Sen. Chad Barefoot’s Walking Contradiction on HB13

hb13-nc_orig

The term “walking contradiction” describes someone who says one thing and then acts in a contradictory fashion.  Nowhere do we get a better example of the “walking contradiction” than with politicians who knowingly and blatantly make statements that contradict their own actions or professed value systems.

In North Carolina, we have many of our own walking contradictions. One of them is Sen. Chad Barefoot, the co-chairman of the NC Senate Education Committee which has refused to move on HB13 after the House passed it unanimously.

His reasoning?

“For years, the General Assembly has been sending tens of millions of dollars to districts for new classroom teachers for the purpose of lowering classroom sizes,” he said. “The question we keep asking over and over again is, ‘What did they do with the money? …The data that we have received from the districts varies, and some districts did not fully respond to our information request. What some of the data has shown is that there are districts that did not reduce class sizes with the funding we sent them. Why are they holding art and PE teachers’ jobs hostage for their misallocation of classroom teacher funds?” (http://www.wral.com/law-reducing-class-size-has-music-art-pe-teachers-anxious-about-future-/16628678/).

That’s all he has said. No proof of the data. No explanation of what he has seen. No transparency. If he is to make the claim, then he needs to show us where those “misallocations” really are.

But until then, he is just a “walking contradiction” especially for two specific reasons.

First, the 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.

Even Louisburg College, “America’s Premier Private Two-Year College”, here in North Carolina understands the value of these “necessities.

https://www.louisburg.edu/

Just look at its introductory screen on the website. There is even a link to the “Humanities” department.

And the description is rather telling.

“The humanities cover a broad range of academic disciplines that have been, and continue to be, a crucial component of the educational goals of Louisburg College. The Humanities Division’s learning objectives of competent written and oral communication, critical thinking, creative thinking, and aesthetic engagement support Louisburg College’s mission statement of building a strong foundation to prepare students for an academic journey that leads to a four year college.”

The Humanities Division includes Art, Communications, Drama, English, Film, Music, Religion/Philosophy, and Spanish.

So “creative thinking” and “aesthetic engagement” are needed t support a “strong foundation to prepare students?” I could not agree more. With classes in art, drama, film, music, and foreign languages it seems that Louisburg values the continuation of a curriculum that teaches the whole body and mind.

And yes, there is a strong athletics department.

And guess who the is the Vice-President of Institutional Advancement as of this past July 1st.

Chad Barefoot
Vice President for Institutional Advancement
919.497.3325
cbarefoot@louisburg.edu

His responsibilities? According to Louisburg’s press release on his hiring (https://www.louisburg.edu/news/barefoot.html),

“Barefoot will serve as chief development officer for the college, which includes directing and overseeing annual fundraising programs and alumni and community relations. He will also serve as a member of the President’s cabinet and as a strategic partner to the Board of Trustees.”

Is it not ironic that Sen. Barefoot raises funds for an institution that is a private industry so that it can fully fund its “necessities” when he is also actually elected to do the same for the public schools and he is stalling a bill called HB13 that if not passed would force public school systems to spend much more money to come into accordance with an ill-conceived mandate while eliminating the very same type of “necessities?”

Secondly, Barefoot’s actions and words concerning HB13 and fully funding public schools show a glaring contradiction to the religious platforms that he and many 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).

Not passing HB13 is egregious. It’s backwards. It’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. It’s either drop those courses or cutting teacher assistants and that would be yet another detrimental blow against public education.

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 that Barefoot reads 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 that Barefoot heartily champions have plentiful art programs and physical education opportunities.

So why put these programs for public schools in jeopardy if they reach so many more children?

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.

Rather contradictory to what is supposed to happen.

Raleigh, Pass House Bill 13 Because All The World’s A Stage

globe theatre

O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend
The brightest heaven of invention,
A kingdom for a stage, princes to act
And monarchs to behold the swelling scene! Henry V, Prologue.

North Carolina House Bill 13, which would grant local school districts flexibility to combat class size limits imposed by last year’s short-sighted budget, is currently stalled in Raleigh.

It is like the scripts are in revision and the players are ready to rehearse. But production has been halted.

It seems there are too many directors behind the scenes too busy worrying about how much money they will net rather than what will actually need to transpire on that stage.

The thought that local school districts are being kept in limbo (and in what some might call a hostage situation) concerning programs like the arts is more than disconcerting. To stay aligned with state law, school districts will have to lower class sizes and for elementary schools that could mean a variety of things. One scenario is to do away with specialties like arts and physical education. Or, sadly, it could be that they lay off some of the players in the acting troupe.

From the Winston-Salem Journal this past Friday in an article entitled “Schools could cut assistants to hire more teachers, meet class size requirements,”

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools district has started contingency planning in case the N.C. General Assembly doesn’t pass a bill that would give schools relief from impending class size reductions.

The district will keep any teacher assistants hired from now until the end of the school year on temporary employee rolls in an effort to avoid layoffs over the summer. If the state mandate on smaller class sizes kicks in, district leaders say they might be forced to cut some teacher assistant positions for next school year in order to keep offering art, music and physical education classes (http://www.journalnow.com/news/local/schools-could-cut-assistants-to-hire-more-teachers-meet-class/article_9440fea2-c230-5128-8cff-270cefb7d83b.html) .

“We currently have legislation … that, when passed, overlooked the fact that regular teacher allotments do not separate out art, music, PE,” said Superintendent Beverly Emory. “Our board agreed and we’ve said from the get-go that we’re not laying off teachers; we’re not doing away with those programs.”

Cutting some teacher assistants next school year is one strategy the district is considering, Emory said, to deal with the class size reduction that would require the district to hire “as many as 200 additional teaching positions… with no additional funding.”

Either way, the production of what happens on the stage of school will be altered by a set of directors (lawmakers) whose parsimonious eyes on the bottom lines seem to contradict the bragging about what a great state (wait for the pun) our state’s economy is in with surpluses and all.

On March 31st, I was fortunate to see a production at Wake Forest University of Macbeth, the infamous Scottish Shakespearean play of greed and ambition. I never pass on a chance to visit my alma mater and did so with two erudite friends who value the intrinsic worth of art like it is the currency of life.

Go see it if you have a chance. It’s at the Tedford theatre, named after a Wake legend whose daughter happens to be a legend herself.

macbeth

http://events.wfu.edu/event/macbeth_1588#.WN-gCvnyu00

And it was fabulous. Students less than half my age grappling with a cautionary tale to remind us that what resides in us as humans has so much power over not just us as individuals but society as a whole (oftentimes in a negative fashion).

Macbeth is driven by ambition and greed, and however you want to interpret the role of the witches and the supernatural, you cannot mistake the parallels between Shakespeare and the modern world or even modern North Carolina. It teaches us what happens when those who are corrupted by power become “poor players.”

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing. Macbeth, V, v.

Oddly enough, the audience for a Shakespearean play when it would have originally been produced would have spanned all socio-economic backgrounds. The peddler, the merchant, the midwife, the prostitute, the clergyman, the nobleman, and sometimes members of royalty would have all been housed together to see what transpired on a stage to soak in social commentary and be a part of the fiber of being.

That’s what the art produced on the stage allowed for. Do we have anything that does that with American society today which can speak across social barriers besides money?

Yes. Art.

We all are affected by it especially the lack of it. One of Shakespeare’s most famous soliloquies is from the comedy As You Like It metaphorically explaines that. Spoken by Jaques, it begins,

All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances,
And one man in his time plays many parts… As You Like It, II, vii.

During last night’s production, I thought of all of the focus that the past McCrory administration and current NC General Assembly placed upon STEM education, steering funds and emphasis away from a well-rounded curriculum that celebrated multiple intelligences. Yes, we need to pay attention to an ever-changing global economy that demands a more highly technically skilled workforce. Yes, we need to build bigger, better, more elaborate, more multi-functional stages.

But what productions will be shown on those stages?

Wake Forest University is beginning to introduce more engineering and more bio-medical programs on its campuses. But the Deacons have not forgotten their liberal arts. Even the city where Wake resides, Winston-Salem, has the reputation as the “City of Arts and Innovation.”

To force school systems to take away arts programs would be like settling for a well-built stage and having no shows performed on it – a nice empty venue without substance, without memories, without meaning. It would be foolish. It would be tragic.

When we are born, we cry that we are come
To this great stage of fools. King Lear, IV, vi.

The very stage that originally housed the first production of Macbeth is gone. But the art of the play still lives and grows and takes new meaning and even provides clarity to new times.

It you want to see a thriving high school, more often than not it has a highly involved drama and music programs that serve as outlets for students with creative intelligences. They not only build sets; they produce art on stage.

What we remember from those performances was not necessarily how well the stage was built. We remember what was done on them. Whether that stage was in an auditorium, on a canvas, on a football field or basketball court, or electronically created, the production is what makes the stage come alive. Not vice versa.

Lawmakers in Raleigh should strongly pursue passing HB13. Then they should start fully funding schools.

If not, many will walk around as the melancholic Antonio, the Merchant of Venice.

I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano,
A stage where every man must play a part,
And mine a sad one. Merchant of Venice, I, i.

Good thing Antonio has a happy ending thanks to a cross-dressing woman.

A Standing Ovation For High School Drama Programs

globe

Totus mundus agit histrionem.”

Translated, this means “All the World’s a Stage” which is the motto of the Globe Theatre owned chiefly by William Shakespeare and the King’s Men and is also a famous line from a most famous speech by Jacques from As You Like It.

This past weekend, I enjoyed another fantastic performance by my high school’s drama department for their fall play and am again convinced that by allowing for students to pursue interests in the arts is as worthwhile an endeavor as any in our public schools.

Drama is as intricate a production behind the scenes as is the production that the audience sees on stage – auditions, directing, stage props, setting, music, timing, resources, rehearsals, finances, sweat, some tears, and a lifetime of lessons learned.

If you have read many of my posts and op-eds, it is not uncommon for me to make parallels between what is performed on screen or stage to real life as art tends to imitate life in wickedly realistic ways. Add to that the fact that many of us (myself included) have a lot of drama in our lives.

But more importantly, there is so much evidence and research that the fine arts enhance any student’s ability to improve in all academic areas. Theater, music, visual arts, and dance help students expand themselves and develop self-esteem, confidence, creativity, and self-expression.

And there are some fantastic drama productions where I teach. There are fantastic productions in many high schools across this state because drama is a necessary investment for any high school. For that matter, it is a necessity for elementary and middle schools.

We’re not only just talking about multi-sensory intelligence, creating presence, understanding audience, and collaboratively producing. We’re talking about expression and allowing students to follow their curiosity.

How can you not see the importance of drama when a musical like Hamilton takes the world by storm and at the same time makes political and social statements? How can you not see the importance of drama when you could literally “binge watch” hundreds of shows that have critical acclaim and never get through all of them in a lifetime? How can you not appreciate the role that drama has in our schools when you realize that the movie you just saw not only moved you emotionally but etched itself into your psyche?

How can you not appreciate the very talents that God has given people if there are not ways for those talents to be found, explored, developed, and nurtured early in life?

And considering what all has happened in the last year here in our country and in our world, many of us will look to the stage of a theater or the screen to gain perspective on what has happened on the stage of life.

The Greeks looked to their playwrights for guidance and angles.  The Elizabethans loved their theater.

So do we.

Support high school drama efforts. They have been supporting you for years.

drama