Sophie Martin once asked me to do something I had never done before. I asked her why she thought I could do it. She said she knew I could do it because I studied theater.

   Los Lunas High School just terminated its drama program. According to the report I got, it was not considered essential for college preparation.

   The drama teacher for Los Lunas Middle School who told us this, Robert Stubbs, Sr., is actually a math teacher. He had brought his students to our Schooltime Series presentation of Macbeth this spring. Now, of course, he won’t be bringing students to any of our Schooltime performances. They won’t be essential.

   I’m saddened — offended, even — that we think we have to cut from our schools anything not considered “essential.” What day-to-day incentives do you provide students if all you offer in a school are essentials? We need a few raisins in our oatmeal. Otherwise it’s just gruel.

   Students who play in their high school band outscore their peers on standardized tests. One reason is that those kids show up for school more often. They have to: they're part of the band, part of a team.

   Studying the arts demands inquiry. Rather than all wisdom coming down from the teacher, students gather knowledge based on their own curiosity. They explore. They inquire. They make connections. Those learning processes are the building blocks for creativity, a quality found sorely lacking in our recent graduates, according to many employers. Those recent graduates come from schools that keep trimming budgets by cutting "non-essential" programs like the arts.

   Our schools can’t give kids just the “essentials” every day. Otherwise it’s like sending kids to basic training for 13 years. (And that would just be grueling.)

   The students at Albuquerque's Public Academy for Performing Arts study the basics, plus they study various live art forms. PAPA was ranked as one of New Mexico’s top five high schools by U.S. News and World Report. One of the criteria for the ranking was college readiness. So now what’s essential?

   Albert Einstein loved to play the violin. He also said, “All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree.” Let’s not cut out a third of that tree. Our students won’t want to climb it.

Terry S. Davis
Popejoy Hall

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