Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Let My People Go

Sometimes I feel like Moses leading his people out of exile. Those right brained kids who have been forced into exile by Prop 13, No Child Left Behind, our self-involved American culture, and the lack of respect and understanding of what makes any civilization great.

As an artist and a mom, I want to make sure that my two kids receive a well rounded education that is rich in the arts. I also hope to educate the general public on what an arts education really means (it’s not just refrigerator art, pop music, or hand made Mother’s Day cards).

My two kids are very different from one another. One is biologically linked to my husband and I, the other one is not. One is Chinese and one is not. One is a right brained learner and does much better in an “out of the box educational setting”, while the other is the pride of the Status Quo, a left brained learner, who has earned her seat at the head of the class, “inside the box”. Yet, they both need the arts in school, and for very different reasons. The right brained learner needs the arts in order to be successful and happy learning. The left brained learner needs the arts because she needs the challenge of not relying on finding the one right answer, or being perfect every time.

When I was a kid attending public schools in the 70s, the right brained kids never felt like oddities or failures, as we were never singled out as such. We were just the kids who were good at art, music, drama and science. The exceptionally talented were just thought of as exceptionally talented. And now, 30 years later, with an entire generation of Californians who never had the arts in school, a new teaching force who didn’t have the arts in school, a culture that values the self and material things above all else, and federal mandates which pressures under-performing schools to work miracles without the necessary support or resources, we basically have a tragedy on our hands. This tragedy has had devastating effects on not only our educational systems, but also on our economy, our culture, and our relationships to one another and our selves. The United States is in a whole lot of trouble right now, and we need more right brained thinkers to get us out of it. Trouble is, right brained thinkers have been in exile for an entire generation – and some are living false or empty lives, all because our culture doesn’t value creativity and individuality. Now we need these people, but they aren’t equipped to rescue us.

I want to reverse this trend by bringing the arts back to schools. Because in so doing, we will be making sure that both sides of the brain are stimulated, used and educated. I want all kids to be given different ways to succeed in school. And I want our culture to reeducate itself on what arts education means. So I have dedicated myself to making sure that my kids and the kids of my community receive the same support, resources and respect that I did as a kid. I strive to give voice to the human beings impacted by the decisions and laws that are influenced by data, money, and personal agendas. The arts are valuable, not because they increases test scores or keeps kids in school, but because they create and develop well rounded human beings.

I want kids to not be judged by their standardized test scores alone. I want us, as a society, to see the most creative amongst us as the talented, brilliant, unique beings that they are, not as the freaks and under achievers that they have been led to believe they are. I don’t want to see one more kid get labeled and medicated because they don’t fit in, or are dragging their school’s API scores down. I want the creative and brightest to be freed from exile.

So mom says, “Let my people go!” And you don’t want to mess with Mom.