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Comment: Past UPcited, angry at education commissioner

I'm beyond being UPcited about the education commissioner's indefensible act of denying an Arts and Humanities Career Pathway for Adair County students. I hate what seems to be a prevailing attitude in this state that art represents very fiew job opportunities and otherwise just hobby areas.

By Linda Marcum Waggener

Mom tells of a woman who coined a fine phrase years ago that we have adopted and often use. Her acquaintance, trying not to rile her jealous husband, would say, "He lah-bl ta get UPcited and have a haht-attack!" Use of this term often helps us break tension in our house and gets a chuckle as we try to remain calm at our tender ages and states, trying to avoid haht attacks. I am past UPcited, however, and simply keeping a slow burn over the commissioner of education denying our students a career pathway in the arts.

A man with the wisdom of 100 years of life, Kentucky historian laureate Dr. Thomas Dionysius Clark (1903-2005), said in an interview before his death, "... For Kentuckians to live a Full Life, Do Something in the Arts ~ Feed Your Spirit, Develop Your Personality ..." - Dr. Thomas D. Clark

What part of "de-ve-lop your per-son-al-ity" could the commissioner not understand? And what career area does not need a fully developed personality?

I believe every child has a gift and must be given support to refine it, and I believe it should be through the arts. What if we could narrow the Grand-Canyon-sized gap between a child's first "I want to be..." and the resulting ability to enjoy a career in that area? Wouldn't it help the child to understand his or her own God-given gifts early enough in life to be shown a path, a fast track, toward development in order to enjoy making a career with that gift - in ANY career area?

Wouldn't it be wonderful to help children know it's o.k. to enjoy who they are, and feel like they fit perfectly into life? Many can relate to the feeling of frustration that comes from not knowing how we're ever supposed to fit into this world. Not every child has someone to observe, affirm and encourage except through teachers along the way.

As one who's loving dad discouraged his first daughter's youthful drawing, painting, writing in favor of secretarial and biscuit-making training, I remain UPcited because as a child who said in answer to that infernal question, 'what do you want to be when you grow up' -- 'I want to be a writer' -- only got raised eyebrows from teachers and 'hmmm-mmm-s' in response, because there was literally no career pathway, it took years for me to allow myself to believe I could be a 'writer' even while I was writing/communicating every day for a living in most of the jobs I've had.

As a child, my beginning skills in drawing and writing showed all over the place. I created pictures with my Grandmother Marcum's laundry bluing, I scribbled stories everywhere and people would say 'you have a way with words'. I asked for watercolor paints in the window of the store but was told, 'we can't afford it.' At least in high school I did have a typing class and learned what the concept was.

Not one person was able to guide me towards making a living with my natural skills, and my wonderful father simply offered the heartfelt belief that a girl should stop playing at those things and learn to type in case I "had to get a job for a while as a secretary if my husband ever got sick." (That was when girls lived in relation to the Cinderella storybook happy ending theory that someone was coming to solve everything and so careers were not necessary to plan for except in case of emergency.) Well, the emergency started the minute I stepped out of dad and mom's home into college where lack of a career pathway completely overwhelmed me.

And, the good man I married and the two good sons I raised can tell you that to this day I still can't make biscuits.

I believe it's our duty as parents and educators to help children identify and develop their God-given gifts as early as possible to help assure that they grow into successful citizens, to help them know themselves, and to help them build a solid base of self esteem to carry them through life.

Here are a dozen reasons why I feel this career path is so necessary:

1) LITERARY ARTS - reading, thinking and talking, problem solving. Experts say every child should know how to read well by third grade or be destined for that group labeled 'at risk for dropout' status.

2) PAINTING -- experience begins in visual arts with a child's first refrigerator art and should develop more in every school year toward their growing ability to express thoughts.

3) FOLK ART preserves local culture and heritage. Each tradition handed down deserves a place in official history and should be documented with special gifts in observing and documenting.

4) SCIENCE -- Leonardo daVinci spoke about the "Art of Science and the Science of Art". There's no question that the two go together. Princeton University scientists and engineers took this master's plea seriously in a belief that art and science "involve the pursuit of those moments of discovery when what is perceived suddenly becomes more than the sum of its parts."

6) SCULPTING -- a path that begins in childhood with play dough and extends beyond the arts into health care.

7) MEDIA -- where to begin? Today with a cellphone in nearly every child's hands the need for the abilities to speak, write, photograph, video and edit is vital.

8) WRITING -- No books nor websites can be created, no monumental speech can be saved for posterity, no movie can be directed without first having the written word documented. Many feel that developing writing skills early is equal in importance to reading.

9) DANCE -- For physical fitness or just being able to feel good in social settings where dancing is included, this is one area of the arts where everyone can benefit.

10) ACTING -- The art of being able to tell a story or perform before an audience or camera has been with us since Shakespeare's day.

11) MUSIC -- Instruments *Singing -- Some children "hear" the music in their imaginations as clearly as a visual artist "sees" a picture. Music is called 'the international language' and should be part of every grade.

12) PRESENTATION -- Self Esteem Development , leadership, public speaking is a vital area of development for a child, to help each to know that he or she is unique, worthy, and has important contributions to make on this earth. Our world today is so on-camera, whether in a trip to the local store or being stopped on the street to comment on a news event, personal presentation skills are crucial.

So, these are my dozen. What are your thoughts? When our response to every new idea - especially the idea of career pathways in the arts -- is, 'we can't afford it', conversations stop, hopelessness pervades. I say it in City Council meetings and I repeat it here, we must bury this region's 'we-can't-afford-it' mentality once and for all, especially for our studets.

Another commentary can be found here.

This story was posted on 2015-11-15 12:54:39
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