Foster the Imagination

Last spring, my daughter came home from middle school and informed me that she needed me to ‘sign something.’ She took out a form letter and handed it to me. As I read it over, I was a little confused, surprised, and then became a little frustrated. In a nutshell, the students needed their parents’ permission to take either- a) Spanish class for the entire school year, (for which they’d get high school credit for), or b) Art, Tech Ed, and Careers class each lasting 1/3 of the school year. My daughter was very torn and discouraged because she really wanted to take both classes. She was interested in learning more Spanish (and many of her friends were also signing up for Spanish class), but she really, REALLY enjoys Art class. She always has. In fact, I have an enormous tote-full of her artwork in my basement with drawings and paintings that I’ve kept and cherished from the time she was a toddler up until now! So I wasn’t surprised, and I didn’t blame her one bit, when she was struggling with the decision to give up Art class completely. She enjoys Tech Ed very much, too, which is equally as important---especially in this modern age we live in and the growth in STEM careers. Why were these kids being forced to choose? Why aren’t classes like Art given the same emphasis as some of the other classes? I called the school to find out more and was given the explanation that it was a scheduling conflict. Spanish was offered at the same time as Art and the other classes…so the kids couldn’t take both. One or the other. That was that. Unfortunately, many other schools are often put in this same position to make some hard decisions, perhaps because of budget cuts or lack of funding needed to offer more classes.

I understand that academics are important. I get that. And yes, they are. But I think there has been soooo much emphasis on academics and test scores that sometimes we forget about the value and importance of classes like Art and Music. These classes foster a child’s imagination and creativity. Kids NEED that. In a day when they are pushed and pushed and pushed with learning facts and figures and being pressured to get those higher standardized test scores, they need an outlet to let their minds relax…to just grow, explore, and be free to imagine. Albert Einstein once said: “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world…” And Pablo Picasso: “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”
How very true.

I think it’s great that our educational system wants our kids to succeed in life and do well in their ‘core’ academic classes like Math and Reading. Yes, it’s a competitive world out there and yes, we need to be prepared. But I strongly believe that much of a person's "success" in life depends upon whether or not they are PASSIONATE about what they're doing. And many children have a passion for things like drawing, painting, singing, acting, or other things that you can’t ‘test’ their ability in. They need to be given the opportunities to explore their passions and God-given talents at a young age. If they are discouraged, they will stop. Just think for a moment about all the amazing actors, singers, song-writers, artists, photographers, and so-forth that we have in our world today. And think what an absolutely dull and boring place it would be if they hadn’t had the opportunity to share their amazing gifts and talents with us. What if nobody had ever encouraged Picasso, Michelangelo, or Claude Monet to paint? What if nobody had ever encouraged Elvis Presley, Prince, or the Beatles to sing? The world might be a very different place if we never got to witness the passion and talents of such great individuals.

And speaking of talent, I had the opportunity to talk to one uber-talented artist a couple of years ago about this very topic. Chris Daughtry has an incredible passion for art and music. I asked him his thoughts on schools cutting back on these programs (due to budget constraints, state standards or whatever the reason may be…) and this is what he had to say….

Makes perfect sense to me.

In the end, I told my daughter to take the class that she WANTED to take. Don’t worry about getting ‘behind’ in school because you didn’t take a year of high school Spanish as an 8th grader.
Do what makes you happy. Do what you are passionate about.

She took Art.
And I am so happy she did.

I can't wait to add more masterpieces to her collection....

About the Author...
Katie Kuenkel
Katie and her husband are proud parents of four busy kids (including twins!) and one mischievous puppy. In her free time, Katie enjoys waterskiing, basketball, boating, bowling, , photography, spending time with friends, and going to Daughtry concerts. ;)

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