Bus Stop: ; Arts Education

By Gzedit

OF COURSE, Kanawha County schools feel the pain of higher gas prices, just like everyone else. But it does not necessarily follow that cutting art-related field trips is the best way to balance the need to educate students with the need to cut costs.

Indeed, after Superintendent Ron Duerring decreed that future field trip approvals will favor those with strong ties to science, social studies, reading or math, the county’s transportation director couldn’t even say how much cutting art field trips might save the county.

County school officials have since softened their words on the subject. Each request will be considered individually, promised school board President Becky Jordon. The issue is expected to come up again at today’s school board meeting.

There is something wrong with this attitude that children should be allowed to view, hear or do art only if there is nothing better to do.

Kanawha County students are not only consumers of art. They produce it, as well. Performers at Chandler Elementary School’s magnet music program rely on other schools to provide the audience for their performances. What confidence and accomplishment might those Chandler students miss without that opportunity?

In a recent Sunday Gazette-Mail, David Wohl, dean of the College of Arts and Humanities at West Virginia State University, wrote that students who participate in the arts perform better academically.

The arts increase test scores and develop creative problem- solving, critical thinking, team building and communication.

Wohl, who is also director of the Charleston Stage Company and president of Arts Advocacy West Virginia, writes that arts teach about diversity and tolerance and keep students engaged.

Many defend art for art’s sake, for intangible benefits that are difficult to measure. But the National Endowment for the Arts offers another reason to support art instruction – working artists actually make up a substantial fraction of the American economy. At about 2 million people, they are one of the largest classes of workers and only slightly smaller than the active-duty and reserve U.S. military.

Not only do artistic pursuits nourish other fields and professions, they have become economic components on their own.

The problem in Kanawha County is not that the superintendent or school board members want to save money on transportation. The problem is in thinking that it is OK to simply lop off arts field trips, any more than it would be OK to unilaterally ban all math, science or football trips.

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