Administrators have forgotten that ultimately, our culture will be judged on the arts; that’s how we learn about ancient cultures. We did not find any remnants of standardized test scores or sports stats in Pompeii; we found art and day-to-day ordinary living; loaves of bread, and graffiti, and clay pots for sale, and poems. Yes, the ancients liked sports; part of the Coliseum is still standing, but it wasn’t the hub and whole of their existence. They valued music, and sculpture, and dance, and poetry, and creativity of all kinds. Astronomy was considered an art by the ancient Greeks, and, indeed, who can properly study the stars without also studying the fabulous stories that gave the night sky’s formations their names? It is not possible to do so. If your child’s teacher is “teaching” astronomy and not mentioning the myths, your child has a poor teacher.
Cultures that valued the arts live on, even when they and their structures are gone.
What do Americans value? Gossip and scandal and immoral politicians? Drug-addicted sports figures and out-of-wedlock pregnancies? Prostitutes Athletes with bloated egos and high-priced pimps managers? Lindsay and Britney and Brangelina and TomKat and celeb sightings and scores, all kinds of scores: sexual and standardized and steroid-filled scores. Adultery made to look golden. Talentless hacks and wealthy nobodies with good agents. CoughcoughcoughKardashianscoughcough. I hate thinking what we’ve come down to as a culture.
There was a time when a high school principal would hire a professional musician to fill an empty seat in the school orchestra; it was that important. Now, if there is an empty seat, the class is canceled and the music teacher is either “downsized” or given a lot of before-school and after-school and cafeteria duty, and a couple of study halls for the non-participatory segment of our younger society which is growing larger every day. I mean, why do a lot of unnecessary work when you get the same rewards for not doing it?
What will archaeologists find a thousand years from now when they dig up what remains of America? A lot of crumbling gymnasiums and enough rock-hard fossilized breast and lip-shaped collagen to sink a ship?
We should be nurturing our young artists and musicians and scientists, not relegating them to the back of the room so we can look good on paper in the subjects that are easy to measure for a bunch of withered humorless twits with no balls and no guts and no gumption. I believe in testing, yes, definitely. But not to the exclusion of the arts, and I will say this again: Cramming a lot of facts in our kids’ heads and then asking them to bubble them right back is not the same thing as educating them.
I’ll say this again, too: The most important things our children should be learning can’t be tested.
One more thing: Why can’t we let our children be children? Almost every minute of their adult lives will be regulated and scheduled and over-scheduled; why can’t they have their summers and their weekends and their after-school time, to be kids? Because you know as well as I do, that the moment a bunch of anal boring adults steps in to “take charge” of the ball game or the bicycle ride or the hike or the impromptu soccer match in the back lot, all of the fun is going to be drained completely out, everybody will have to buy a uniform and a helmet, and adults will start showing up to keep score and yell at the little kid who stooped to look at the cool anthill and let the ball fly right over his head.
Remember when high school kids could participate in several sports, because the year was divided into “seasons?” Now, most kids are required to choose one sport and only one, because what was once a “season” has grown into a year-long practice session. We don’t want a losing team, now do we?
I once had a student who was a starter on the varsity football team AND a member of the marching band. At half-time, he didn’t go take a pee and grab a soda with the rest of the team; he grabbed his trumpet and joined the formation and marched in his helmet and uniform. It was mind-blowingly inspiring. This kid is now a professional musician and a successful one, I might add. I’m proud of you, Jeremy!
He wouldn’t be allowed to do that, now. Oh, heavens, no.
Now, a kid has to choose between music and sports, because the coaches just won’t allow any of the team members to do something weird like that. Absolutely forbidden.
I hate this.
Oh, and that chick in Georgia who maintains that science and social studies are not important? NOT IMPORTANT? She had to have fallen down the stupid tree and hit every branch on the way down.*
Yes, it’s very late. Yes, I definitely need a sandwich. But if I make one, it might make me even more surly. Are you sure you want to risk that?
*Yes, I know it’s really the “ugly tree,”** but I changed it to fit the context. So bite me.
** Politically incorrect? Like I care.
Parts of this post were published in August of 2009. My opinions haven’t changed, and may have become even more surly.