Saturday, March 25, 2017

Tonight's line-up Arts vs. Core ~ Why is there a fight?

Mr. Holland is Right

Mr. Holland Opus is my all-time favorite teacher movie.  If you haven’t seen this movie, I highly recommend taking a rainy Saturday afternoon, when you aren’t grading papers, curl up with a warm blanket and watch this movie.  Then come back to this blog, as there is a spoiler alert now!

Mr. Holland was a reluctant music teacher who took a teaching job to supplement his income as a composer.  Thirty years later, he is forced into retirement because the music and art programs are being cut from the school.  There is an argument between the vice principal and Mr. Holland about programs being cut.

Vice Principal Wolters: I care about these kids just as much as you do. And if I'm forced to choose between Mozart and reading and writing and long division, I choose long division.
Glenn Holland: Well, I guess you can cut the arts as much as you want, Gene. Sooner or later, these kids aren't going to have anything to read or write about.”(2007).

The arts are so important to a school’s curriculum.  There are no other classes where students can express themselves without having to worry about conventions and sentence structure.  Students can use their imaginations and be free to think, explore, make critical decisions.  “Perhaps the most fundamental element to education one should consider is the manner in which we perceive and make sense of the world in which we live” (Bryant).  Student need art and music. These classes should not be considered to be “extra” classes.  

However, too many times, when the test scores for reading and math are low in a school, the reaction from the higher ups is to cut art and music.  Now there is no denying that kids have to be able read and be able to do math.  But how we accomplish the teaching of reading and math is not limited to worksheets and readers.  “The arts have the capacity to engage everyone. All levels of American society can and do participate in the fine arts. There are no barriers of race, religion, culture, geography, or socioeconomic levels” (Bryant).  We need need to incorporate the arts into our reading and math instruction.  

This needs to be done at lower income schools even more so.   According to Tim Walker, “High-poverty schools across the nation have been forced to narrow the curriculum much more drastically than wealthier schools—with worse consequences for low-income students. While their more affluent peers may routinely visit museums or other cultural resources, many poor urban and rural students rely on their teachers to expose them to the kind of background knowledge that is essential to subject mastery” (2014). It seems as if the students that need the arts the most have the least accessibility to them.  

I remember being in elementary school music and art in the 1970’s.  The music teacher was a World War II vet with limited hearing (which was probably to his advantage!!).  We got music twice a week.  We all looked forward because we always got to play different percussion instruments while he played and we were supposed to be singing.  We would laugh and still be talking about music during recess.  In art, we would be allowed to sculpt and paint.  The art teacher, who was a wonderful hippie, thought everything we did was wonderful.  We came out of that class feeling we could make anything.  We would always have to write about our projects.

“Our schools [were] once vigorous and dynamic centers for learning” (Walker 2013).  We need bring these dynamic centers back by being mindful of where our educational dollars and balance the reading and math instruction with art and music.  Give the students something to read and write about - like what Mr. Holland was advocating for.  

Bryant, Bob. "Katy Independent School District." The Importance of Fine Arts Education. Kay

Broussard, Meredith. "Why Poor Schools Can't Win at Standardized Testing." The Atlantic.

Long, Cindy. "The High-Stakes Testing Culture: How We Got Here, How We Get Out." NEA
Mr. Holland's Opus. Dir. Stephan Herek. Perf. Richard Dryfuss and Glenne Headly. 20th Century
Fox, 2007. DVD.

Walker, Tim. "The Testing Obsession and the Disappearing Curriculum." NEA Today. NEAToday,

No comments: