I see that there is a meeting in Menomonie tomorrow night, and on the agenda is this item:
“High School staffing and Budget including Music possible district program adjustment”
I have to admit that I am not sure what the conversations have been about to this point, but I certainly hope they are not planning on reducing the funding on the music program again. If they are, I hope they will think again. I would like to take tonight’s blog to tell you why.
I have spent the last 7 years teaching and learning at UW-Stout about communications technology and the influence it is having on our cultures, our communities, our lives. There is no doubt that our world is changing, more rapidly now than in recorded history, at least concerning the way that we communicate.
Because of the rapid changes in technology, there is also a rapid change in the kind of new jobs that are being created. These jobs sit at the crossroads of multiple disciplines that used to be treated separately. Fields like communications, art, design, music, computer science, math, business, languages and others are converging to address the problems of the new world. That is right, I combined math and computer science with art and design. I do so unapologetically.
My colleagues and I work really close with industry, and we listen to what they have to say. They are able to see the skills sets that they are going to need long before education can respond to the coming need. And this is what I am seeing.
We have become a society that is really good at producing specialists. We need lots of specialists. Specialists that can tuck right into their left brain or their right brain and think about things that can’t even be conceived by those of us who are not left or right brained, but who manage the world in a more balanced brain manner. We separate our schools into disciplines that don’t allow much cross over, allowing of course for general education credits that are a tip to a well rounded education.
But what I am hearing and seeing is that more and more, the careers that are being created in this technology driven communications world are jobs that require people to think in both sides of their brains. Students who are able to combine analytical and creative thinking are going to have a leg up in the new economy. Technology is not eliminating creative jobs. The one thing that computers cannot do is be creative.
Music, especially in performing it, requires people to cross over between many parts of the brain (see for example Music on the Brain). Performing music is training our brains for the skills we will need in the future.
But when things get tight at the K-12 level, what is always the first thing on the chopping block? Music! And when you really get down to it, music and the arts in general are not very expensive. Especially when you consider the impact of the programs on the schools and our communities. If you don’t believe me, go watch one of the last two shows of “Bye Bye Birdie” at Menomonie High School this Thursday and Friday night. I am not sure how many people are involved in the show, but I know that the cast is approaching 70 students, add a dozen in the pit, and who knows how many technical and support people and you have a significant impact.
But do you know why Director Audric Buhr was able to put together a cast this large? Because music and drama are a consistent part of this school and this community. The key word there is consistent.
The performing arts should not be an easy go to place for cuts to our education system. They should be as important to this community as educating our children in Math and Science, History and English. We should have the same problem in cutting a music program as we would in cutting a science program. Our students deserve no less.
If there is a plan, or a discussion about cutting the music program, please reconsider. This is no time to be cutting the arts from education. I hope the community will join me in voicing support for the arts programs at the Menomonie School District, and any other district that is considering unwise cuts to arts education. Comments welcomed!