question as much as it does to the wonder of the creative.   Music and art are not contrary to math or language or science they complement it.  They enhance our brains to do more .. want more .. need more.

In my school district we are very fortunate to not have given up on the arts.  In fact we have a nationally recognized and renowned music program, theater programs and a 4th grade program in combination with an independent movie theater from a neighboring town.   This grant sponsored program teaches kids to write, animate, voice and produce a short animated film.  These films are then shown, red carpet and all, at the theater.  Today my youngest's class did theirs.  I listened to the woman who leads this endeavor talk about how this teaches the kids how to compromise, how to work in teams, how to not dismiss each other's ideas, how to learn to speak for their own and when to let someone else "win".  She spoke about how these young kids had to learn patience and set goals. Mostly it was the kids speeches which were the most impressive.  They were full of gratitude for the program, for how awed they were and for the pride they took in their mini movies and for their accomplishment.  Imagine if grown ups learned to work this well together.  The movies were all very interesting and I left impressed with what these kids accomplished. 

It is not too late for any school district to demand, yes demand, that arts and music not be cut.  We all pay taxes in some form and those taxes should go to helping the next generation learn the basics, writing/reading/arithmetic/science/history along side sports, music, arts and technology.   I never want to stop learning from books, sites and most of all people.  I am always little kid awed when I see something that defies the imagination.   My boys are learning that from me and I encourage them constantly to never underestimate how amazing knowledge is.   

I don't want to live in a world defined by extremes - the extreme left who wants a grey world where only your basic needs are met and none of us have anything more (I am not a goldfish ), the extreme right who sees beauty only in terms of money and what it buys you (I am not the Wolf of Wall Street), the religious extremes that ban art or the human body or music (I am not sensory deprived) and only want us to look up - I want to look you in the eye or at eye level and sideways and all around.  Art and music and people who don't conform are the balance needed to all those rule makers. There is enough ugliness in this world shouldn't we encourage schools to teach appreciation and creation of beauty?! 





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