Friday, April 13, 2007

Build Strong Bodies? Yes, But Not at the Expense of the Arts

The Texas Legislature is in session, and, as always, a lot of the bills before it have to do with education. One in particular looks fairly harmless on the surface:
Flabby schoolchildren would get more exercise under a Senate bill passed Wednesday that sets firm standards for daily physical education in kindergarten through the eighth grade.

The measure by Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Lewisville, would require all school districts to put their students through "moderate or vigorous" physical activity each day for at least 30 minutes – or a minimum 135 minutes per week if daily sessions are impractical because of scheduling conflicts.

The plan is the latest in a longstanding attempt to restore P.E. as a pillar of public education. The subject that made dodgeball a household name has taken a back seat to classes that give students a jump-start on high school credit or boost their chances of passing standardized tests, P.E. supporters say.
So far, so good. But later in the story (as always, read the whole thing), somebody brings up a very good point:
But critics of Ms. Nelson's bill say an expansion of P.E. will push kids to drop music classes at the most formative time of their lives.

"If you wait until they're in college to try and instill a love of the arts in them, you often have waited until it's too late," said Dee Franklin, a retired fundraiser for the arts in Dallas.

Eighth-graders at Renner Middle School in Plano, for instance, have room for two elective classes a year. That would shrink to one elective because of P.E., said Lauren Gould, an assistant band director.

Ms. Gould worries overachievers will cast aside band, choir or orchestra in favor of foreign language classes, which count as high school credit.

"Nobody's going to play in sixth and seventh grade, skip a year and then re-enter band in high school," she said.

Ms. Gould told hundreds of Plano parents in an e-mail that the proposal "would virtually destroy music programs throughout the state."
OK, now you're hitting me where I live. There's no reason to push P.E. at the expense of the arts--especially music, which really needs to be started at the middle-school level in order to achieve a certain level of proficiency by the end of high school. It's not unheard of to start an instrument at the high school level, but, seeing as how one is expected to move around a football field in formations while playing, it would be very, very tough.

I've discussed at length on this blog why I feel that the arts are an important component of a basic, well-rounded education; including them in the curriculum will raise the overall value of an education and it can even help bring about success in the corporate world. Physical activity is important, but let's not throw out an equally important class in the process.

Thinking back to my own middle-school days, it occurred to me that we didn't have that problem. I had to take P.E. during all three years of middle school, save for a one-semester exemption in seventh grade because I was taking both band and a foreign language. We had the same seven-period day that my district has now, so it makes me wonder: What class has been added to the curriculum since then that would cause this logjam, and is that class as necessary as either P.E. or music?

I don't have time to do the research on that question at the moment (maybe some of my teacher friends who read this blog can help me out here), but I would encourage the Legislature to work harder before passing this bill into law. Surely, there's a compromise that won't be as costly as the current legislation.

Triskaidekaphilia: Did you do anything differently today because it was Friday the 13th? And did you encounter anyone named Jason along the way? (The only Jason in my teaching studio had his lesson several days ago.)

Riders of the storm: And how about that huge storm that hit the area today? I trust that all my local readers are OK, and I'm glad that my neighborhood wasn't quite in the path of the tornado that seemed to be going eastward across the Metroplex. Did anyone actually take cover in a closet when the sirens went off?

1 comment:

Eric Grubbs said...

The only thing I did differently on this Friday the 13th was go to a show despite the rain. Four bands for five bucks? Can't argue with that.