Let us promote your talents...to be found!
Today was the day where I became witness to the utter destruction of a High School Performing Arts program. Most of you should realize the seriousness of how the arts are slowly dying and nobody knows why it matters. Well, it matters because of many reasons, the main one, I feel, would be taking away a fun humanities related subject from the students whom may only be able to excersize their right brains through the arts so that they can succeed in their other academic classes in humaities. Test scores go down. Then the school funding is cut due to low scores. It could even lead to closing the entire school. The arts are really this important, and I am so upset that a school which has a reputation for being top notch can't even see this sad situation. The students are the ones who will suffer most.
First off, I was informed today that my own performing arts class, Standup Comedy, which I was teaching at the Southeastern Regional Vocational Tech High School in Easton, MA, wasn't being renewed for the upcoming spring semester due to the loud classroom (it's standup comedy, we laugh, that was never a secret when we started) and other petty problems which sound to me just like jealous faculty members trying to get rid of the teacher whom has actually performed professionally since the age of 3. I didn't learn what I know from some silly book or class, and that makes some people intimidated. Frankly, I am more upset that the course is being nixed than the fact they won't ask me to teach it. The school needs that course, and here's why I feel that way...
See, this class was the only performing arts course any of the popular kids would join. So, now, the school has just made the mistake of discouraging students of a more popular social status from enjoying the performing arts. This move, if it's not replaced by an equally interesting course for the students right away, will kill the performing arts department quickly.
Why? Well, it's simple. The major for performing arts at the school is brand new. This means that the first students attracted to the courses will be of a less popular group of students and labeled by all other kids as being only for the nerds. Soon, even those involved in the program will drop out to avoid ridicule. Then, poof, no more performing arts studies at the high school.
Like it or not, social standing plays a huge hand in this process. If students are not offered a variety of "cool" or interesting classes, appealing to the kids at school with more popular social status', then nobody in that social circle will consider the stage as somewhere interesting, fun, or even cool. The school systems across the country are experiencing declines in the student populations because they are neglecting the performing arts programs in favor of sports.
You see, without courses like my standup comedy class (which was very popular and many kids are now very angry that the school cut this program), we will never be able to blend students of all social levels successfully. The school here in Easton, MA is heading for a performing arts group made of only a few kids, which will then be cut for financial reasons. Teachers in the subject will loose jobs, and our schools will once again be completely declining in both academic testing and even in population of the schools themselves. Who wants a boring school? Dropping out of high school will definitely increase without some sort of program which appeals to most of the kids, and not all kids enjoy playing sports. We will be faced with an epidemic which nobody will know how to fix when it's too late.
The arts excersize the right brain and enhance creativity. Performing arts need to be saved especially because of the huge amount of benefits they offer students. These include alternatives to sports for kids who don't play (keeping kids off the streets), helping students excel in humanities related subjects such as History, English and Social Studies. Also, many activities on stage can help with weight loss because of physical excersizes used by singers, actors, and dancers alike.
I personally went to 3 different high schools due to my father's job. The first was in Quincy, IL, not a big city in any way. However, the performing arts department was so large and advanced that students of every social level in the school were involved. The senior class president sang, danced and was an actor. He is now a film director. Other popular students wrote comedies, performed stand up routines, danced, joined swing or show choirs to sing and dance, the list is very long.
Oh, and the kids whom were not quite as popular were just as involved. Nobody was ever immune to the arts at our high school. Our stage was the size of one on Broadway in NYC with 2 side wings for extra stage room. We also had a very expensive backdrop fly, which lifted the backdrops up straight and didn't roll them up. The money for all of this came from ticket sales and packed audiences. Our standards were very high for every single show, so they never appeared to be amateur productions.
You see, by making our performing arts department more diverse, everyone was a winner. Students had a great time doing whatever they enjoyed most. The school department made huge profits from ticket sales and donations to the programs as well. Test scores were very high, giving the school even more money from the state. It was simply a haven for the artistic side of our town.
Then my family moved to a large city. I expected the same kinds of programs there, however, was met with pathetic stages no bigger than the stage wings from my small hometown. Almost no performing arts program either. Plus, anybody involved with the performing arts for this high school were considered as outcasts. All, except for maybe our speech team, which I joined. We then moved to another part of the city, the program there was better, but not great. With my wild ideas being taken seriously by our department, like more shows, more interesting plays for those who liked horror stories, a strong speech team that would be eligible for the ATHELETE OF THE MONTH AND YEAR AWARD. That was fought against in a big way, but we won and became an official athletic team! I became the first on our team to win the title of Athlete of the Month and they continue to award students with a competitive nature involved in the DDF team with the honor which I started back in the late 80's. The sports teams didn't like what I started, but soon it became accepted throughout the school.
Now, I know that they are still adding new performing arts programs there and students whom would never normally associate with one another are now working as teams to be the very best in the state. See, the arts work wonders and schools are pissing them away!
All our little tech school in Easton now offers is drama class. 2 shows a year. The female teacher there is not well liked by any student there either. Every single student I know from my own course has told me they won't ever become a part of that group because of their geek/nerd status at school. At least with the standup comedy class, where not one of my students had stage experience, the cool kids began to see the fun performing can offer them. They have just scratched the bare surface, but now it's gone so my students are very angry, not having an outlet for this new interest anymore.
To quote the funniest, as well as the most popular student at Southeastern, whom happened to also be in my class last fall...:
"Southeastern doesn't have a sense of humor, that's why they got rid of standup. An example of their thought process:
Student Says: 'finally an extended day class where I can enjoy & have fun & laugh in, I'm having a good time'
Southeastern: 'You're having fun? And laughing and having a good time???? well that's not good. We're gunna have to change that now aren't we?? No more stand up.'
we'll miss you, I know I will"
The above student comment is only one voice, I know after my daughter gets the word out tomorrow there will be similar quotes and complaints, but the school does not care at all. They will kill our performing arts department before it has a chance. I've also seen their version of a speech team, and they are terrible. I know not everyone is a star, but the coaching and dramatic instructions are seriously lacking and incorrect (I watched a few classes being taught and it made me sick), which will set Southeastern Performing Arts on the chopping block much sooner. I even offered to volunteer to assist their speech coach since I have over 37 first place awards under my belt, as well as being a judge while in college. Nope, I'm an outsider trying to rock the boat is all they see.
My friends, why on earth do we allow schools to butcher our performing arts departments and beef up the sports, even if the school isn't really good at sports? We have to do something as a society to save our schools from lacking culture, social maturity, and teaching our kids that if they don't play a sport, then they have no other after school enjoyment other than making trouble.
I don't think anything short of a student petition will save my program now, but I'm much more concerned about the big picture here. Making being on a stage or working behind the scenes awesome for everyone, like it was in my small hometown high school.
Thanks for reading this, I'm very concerned about all of us loosing the arts in our school systems due to pure stupidity and short sightedness...Renee
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