Friday, December 19, 2014

Pushed Off the Fence

There's been a bit of chatter amongst my group of friends on Facebook about a new program being offered next year at Oakland Mills High School. This is the information that parents were given:


Important Parent Night to find out about the program-January 13@6:30pm

Parents, please plan to attend a Parent Orientation Night about the new Oakland Mills HS Early College Program. Students who are selected will graduate high school with a high school diploma AND 30 credits of college credit towards an AA Degree from Howard Community College! The focus will be on a supportive cohort experience for a science and education college pathway.

Science focus: Prepare for careers in science, pharmaceuticals, medicine and others

Education focus: Prepare for careers in math or science education


Grade 8: Above grade level math or G/T math

Grade 9/10: High school classes with cohort experience

Grade 11: Some college classes taken at OMHS

Grade 12: College classes taken at HCC with transportation provided. One further year at HCC to gain AA degree.


Upon receiving this information, some parents lamented that the school system's focus seems to be towards math-science and that the absence of a similar track for liberal arts was disappointing. Said one, "Farewell liberal arts and the humanities."

And another, "I strongly feel like someone should tell them that there is a HUGE BIG world out there!!!"

I found myself hanging back from joining the conversation. It's a brand new program, I thought. We don't know everything yet. Let's give it a chance to get off the ground. If it provides a bridge to higher education to kids in our community, that's got to be a good thing, right?

So I didn't say anything.

Tonight we went to the Winter Choral Concert. For the first time in recent memory, the choir had a night to itself, in the Middle School Cafetorium, rather than sharing a concert with Band and Strings and the High School, as is customary. The turnout was spectacular. The room was full and you could hear the sound of extra chairs being put out in the minutes before the concert was to begin.

Some background:

Several years ago our choral program was on its last legs. A long-time staff member was struggling with continuing health problems and the choirs couldn't help but suffer as a result. During this time Joshua Konick was hired, first as a long-term substitute, then as the full time Vocal-General teacher. He has infused energy and joy into the program. Enrollment in chorus has risen. He conducts the 6th Grade Choir, 7th/8th Grade Choir, and a newly-formed Pops Choir, which rehearses after school once a week. This Spring he is set to undertake a musical.

Imagine my surprise when the principal stepped onto the stage to welcome parents and spent at least five full minutes going over the details of the Math-Science Early College Program. That is all she talked about.

No, it was more than surprise. I was horrified. Livid.

Here you have a staff member who has completely turned around your choral program, who has raised participation, who has reached out to all kinds of kids in the school population and you don't even mention that? You have a room filled with parents who are clearly there to support their children's musical education and you don't even acknowledge that?

That room was packed with parents who support their children, and who support music as an integral part of their lives. They got a lecture about the benefits of getting ahead through science careers.

Not one word about the value of Arts Education in the Middle School. No sense of understanding that, for some kids, music is what gets them to school at all, helps them get through the day. More than that, a slap in the face to the entire music staff who were there to support each other and the students.

So, maybe I was on the fence about this initiative. But tonight I guess you could say I was pushed right off. If administrators are going to take their cue from this sort of announcement, then I think we have a problem.

It takes many areas of study to meet the needs of our many different kinds of students. All of them should be honored. Let's not let "the next big thing" mow down the beautiful diversity of options that education can offer. Students need to know that there is "a huge big world out there."

Isn't education supposed to broaden your horizons?




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