— This video is in response to Sir Ken Robinson’s TED Talk “Do schools kill creativity”.–
I almost transferred out of my high school. Twice.
Lack of a solid arts program.
I am and always have been a lover of the arts. Maybe you can blame it on my cousin, who forced all of us younger kids to be in her elaborate Christmas plays for our family. Maybe you can blame it on my mom for driving me to theater shows and acting classes. Or Maybe you can blame it on the Women’s Club of Gaston County who mutually decided to take their young girls to dance classes. Either way, the arts are a fundamental part of who I am.
When I got to high school, I had never been more excited. Gastonia had a stifling theater scene I simply could not break into. High school was going to be my chance. My dreams were bitterly crushed to find my high school DID NOT have any kind of after school theater production. No plays, no school musicals. To make matters worse, my guidance counselor had talked me out of chorus freshman year to help my GPA. I’d stopped working at the Renaissance Festival to focus on schoolwork. I had no creative outlet at all and it was awful.
After my freshman year, I got accepted into a magnet technology school. Still, they also had no arts program. There didn’t seem to be any benefit to going, I would simply be changing one school with no arts for another. So I said no. I did sign up for chorus at my school and after two years of vigorous campaigning, I managed to find someone to direct a school musical. Forestview had it’s first spring musical in 5 years that May.
I still didn’t feel quite at home though. The theater program was new and I didn’t know if the musical would last another year. I applied for a charter school, one with dance classes and a show choir and a well established theater program. I received acceptance. I wanted to go.
But then color guard happened.
On a whim I’d decided to try out. I didn’t even finish auditioning, they let me in simply because I had a dance background. After two weeks of band camp, both hellish and amazing, I was sucked in. I’d found a family, a group of friends passionate about performing. I was reeled in and I couldn’t leave. So I stayed at Forestview.
Our theater program grew exponentially. We now have a set group of theater and chorus teachers running the show. My senior show was the Sound of Music, two and a half hours with a brilliant cast and musical directions and set and costumes. I was in choir until my senior year. I did marching band and winter guard.
These things were VITAL to my happiness in high school. Without creative outlets my freshman year, my mental health took a serious dive. I was unhappy and struggled to find my place. If schools really want to encourage education and participation in school, they need to invest in solid arts programs. God knows they somehow find the money for football teams and new cheerleading uniforms. There needs to be room in the schedules and budgets for those of us that need creative expression in our lives. Students should not be discouraged from taking classes like chorus, art, and marching band via lower GPA weights. I’m honestly still mad at my guidance counselor for talking me out of it my freshman year.
I realize this video is about so much more than that. Standardized testing and emphasis on being right are serious issues in our education system that discourage creativity and real problem solving. But lack of actual creative outlets is much more personal to me and hence, this way too long blog post is my response. Schools do discourage creativity. Yet, this is a problem that can be fixed. Invest in creative outlets. Allow students with different needs and interests to thrive. And maybe, just maybe, you’ll keep more students like me in your public schools that way.