Do we have your attention yet? Arts education is one of the only reasons I survived middle and high school. During my middle school years, music was an escape from a lot of things, including my first concussion. Music was one of the only things that made absolute sense in my broken brain. It gave me the feeling that I was somewhat normal. I can vividly remember anticipating music/choir, so I wouldn’t feel so stupid amongst my peers. Music just made sense, and I could use that time to decompress from normal pressures of academia.
In high school, I was diagnosed with Severe Clinical Depression, which was a fancy way of saying I had a lot on my plate and very unhealthy ways of coping. I was bullied pretty bad my freshman year, and I had personal situations that I needed to deal with. That led to a hospitalization, which led to medication and therapy. Marching Band and Choir gave me friends, an outlet/sounding board, and building blocks for being a semi-functional person in society. Singing has always been my personal catharsis. Music was one of the only things that took the pain away. I couldn’t get enough between band, pep band, and being part of 3 different choirs. I begged my parents for private vocal coaching, and participated in such throughout. Choir led me to multiple music festivals, and so many amazing experiences.
I learned more in my Arts education classes than I ever did in that mandatory Algebra I class that I failed freshman year (and subsequently had to retake). Saying that Art provides little to no educational value is stupid. Arts took up almost half of my day most days, and I killed my SAT’s. I went to a great university and a nationally-ranked mortuary school (no thanks to Algebra I or half of the other things “mandated”).
The arts in WCSD literally kept me alive. It was my lifeline. When I wanted to kill myself, the arts were there to comfort me. I didn’t have to suffer in silence. They made me recognize my value and what I could achieve in my life. That still holds true today. Music is a true healer and some of the best medicine there is. Take it from someone who suffers from TBI, GAD, and PTSD.
Does anyone realize how screwed up it is that we put such an immense amount of pressure on our children? We literally tell them, at the oh-so-tender age of 16, PICK ONE THING TO STUDY THAT YOU’RE GOING TO DO THE REST OF YOUR LIFE. Seriously, that’s jacked up. Arts education offers an escape from these and other pressures. It gives students healthy coping mechanisms, and enriching positive social environments. Quite simply, I do not think the district understands the damage done to children of all age groups. I am hoping they reconsider this “restructuring” plan, and keep all forms of arts and STEM education in our district. Our kids deserve both.
Jill Marie Toto (Guiffre),
a strongly opinionated former student (WAHS, 2009),