Sunday, January 31, 2010

Added to the Endangered Species List: Young Bright Minds of Los Angeles

So now that we're looking to lose more support for arts education (the LAUSD may be cutting its elementary school art teachers by 50% next year and the other half by 2011, the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs has been put on the chopping block, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission is making it a condition that arts ed providers get a match from their school districts, and people aren't making tax deductible donations to local arts ed organizations), we all face the very real threat of losing the brightest minds of this generation because we're opting to neglect them by denying them a well rounded education which is rich in the arts.

What's at stake here? Imagination!!!!!

We stand to lose the future innovators, inventors, and leaders who can lead us out of the mess that we have created for ourselves (and THEM!). Children who are encouraged to color outside of the lines, reach for ideas and solutions outside of the box, and think for themselves (i.e. children who receive arts education), are our future problem solvers. Not the kids today who are being trained to color within the lines, regurgitate and memorize empty information so they can perform well on standardized tests, or sit still and "focus" (oh, how I have grown to hate this word. It's become an institutional word meaning "needs medication").

The cuts to arts education don't just affect the kids and schools of today. They effect all of us in Los Angeles; citizens without kids, whose kids are grown, or go to private schools. The cuts even affect citizens who could care less about anyone but themselves. Your futures all depend on the public education of children today because these are the people who will take care of you in the next couple of decades. Do you want to be dependent on an unimaginative, compliant, uninspired generation?

We need EVERYBODY to take an interest in this arts education crisis. Write your elected officials. Support your local arts organizations. Put pressure on the Status Quo to do the right thing. The parasites of public education aren't worried. They know that they are safe, because they are protected by their unions as well as their host (which is too big and dysfunctional to ever correct itself). They won't want to leave their host unless they are no longer well fed. The only hope for reform is through public pressure. It's either that, or starve the host and let it die. If that happens, I'll be pulling my second child out of public school. I won't martyr my daughter just because I'm a champion for public education. That's bad news for the Status Quo. Because she's a good test taker.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

One Great Reason to Send Your Kids to Public Schools in LA

One of my favorite reasons for sending my kids to public school in Los Angeles is meeting people from all around the world. And I'm not just talking about my kids. I'm talking about myself, too.

Coming from homogeneous Colorado, where everybody is white and protestant, I didn't grow up around anybody other than people who looked just like me. So when I moved to LA over 20 years ago, I couldn't get enough of the many different cultures, peoples, and traditions that I was exposed to. I loved getting to visit different cultures without ever leaving home.

When I became a mother, I wanted my kids to experience the rich diversity that Los Angeles had to offer, via the public school system. So I sent my kids to the neighborhood school, in their own community. I didn't want to send them across town to a private school where they could be insulated and set apart, with "their own kind". Having my kids attend public school in LA means that they get to make friends with children from many different countries. They get to learn about different cultures, values, histories, and traditions. They have been exposed to different languages, customs and religions. I consider that to be part of their public school education - to befriend children from around the world. My daughter's best friends in her classrooms for the past three years have parents who have come here from Mexico, Iran, the Philippines, and India. Which means that I have made new friends from Mexico, Iran, the Philippines, and India. I love learning about their cultures and what led them to America. In getting to know them, my life is enriched and I become more open, receptive, and well, educated.

I send my kids to the neighborhood school and I become educated. Hmmm. Imagine that.