The idea of building another school for the arts in Fayette County is worthy of consideration because our existing School for the Creative and Performing Arts has to turn away qualified applicants each year.
However, an arts school will serve only the students who already have demonstrated talent in one or more of the arts. What arts expansion is being planned for the remaining student population?
In 1978, visionaries such as the late Marilyn Moosnick and a community Task Force for the Arts, succeeded in midwifing an innovative program called Arts in Basic Education into our elementary schools.
The philosophy of Moosnick and her committee was, "All the Arts for All the Children." The four arts — music, drama, visual art and dance — were incorporated into elementary classrooms by specialists, and teachers were offered the in-service training necessary to continue the program on their own.
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The ABE program enjoyed a successful 15-year run until it fell under the budgetary ax during Superintendent Ron Walton's administration in 1993. Though many smaller and more localized arts programs were started under Stu Silberman's term, there has been no arts-in-the-curriculum program implemented since ABE's demise.
The deeper truths to be found in art, literature, poetry and drama are truths that lead to wisdom and engender compassion and human understanding.
The arts encourage egalitarian values, reach for the spiritual and introduce us to our better selves. They foster creativity in individuals and enrich lives. That is why they need to be included in each school's curriculum.
Across the nation in recent years, school systems have had to relegate the arts to the back burner while emphasizing subjects whose mastery can be measured quantitatively. This is collateral damage triggered by the No Child Left Behind Act with its overemphasis on standardized testing.
When we favor fact over truth, knowledge over wisdom and the material over the spiritual, we have an imbalance. School curricula should always aim for balance.
Education (from the Latin educere) means "leading out or drawing out the latent powers of an individual." We may have lost sight of this in our race to the top, our push to create cogs in the wheels that move our society rather than educating the individual to become a better human being.
Now more than ever, there is an urgent need to arm each child with the ability to see beyond what we are inundated with by the mass media. Only the arts can do this. With the exception of public broadcasting, the quality of the content offered on film, television and the Internet is deteriorating as rapidly as the technology that delivers it is advancing. We could easily end up producing techno-wizards with a taste for dumbed-down content.
Nurturing and developing talent in our gifted children is valuable and necessary, but no more valuable or necessary than bringing all the arts to all the children to enrich their lives and enhance their development as human beings.