Sesame Street taught us much more than that incredibly catchy tune in the above title; we learned counting, colors, opposites, music, art, drama and the power of imagination.
All of these lessons and more have stuck with me and that’s why when I see headlines like these, they simultaneously excites and worries me.
Wait, one of these things is not like the other…
I know that there are countless more examples of great things achieved by Newton adults and students alike and in and out of school programs. (Have you seen the Culture Fix?) I also know that Newton is lucky to have an arts program in its schools. All that being said, I cannot help but wish for more. While a 15 minute reduction may not seem like much over the span of a lifetime, that’s 15 minutes that students could spend flexing their mind, allowing their imaginations to stretch, and giving academic stress permission to take a break. It’s pretty simple math to realize that 15 minutes this year, minus another 15 minutes in 5 years, minus another 15 minutes 5 years after that… well, you’re out of time once your brush hits a canvas.
Sure, there are other alternatives to in-school arts programs; EdVestors and the City of Boston are doing a bang up job of it. But it isn’t the same. I became a musician for lots of reasons, but one of the most prominent was because of my elementary school music teacher, Mr. Wood. I saw him twice a week for 45 minutes. After Mr. Wood there was Mr. Mousseau, Mr. Carr and Mr. Singletary. In college it was John Finney and Jeremiah McGrann. Now it’s Ron Knudsen. The personal connection between student and teacher is priceless.
Admittedly, I do not have children and I do not know the ins and outs of the arts programs within Newton Public Schools but I do know, through headlines, conversations and observations, that the arts are strong and many students love them. It would be a shame to lose one minute.
My mom didn’t have regular arts education in school in the 60s. She was amazed when she wound up with band nerd, orch dork, and theater geek daughters. On a recent episode of Jeopardy, the Double Jeopardy round had a musical terms category and the contestants were stumped. I hope we’re not heading to another generation of children who aren’t exposed to classical arts education and are instead left to depend on pop culture.
For now, I will keep doing what I am doing and try to figure out the next best step. If anyone has an idea or solution or comment or just needs to get this off their chest like I did, I’d love to hear it.