The arts, including visual art, dance, drama and music now could be considered extras. The only subjects considered important are language, math and science–because they appear to be the only subjects that get people jobs. I have great fear for our students.
There are two things wrong with this. First, about 10 percent of our student population suffers from some form of learning disability–they are smart people who can't learn in a linear, left-brained system. We have discovered many things about how these people learn. We offer many extra services to help, because we know that we have to teach these people differently. There are private schools in the States that use the arts as the key to help these people learn to read and write and do math. We will, if we are not vigilant, be returning to a system that will not offer these subjects because they seem to have no direct link to a job.
In the fifties, when I went to school, we had no music, art, dance or drama in my school. We offered no other special services. The students with learning problems sat in the back until they were 16, then left school. The difference from then to now is that most of those people were able to get legitimate employment.
The other thing wrong with eliminating the arts is they help develop the other side of the brain. You can get a job with only linear left-brain skills, but the leaders, visionaries and inventors are those who have developed both left and right hemispheres. You need to be creative first, then have the mechanical dexterity before you can solve problems, change things, and invent. Is your child bright and creative?
A school without the arts will not serve the needs of those students with learning problems, nor those who are truly bright and gifted creators. We will be able to send out from our schools only a percentage of students and they will be trained to be cogs in the wheels of our various factories–clerical or labour.
The other school subject still seen as important, but not important enough to warrant a qualified teacher, is physical education. It has not been long that we can truly call what we do physical education. In the past sometimes what we have taught, was really only team sports and competition. There is a vast difference between the two. Our qualified teachers know the difference and offer true physical education. The “local sports hero” is not trained to know. Neither is he trained to know how to deal with children with ADD and other disorders.
If Mike Harris gets his way, parents had better hope that their children have absolutely no problems learning and that they want only to work for some large corporation as a worker.
If this terrible protest were only about high school prep time, no one would be out holding a picket sign. People who know teachers know that. But when we constantly hear “teacher protest" and "prep time” in the same sentences, over and over, it is difficult not to be swayed.
We are at a watershed. If we let Mike Harris determine our course in education, only those who can afford private schools could be assured of a bright fututre.