Arts education makes students more successful In 1996...


April 30, 2000

Arts education makes students more successful

In 1996, the public outcry against proposed cutbacks to the county's middle school arts education caused their rejection by the school board.

In 1998, high school students led the drive to overturn a $10 charge for high school music classes.

Two years later, it is now the elementary school music program which is threatened.

This semi-annual rite of spring must stop.

Unfortunately, some consider string lessons, chorus and music to be luxuries -- frivolous distractions which entice students away from real learning.

Teachers want more planning time. School board members ask how the arts teach our children reading, writing and arithmetic, and, more important, improve test scores.

The local business owner questions how the arts impact our community's economy and why he should care if he doesn't have children in school.

Even parents wonder how the arts will help their children mature and develop the intellect, talent and skills they will need in today's fast-paced world.

They may not understand that music teaches the thinking and expression skills which are essential to do well on the MSPAP tests and increasing access to the arts may be the best way to raise the county's scores.

Data collected by the Educational Testing Service and the College Board shows that students studying four or more years of the arts score significantly higher on the Scholastic Achievement Test.

In fact, in 1999 the verbal SAT scores of music performance students were 51 points higher than the national average and their math scores 39 points higher.

Even more startling, students with one year of music appreciation on their transcripts scored 103 points higher than the national average.

Even preschoolers who take piano lessons and participate in sing-alongs develop better abstract reasoning and math skills than other preschoolers do.

Research conducted by Stanford University's Eliot Eisner indicates that the arts develop seven intellectual abilities, including the ability to be imaginative, make judgments in the absence of a rule, think metaphorically and devise multiple solutions to a problem.

The arts also play an important role in the quality of life a community offers its citizens.

A 1997 study indicated that nonprofit arts in Maryland generated more than 16,000 jobs and contributed $608 million to the state's economy.

The study found that every $1 spent attending Maryland's arts events generated $2.30 in spending on goods and services.

I urge Anne Arundel County to practice the "3 C's": Care, Commit, Communicate.

Identify others who care about arts education; obtain a commitment from them and make them stand up once again and be heard; and communicate your support of maintaining the current minimum level of access to arts education for every student.

Let decision-makers know that there are sound academic, economic and developmental reasons for supporting access to arts education for every student.

Pressure them to allocate school system resources, accordingly.

Susan Woda


The Gonzalez family deserved better . . .

My family and I were horrified at the footage of the Elian Gonzalez raid on Holy Saturday morning. Child custody disputes are not normally handled by massive commando raids.

The Gonzalezes were not guilty of a criminal offense.

If Attorney General Janet Reno had sought a court order demanding that Elian be handed over, and the family had disobeyed it, that would be different.

But Ms. Reno did not seek such an order, and one reason that comes to mind is that she doubted she could get one.

Being turned down by a judge would have cast a further shadow on her nighttime raid.

The way the Immigration and Naturalization Service carried out their raid is the way they treat dangerous people and people who are endangering others.

But the Gonzalez family had shown no violence, was not harming Elian and had a court hearing scheduled in a few weeks. And talks about reuniting Elian and his father were still going on -- with the mediator actually on the phone to Ms. Reno when the raid took place.

The circumstances suggest that what happened to the Gonzalez family on Holy Saturday might happen to any American family that inadvertently bumps up against the interests of the U.S. government.

Ellen W. Fielding


. . . and Elian's rights deserved a defense

Thanks for The Sun's insightful editorial proclaiming its respect for Attorney General Janet Reno for obtaining a warrant in the Elian Gonzalez case ("A strong case that INS had to do what it did," editorial, April 25).

If I should ever find myself on the wrong side of the law and the warrant for my arrest is improperly served, I'm not read my rights, not arraigned and, after arrest, I'm kept from contact with counsel, I'm glad the civil libertarians at The Sun will be there to watch the government with an eagle eye to see that the law is upheld.

Charles Loukus

Glen Burnie

GOP, Cuban-Americans have exploited Elian

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