Welcome Wednesday guests for October:
10/01 Finding Sky author, Susan O'Brien;
10/08 Award-winning Hank Phillippi Ryan (Truth Be Told);
10/15 Indie authors Polly Iyer (Backlash) and Ellis Vidler (Prime Target);
10/22 Murder by the Month author, Jess Lourey;
10/29 Marilyn Levinson, Golden Age of Mystery Book Club Mystery author.

Gloria Alden's latest publication is nonfiction. Boys Will Be Boys: The Joys and Terrors of Raising Boys. Edited by Cher'ley Grogg was recently released and available on Amazon. Gloria wrote three essays and two poems in her chapter included in the book.

Don't miss this month's release of Chesapeake Crimes: Homicidal Holidays on October 7th, in which WWK bloggers Shari Randall ("Disco Donna") and E. B. Davis ("Compromised Circumstances") have short stories.

KM Rockwood's
short stories will appear in two anthologies released in October. They are: "The Lure of the Owl" in Swamp Mansion and Other Dark Stories, to be released as a ebook, and "Aunt Olga and the Werewolf" will be included in the third Creatures, Crimes and Creativity anthology release by Intrigue Publishing. at their conference in October.

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Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Arts Are For Everyone!


I’ve been giving writing workshops at a local high school on the wrong side of the tracks. These kids have already been through lots of trauma and stress, though they’re only in their teens. These particular twenty kids, however, have fallen in love with writing, and it’s offering them a way to deal with broken families, broken hearts, and broken promises. They learned that on their own without me.

I’m there to show them that writing can offer them even more. It wasn’t easy at first. Some of them started out prickly. It’s natural when life’s been a hostile environment to be always on guard. It took patience, but we’re past that now. And they’re writing some phenomenal poems.

This last workshop I had the joy of telling them that their work would be published in an anthology of Kansas City student writing and that they would give a public reading at The Writers Place, the city’s stand-alone center for writers and literature. They’re pretty excited. This is a kind of validation that they almost never get. And since the poems that will be published were from a workshop we did around identity and specific imagery, it’s a special kind of validation. They opened their hearts on the page about the good and bad things in their families and their lives, and society is saying, “You are great just as you are!”

Out of the school population of 348, these twenty kids are winners. They may not be the only ones, of course, and they may not all go on to college. However, they have learned to use language to help themselves through tough times. They have learned to use language to form images of who they are and where they want to go.

The metropolitan Kansas City area is divided by the state line between Missouri and Kansas. I’m grateful that these students and I live on the Missouri side, which is, in general, much poorer than the Kansas side with its quite wealthy suburbs. Because of political ideology, Kansas as a state has denied the arts. Its governor disbanded the Kansas Arts Commission and sent back tons of money to the NEA. Missouri, almost as conservative a state, has kept its Arts Commission alive, barely at times but alive still.

It’s the Missouri Arts Commission that is funding these workshops, the publication of this student anthology, and the public reading for the students. I keep hearing from conservative politicians that the arts are just for rich, elitist liberals and offer nothing of value to everyday people. Don’t tell that to these shining-faced kids. They are writers, artists, and they know better.

9 comments:

E. B. Davis said...

Last night I had a friend over for dinner. She's a middle school teacher. I live in surburban DC. The schools here are trying to buy Ipads or PCs for all the children because some are technology disadvantaged.

We've become so rich that we can afford to do this, and yet, as you said, many schools can't afford to fund programs in the arts. The disparity between schools/states and what programs they support is vast.

We wondered what will happen when a junkie parent sells the school-provided PC for drug money. Better to have taught the child to write than to have taught him he can't write if he doesn't have a PC.

Linda Rodriguez said...

You've got an excellent point, EB. It's, of course, the old give-a-man-a-fish versus teach-a-man-to-fish argument.

I do know that there are lots of kids like these who have no computers in their homes and are technologically disadvantaged. This is something all those adherents of wiping out school libraries to replace with e-books forget. That's an issue we must find a way to address, but perhaps sending a child home with an expensive piece of equipment in a neighborhood where it might never make it home is not the answer.

Most urban school systems, continually strapped for cash, have rid themselves of arts education. That's a huge disaster for students. Fortunately, this school has a dedicated young teacher and a principal who sees art as a priority for his students. Two overworked people of vision make the difference for these students.

Warren Bull said...

Some years ago Northeast Arts KC and its e-zine Downgosun got a grant to fund a student writing competition in Northeast Kansas City, I was privileged to be one of the judges, The quality of the work, especially the poetry, was amazing. One student wrote about walking to school past bullet casings and discarded syringes, We had a presentation ceremony where authors and their parents showed up dressed in their very best. It was a great experience,

Linda Rodriguez said...

Warren, I'm sure that made a big impact on those students. All the arts, not just writing, open up new ways for these kids to express and understand often difficult lives. The problem is that, anymore, such opportunities are few.

Mary Sutton said...

It's not just low-income schools. My kids attend a small, Catholic school in a fairly affluent suburb of Pittsburgh. This year, they could not afford to hire a dedicated art teacher. The regular classroom teachers are teaching art, which means it's more "arts & crafts." To my daughter, who wants a career in art someday (teaching or otherwise), this is a tragedy. I'm trying to find her art classes, but they are all ridiculously expensive or ridiculously far away.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Yes, Mary, it's a widespread problem. Usually, the arts are one of the first things to get cut when budgets get tight.

Also, the arts may be the only way to reach many young people who don't learn in the time-honored left-brain, read-hear, parrot-back methodology of traditional school. Long ago, H. Gardner's groundbreaking work at Harvard GSE showed us that there are a number of ways of learning, and when we limit school to only one way, we disenfranchise those students whose brains are wired to learn differently.

Gloria Alden said...

I think what you're doing is so great, Linda, and what a wonderful feeling you must have from reaching these kids.

I so agree the arts should be taught in all schools, and sad to say, those are the ones being eliminated so teachers have more time to teach to the TEST. Its been proven that music, for instance, increases children's abilities to learn. Fortunately, I think most of the schools in my area still have art classes as well as music classes, but I know they are struggling to keep them.
All the schools now have computer classes, too, even as early as kindergarten, so if the students don't have computers at home, at least they're getting some tech training at school.

Pauline Alldred said...

What a great opportunity to help kids to express themselves and receive recognition for what they write.

I worked for a while with teenagers who had dropped out of high school, often due to bad life situations and some of them were couch homeless-they sleep on the couch of whoever can offer them one.

At first the young people wouldn't want to write because they expected their words and grammer to be criticized and because they thought they had to write what they told to write. What a difference when they were given free rein and could take flight in their writing. Science gives us progress and art gives us our humanity.

Linda Rodriguez said...

Gloria, if your schools are keeping their art instruction, they're doing better than most. Most schools are expected to have computer instruction, but in many of the poorest districts, the computers have to be shared among so many and the time with them so short that it's not effective. I think only the wealthiest districts can start computer training in kindergarten.

Pauline, most people have no idea how many high school students and recent dropouts are couch homeless. It's a growing scandal in this country. And once they run out of couches--or even while they're in that process--they are hugely vulnerable to predators of all kinds.