Dear Members of the NCGA,
I am sure that many of you are familiar with Don McLean’s famous song “American Pie.” It has been the subject of tremendous amounts of explication. Websites devoted to explaining all of the lyrics and all of the rumored allusions can take a day or two to just peruse, but McLean himself has identified the “day the music died” as that day in Feb. of 1959 when a plane carrying Buddy Holly (“That’ll Be The Day”), Richie Valens (“La Bamba”), and J.P. Richardson (aka. The Big Bopper) crashed killing all three rock icons.
Many people who were not even alive in the 1970’s can quote the first verse from memory.
“A long long time ago
I can still remember how
That music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while
But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step
I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
Something touched me deep inside
The day the music died.”
McLean’s song highlighted our culture’s need for music, expression, and how important it is to cultivate our sense of being by developing not just the logical left side of the brain, but the creative right side as well.
What followed in the next 15 years after that fateful plane crash was possibly one of the most turbulent times in American history: the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam, Watergate, Women’s Rights, ongoing Cold War, etc. And the music and the rest of its artistic siblings helped us to capture, reflect, express, communicate, and heal from those scars received.
And now with the current political climate on this global terrain, we will need to rely on our artistic expressions to help cope and grow from what we will experience in the near future.
How ironic that in such turbulent times our own leaders are searching for ways to quash our children’s opportunities to develop the very creative and physical skills that study after study shows make us more complete, well-rounded, and prepared for life’s situations.
A Nov. 14th report on NC Policy Watch by Billy Ball (“New rules to lower class sizes force stark choices, threatening the arts, music and P.E”) states,
“North Carolina public school leaders say a legislative mandate to decrease class sizes in the early grades may have a devastating impact on school systems across the state, forcing districts to spend millions more hiring teachers or cut scores of positions for those teaching “specialty” subjects such as arts, music and physical education” (http://www.ncpolicywatch.com/2016/11/14/new-rules-lower-class-sizes-force-stark-choices-threatening-tas-specialty-education-positions/).
First, I would make the argument that arts, music, and physical education are not “specialties” but “necessities.” In a nation that is spending more on health problems caused by obesity, the need to get kids moving and away from the television might be just as important as core subject material. Secondly, it shows a glaring contradiction to the religious platforms that many of you in state government have been professing while maintaining office.
The predominant spiritual path in the United States, Judeo-Christianity, talks much of the need for music, dance, movement, song, and expression. I think of all of the hymns and musicals my own Southern Baptist church produced, most complete with choreography, which is odd considering that many joke about Baptists’ aversion to dancing.
Even the Bible commands “Sing to the LORD a new song; Sing to the LORD, all the earth” (Psalms 96:1), and “Praise Him with timbrel and dancing; Praise Him with stringed instruments and pipe” (Psalm 150:4).
Furthermore, the Bible often talks of the body as being a “temple of the Holy Spirit” and even commands Christians to stay physically fit. “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Yet, some of you who are cheering about a budget surplus are planning to “force districts into stark choices about how to allocate their resources.” Ball continues,
“In some districts, it may mean spending millions more in local dollars to hire additional teachers. Or in other districts, officials say, leaders may be forced to eliminate specialty education positions or draw cash from other pools, such as funding for teaching assistants.”
That’s egregious. That’s backwards. That’s forcing school districts to make decisions about whether to educate the whole child or part of the child in order to make student/teacher ratios look favorable.
That’s like going out of your way to get plastic surgery, liposuction, and body sculpting to create a new look while ignoring the actual health of your body. Without proper nutrition, sleep, exercise, mental health, and emotional support, we open doors to maladies.
When the Bible talks about a temple, it talks about the insides, not just the outsides.
Interestingly enough, many of the private schools and charter schools that receive public money through Opportunity Grants have plentiful art programs and physical education opportunities.
So why put these programs for public schools in jeopardy?
What our history has shown us time and time again is that we needed music, dance, arts, and physical education to cope and grow as people and we needed them to become better students. To force the removal of these vital areas of learning would be making our students more one-dimensional. It would make them less prepared.
Don McLean released “American Pie” in 1971. It is widely considered one of the top ten songs of the entire twentieth century. Fifty-five years later, it still has relevance.
The last verse (or “outro”) is actually a tad bit haunting.
“I met a girl who sang the blues
And I asked her for some happy news
But she just smiled and turned away
I went down to the sacred store
Where I’d heard the music years before
But the man there said the music wouldn’t play
And in the streets, the children screamed
The lovers cried and the poets dreamed
But not a word was spoken
The church bells all were broken
And the three men I admire most
The Father, Son and the Holy Ghost
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died.”
When we elect you as our public servants to serve, we gave you the keys to the vehicle that drives our state, a purple colored divided state that has HB2, vouchers, redistricting, Voter ID laws, underfunded public schools, and poverty.
Now imagine that vehicle being a Chevy. We don’t need to go to a dry levee.
We need to keep the music and the other “necessities.”
Public School Teacher