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Tuesday, March 22, 2005 | As I think back on my own high school days, I remember little flashes of events: our high school musical, where I wore makeup for the first time, a state competition where our choir took first place, the huge still life painting I created in art class. Oddly, very little about science or math or even English, my chosen subject, comes to mind.
I don’t think I’m unusual in this respect. In fact, all teachers and parents probably know that extracurricular activities and electives are the things that keep kids engaged in school. I don’t mean physically; their parents can force them to attend, and grades can even force them to achieve. What makes them engaged in school, what sparks their souls, are the so-called disposable class offerings that seem to be shrinking year to year.
The reason for the decrease in creative, artistic or diverse course offerings in high school is no mystery in this climate of frenzied testing. True education, like love, is not easily measured or quantified. When it comes to the
Lip service to art and music
I have friends who teach in the San Diego Unified School District, and they have all but eliminated most music and art in favor of math and literacy. Important skills, yes, but isn’t there room for everything? What about the student for whom art or music or drama might be the inroad to literacy? The arts and other electives like wood shop, auto shop and home economics are “doing” classes. Students learn through real world experiences the lessons we all try to teach them in academics. By experiencing the joy of literature on the stage, or by learning angle and slope while making a skating ramp, or figuring out pattern and ratio while making a quilt, students are engaged with their curriculum in ways that go far beyond what they get from a book.
Learning through experience
Academics are, of course, vital. But by trimming all the “fat” from our curriculum, we are also cutting out the heart.
Laura Preble is a writer and high school English teacher with the Grossmont School District. She lives in La Mesa.