Yesterday the story of Bree Newsome's climb up a flag pole to take down the Confederate flag in South Carolina was national news. But here in Howard County, and especially in Columbia, came the realization that she was one of ours: a graduate of Oakland Mills High School.
Reporters from the Sun got to work and started pulling out her local roots. This story in their archives dates from her middle school years, when she was composing music for the Owen Brown Middle School Band. And here's the article about when she won a scholarship from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences in 2003. Reporters found this parody video from the 2012 election, as well. The sum of their work yesterday can be found in this piece, "Bree Newsome, who removed Confederate flag, known as principled leader."
As you read the stories you begin to get a picture of where Ms. Newsome comes from, how she got from a student in Columbia, Maryland to the top of a flagpole in Columbia, South Carolina. To me one fact is clear: anyone who thinks that music and arts education don't prepare you for life needs to take a look at Bree Newsome .
It looks like Ms. Newsome came from a great family and received excellent schooling. That cannot be discounted. In addition, one can see that the strongest thread running through her story is arts education: music, musical theater, writing, film. These are the places that she could take the things that drove her, that inspired her, and give them a voice.
Our educational system in Howard County has become so very literal that things that are not perceived to make one "college and career ready" are discounted. We separate and dissect skills from their greater context and claim that jumping through the hoops of standardized tests equals mastery. Powers that be do not question, "mastery of what?"
In light of the way we are educating children now, Bree Newsome should have been prepared for this event by practicing how to climb a flagpole throughout her academic career. Other subjects that didn't apply to flagpole-climbing would have been pruned away, as not relevant to her readiness goals. That's what our educational system is being reduced to. It's small-minded, and the premise ignores both how children truly learn and what education is really meant to do: to develop the capabilities to connect with and interact with a larger world.
The arts gave Bree Newsome the ability to see the Big Picture. She prepared to achieve many kinds of goals, not just one. Her mind received the kinds of challenges that supported her in learning to think for herself, how to work to turn dreams into reality, how to make a plan and see it through.
And so, when her plan was to remove a symbol of racial hatred and oppression from the South Carolina State House, it became necessary to learn how to climb a flagpole. So she learned. Two days before the event. No big deal, right? Because she already knew how to learn.
She was simply fulfilling the promise of preparation.