So our ability to educate and fully round out our youth has been reduced to a convenient acronym that is another work for a stick… Sad indeed but a growing and pervasive challenge being faced all across the country. We are blessed here in the Lakota School Districts that the water level has not risen to this level yet, but we do see it rising. Over the past few years, they have begun eliminating most of the music, art, humanities and language offerings in the system. It has begun in the lower grades where the strategy is one of “if never experienced then likely never missed.” I find that a bit too convenient if not cowardly myself…
Much of this unfortunate and ill-advised trend “stems” from a strict adherence to the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) orientation that many of the school systems have had to adopt to simply meet minimum requirements with their dwindling resources. And I say that as the recent past Vice Chairman of the OKI Partners for Junior Achievement that foster the power and import of STEM and Financial Literacy in our K-12 curriculum. To leverage the acronym to extend a metaphor, a STEM is a bristly piece of unflinching and rigid wood. However when you add the A for Arts, you turn that rigid , lifeless piece of wood into a fuels source — STEAM! Now that you can work with!
The problem is, that if left strictly to STEM-based education, only those blessed with the means and inclination will seek the arts and cultural education by outside means and resources not available to all and that we once considered to be essential throughout our K-12 experience. Only the chosen few will know the pleasure and most importantly, develop the critical thinking and leadership skills that mountains of data now prove are best developed with a balanced curriculum that is rich with arts, humanities and languages.
Alas, this is our current direction and thus the sorry picture that we see in place of the phenomenal music and arts programs that most of us grew up with and our educators insisted on — and thus imbued us with a love and respect for the power and grace those programs provided; the gift they gave us and the beneficial side effects of leadership and well-rounded critical thinking skills that they enhanced.
As a proud alum of the multi-award winning and many-fold champion “Mighty Marching Blue Devil Band” from Gallia Academy High School in Southeastern Ohio in the second half of the seventies, and now a current Pit Crew Member and father of one recent past member and one current member of the Lakota East High School “Mighty Marching Thunderhawk Band” here in Southwestern Ohio, I regret to see the see the trend and our unwillingness to meet the current challenges. It will only change when enough of us have the intestinal fortitude to say that we can do better and this declination must cease. And I am talking now to the many of us who have over a series of years taken short cuts and whether actively or passively have allowed things to come to this state, either by neglect or disregard. They/We are to blame.
And mark my word — we are already and will continue to pay the price for this myopic view of our youth and their role in our nation’s future leadership… and the essential role of the arts and humanities in our schools, our towns and our civil society. In the words of one of my favorite poets, Dylan Thomas, “Do not go gentle into that good night…Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” I beg you — those of us who in our youth benefited from enriching programs built right into the fabric our our everyday academia, to speak for those no longer empowered to do so. Speak within your schools and your communities. Speak to your local and state and national representatives… Fight the good fight and work to make music, art and humanities education an essential plank in our educational architecture… for the kids’ sake, but mostly for our own… They are our future leadership.
My apologies for the diatribe, but this strikes on one of my main nerves…