February 12, 2009
Dear Headmaster Mooney-Teta,
I am the parent of an 8th grader at the Boston Latin School and am devastated to learn that the budget proposal for 2009-10 eliminates one of the best public school art programs and most dedicated faculty that I have encountered both as a parent and a former teacher. These cuts destroy a program that has been painstakingly built over the past decade to become an award-winning model for arts education in US public high schools.
I am stunned by your decision to target the arts program. Why destroy something that serves such a large percentage of the student body, fosters academic achievements in school, is instrumental in college admissions, and leads to their success in the workplace? I understand that there is economic panic, but this decision I respectfully must argue will result in long-term damage to the future of too many young people.
The arts curriculum has been the key to engaging my son in school. It is why he has maintained A's and B's in his classes. The arts teachers foster a sense of community in their classrooms and then outside the classroom in the performing groups. They treat the students as unique individuals with unlimited creative potential. Attending music classes is how our son made friends and why he wants to get up so early and get to school. The arts teachers/curriculum gave my son confidence in a new, giant, often overwhelming institution. Playing trumpet in the football and junior jazz bands gave him a sense of pride in and connection to the school that frankly, would be impossible to achieve in any of the academic classes or clubs. He would have dropped out last year if not for the music program and the music teachers. Mr. Snyder is particularly outstanding – I am appalled that he was given notice.
There is extensive research to support the fact that my son's experience is not unique and that the arts are a critical component of students’ learning and achievement in other academic areas. For example, see the Harvard-based study on the impact of music in non-musical areas, Forgeard M, Winner E, Norton A, Schlaug G. Practicing a Musical Instrument in Childhood is Associated with Enhanced Verbal Ability and Nonverbal Reasoning. PLoS ONE, 2008; 3 (10): e3566 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0003566. Research has refuted past notions of the creative arts as “extras” and placed them in the center of k-12 education. Take a moment and listen to the voices of the students in case the scientific research isn't enough:
The Massachusetts Arts Curriculum Framework reflects these findings and states that:
“All students in the Commonwealth’s public schools will become proficient in understanding the arts and communicating in at least one arts discipline by the time they graduate from high school. In order to achieve these goals, it is recommended in this framework that students begin their study of the arts in the elementary grades, and continue to study one or more of the arts disciplines throughout middle and high school.”
Ending the arts curriculum at the high school level will severely impact many students’ abilities to get into college and receive scholarships, thereby cancelling out the reason they attend the Boston Latin School. Colleges are looking for students whose achievements go beyond the traditional academic subjects. A substantial record of involvement in the arts in many cases may tip the balance in favor of a student's admission.
Finally, the students will be at a disadvantage in their future careers without arts in their curriculum. The Partnership for 21st Century Skills, an organization whose board includes executives from Intel, Adobe, Cisco, Ford, HP, Apple, Microsoft and Verizon, lists the arts as one of the core subjects in its "Framework for 21st Century Learning." The Framework also specifies cognitive/behavioral skills that will be crucial for 21st-century workers, including:
o Creativity and innovation
o Communication and collaboration
o Flexibility and adaptability
o Initiative and self-direction
o Leadership and responsibility
Please commit to using any funds which may be returned to the BLS budget for the restoration of the arts faculty, and if the worst-case scenario prevails, we further ask that you reallocate the cuts in a more equitable way that reflects the integral role of the arts in the Massachusetts core curriculum and the BLS educational experience.