Art + school = why do we even have to talk about this?

I am about to rant, so if you’re curled up somewhere with a cup of tea and you’d like to preserve your serenity, you may want to skip this post and have a look at these book recommendations.

Still here? Well, then…

I received this letter from the cash-strapped Vancouver School Board a couple weeks ago, and I’ve been stewing about it ever since.

Dear Parent or Guardian of Students in Grade 4, 5, and 6:

The Vancouver School Board is exploring the possibility of offering a district-wide User-Pay Elementary Band or Strings Program beginning in September 2016. This program would be for interested students in the upper intermediate grades (Strings: Grades 5-7, Band: Grades 6-7) whose families are willing to pay for this complementary experience.

The intent would be to provide these programs in schools where we have a minimum number of students (20) who have indicated an interest in participating. If the minimum cannot be achieved at a particular site, then unfortunately, the program cannot be offered at that school. The fee to participate in the program for next year will likely be between $400 and $500 per year per student.

It goes on. But let’s stop for a moment and consider the $400 to $500 per student. It seems like a ridiculous amount of money. And yet, it’s less (much less) than what Min and I pay each year to fund Julia’s voice and piano lessons and Matthew’s guitar lessons. Outside of school. Because, unlike my elementary school which had a dedicated music teacher and a band program and a guitar program and school musicals, our kids’ elementary school has none of these things.

So, should we cough up the cash for some strings lessons?

NO! No, no, no, no, no.

Because art in school is not just for kids whose parents can afford it. Is this really something that needs to be said? At the moment, the PACs in B.C. — the parents — pay for the library books, the instruments, and tons of the art supplies used in elementary schools. The school boards don’t fund these things, because the province doesn’t give them the money to fund these things. WHICH IS RIDICULOUS!

How are we going to raise creative, resourceful kids without books and instruments and art supplies? Even LNG engineers are one day going to have to creatively solve problems, and they’re not going to learn to do this by completing math workbooks. (Though incidentally, the parents pay for the math workbooks at my kids’ elementary school.)

Honestly, I think I’m going to settle myself on the sidewalk in front of the VSB office and protest by pulling all the hairs from my head one by one. I think that would be less painful then trying to explain WHY WE NEED BOOKS AND INSTRUMENTS FOR ALL KIDS IN ALL SCHOOLS!

Done. Whew. You can check out those reading recommendations now.