As school districts across the state slash and burn their budgets as their ships sink in this perfect storm of property tax caps and state budget crisis, the first barrel to go overboard is arts programming. I for one would like to see consultants, administrators and 5 kinds of standardized testing walk the plank, but unfortunately, in our collective race to the bottom, that will not happen. I know how bad its getting, because at the Arts Magnet school in my town, my daughter is getting a substandard arts experience--the arts classes are not integrated into the overall curriculum, they don't have them every day the way one would have reading or maths, and they are severely underfunded. The PTA steps up and so do I, but what about all the kids who don't have artist parents with the means to pay for enrichment?
I was cleaning out my files and found the state of Kansas' 1995 Guidelines for Program Development in Music. It made me cry. My daughter is on grade level according to their rubrics, but only because I sink thousands of dollars a year into private lessons, music concert subscriptions, and parking costs to take her to our privately funded choir performances. The music program described as the standard for public education in this document is a dream deferred for 90% of the schools in my state, which is not Kansas.
Music is the language of our souls, and what will happen to a society which does not teach this language to its children? We are starving our children not only with the horrible food that passes as school lunches, but in the arts starved curricula we provide them---there are no "nutrients" for their spirits.
In an age which demands creativity and metathinking, the unenriched curriculum will have dire economic consequences for the next generation. But more than economic poverty, I fear the kind of disaffected, disconnnected, small minded poverty of imagination that is like a virus in some of our youth. It's because in the banquet of life and art and mind, we aren't feeding them anything with true energy in it.
And so I will pick through this Kansas Document and try to create my own little OZ,here, with my programs and my habits, to make sure the children I am responsible for are dining at the finest banquet of arts and mind. I want their imaginations to grow FAT with ideas and inspirations.