I am meeting our daughter at Normandale Community College this afternoon at 3pm. Elizabeth (Biz) is not college age. She is a Junior in high school who is looking at a program called PSEO, where kids can go to college and high school at the same time.
It’s not that Biz doesn’t like her current school. It’s not even that she wants to earn college credits now while the state will pay for them (her Dad and I like that idea quite a bit). The issue for our daughter is music. Biz plays the guitar. Constantly. She loves it and it is her passion.
Biz’s high school does not have a music program that extends beyond choir, so if she wants to learn about music theory and play in a class, she has to go outside of her current school. That’s why she is exploring the options at our local community college.
Our daughter is not the only child who wants more of the arts and cannot get them in school. Around the country, music, art and drama have been cut and cut again as budget shortfalls appear and are dealt with at every grade level, not just for high school.
Conventional wisdom has it that you can skimp on art but not on math. While I understand this reasoning, I also believe that cutting the arts is a quick fix with long term repercussions—outcomes that may not be visible for years, but will certainly impact our industry.
If kids are not exposed to the arts early on, how can they know they might be drawn to them as a career (or even as a stress-busting leisure activity)? With no background in the arts, where will the next generation of textiles designers, color specifiers and trend forecasters come from?
It’s not fair to say that parents should be responsible for this on their own. My husband, Steve, and I can well afford to visit the St. Paul Science Museum, the Minneapolis Institute of Arts or the Minnesota Orchestra. We have been in the audience of A Prairie Home Companion with our children. We have given them private music lessons. But lots of people do not have the means—whether time, money or even awareness—to get these experiences for their children. Schools need to help.
The Sunday, February 27 edition of the New York Times reported that Microsoft’s Bill Gates gave a speech to the National Governors Association where he said that America’s high schools are obsolete and need to be upgraded. I’m sure the primary focus of his remarks was the math, science and technology skills that will not only build a better Microsoft for tomorrow, but also keep our country competitive in a world market.
Yet he could just as easily have been talking about the arts. Both of these areas—analytical and creative—equally impact our quality of life and the future of our economies.
If no one stands up for the arts now we risk losing the next generation of creatives. Are we willing to take that risk?