When Schools Cut Out the Arts and ROTC

I want to talk for a few minutes about some of the programs in our schools that are experiencing cuts. There are too many music programs that are in jeapordy because the school systems don’t think those programs are as important. As a student who learns better musically, I disagree. When programs are in place that teach students how to express themselves through music, those programs should be nurtured and protected. Singing and playing instruments have helped generations get through the most difficult of days. What would a foot ball game be with no marching band? What would the halls sound like if students had no way to listen on their MP3’s and other devices? Where would the creativity of our kids be if the music died?

It’s not just the music programs. Programs like ROTC that help so many students gain confidence when they are struggling are in jeopardy. We have many administrators that would love to see those programs vanish like a fart in the wind. Some of those programs have helped many students further their education with scholarships, they have instilled self-esteem, and leadership roles when they might have otherwise been invisible to the systems.

Art programs have suffered as well. I’m not taking anything away from the athletic programs. They are a critical source of income for the schools. But these other programs are as crucial. I’ve always heard that if you want something bad enough, you’ll find ways to keep it going. I think that’s true in so many cases. It was because of a movie that I am reminded of how many cuts schools inflict on students and the impact those losses have.

If you’ve ever watched Mr. Holland’s Opus, then you will understand where I’m coming from. Mr. Holland was a composer. He found himself teaching students for a number of years. The assistant principal was always a thorn in his side and detested the music program. Watching the two of them banter reminds me of how many conversations are similar in our day to day lives. Many of my friends are educators and they struggle with the politics in the school systems. Everything boils down to money. Education is a business and it costs money to keep them in operation.

I struggle when educators cut back on programs that the unpopular kids love. Not every child is going to excel on a football, basketball, baseball, soccer, or lacrosse field. Some kids are prone to activities like music, chess, ROTC, Math and Science clubs, and other programs. When school systems cut back on the pivotal programs that they don’t think are popular and necessary, they take a part of those kids away. When the ROTC program was cut back at the high school I volunteered at, my heart was furious. These kids came from all sorts of different backgrounds. They learned the importance of teamwork, leadership, and accountability. Some of them went on to have illustrious careers in the military, with a few of them attending the Citadel. Others went on to make positive changes in their communities and they were prepared with the help of incredible Drill Instructors. Those leaders who helped shape these kids, were not in it because of the money. They did it to help keep other kids out of trouble with the law. Did they always succeed? No. But it wasn’t for a lack of effort. Yet, they impacted more kids than the school system will tell you about. The kids loved the programs and valued each other. That’s a gift more powerful than any standardized test.

STEM programs are becoming prominent throughout the school systems. That’s not a bad thing. Using computers and technology is a staple for excellence, and while it should never be diminished, remember that even Bill Gates was not a jock. Here’s a fun tidbit. A lot of the stem programs are influenced by music. They have music in the background, graphic arts are utilized in the programming, and creativity flows in the coding. They all work together. But if you take any of those components away, they aren’t as strong. The same applies for the programs schools have cut back on. I know so many kids that have struggled because their voices were silenced. Yes, they found other ways to be heard but sometimes those ways weren’t healthy.

If it sounds like I’m griping a little that’s because I am. I recently got word about a school I love dearly that is cutting the music and arts programs from their curriculum. I know so many students that this will affect and the superintendent involved makes Cruella De Ville look like Glinda the Good witch of the north. My point is simple. When we take programs away from kids that changes their lives for the better, we create mayhem. Pulling programs that have a positive impact can cause more damage than it does good. For some of these kids, these programs are lifelines.

If this is happening in your areas, I hope you can help find ways to keep the programs available. Some of these kids can express themselves with these programs in ways they can’t do otherwise. Keep the music going for the kids who have endless melodies to play. You might not like the military, but the question is do your kids like the program? If the answer is yes, it’s important to help kids keep growing in positive ways. Believe it or not some of these programs are the silent cheerleaders of the schools. It’s not easy being popular in school. Take it from some of the kids who constantly experience expectations. I was never in that category. But the music flowed through my heart, soul, and veins. And the experiences that I had and still remember fondly, have shaped never-ending amounts of creativity. Those experiences are priceless. And I hope that each generation can keep experiencing unique programs that help them shine. Have a great day, everyone.

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