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Liberal Arts Education debate

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The intense focus on science technology and math continues to change the instructional paths of  many schools.
Those that once offered varied curriculum that included arts education are now systematically dropping such electives to make room for more classes aimed at building skills deemed necessary for the 21st century work force.

The future is bright for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math classroom curriculum.  Across the country the teachings of liberal arts in classrooms have been replaced with more STEM intense programs.

"Well for them there is just a increasing demand for STEM jobs. Anything to do with Science technology, engineering and math," said STEM instructor, MaryBeth Irvine.

New STEM programs are also in synch with Common Core State standards and other standardized testing.
And for about 15 years, the Starbase program, housed at Barksdale Airforce Base has inspired thousands of young people to be job and career ready; in the world of technology.

"I know with Starbase we do pro-engineering,  they are on the computers doing 3-d modeling; something that is not available at schools, " said Irvine.

To be sure, students are learning important skills to become successful workers in a digital world; however, what about the centuries old notion of building well-rounded people?  Here at the Caddo Parish School Board meeting in March, there was an outpouring of support for the arts.

Caddo Middle Magnet's drama class time will be given over to a forensic science class. Principal Robin Debusk is helping organize an after-school program for students interested in drama.
The switch, said a Caddo district spokesman, was based in part on parent input.  But drama proponents also presented their own petition.

"I believe that drama needs to be in all schools. I fear that if it is taken out of CMM, that other schools will soon follow," said parent Kim DeLouche.

Caddo Magnet high drama teacher, Patti Reeves, says it is because of the arts that her students flourish into the world.

"One of the things that fine arts does, is we hold up a mirror to the world. If we loose that ability to show the beauty to the world, to show complex thinking and that type of thing, I think that we loose a lot, said Reeves.

The school is now preparing for an April filming of  the musical 'South Pacific."

Arts education are a lifeline for young people who may  not excel in traditional academic disciplines; but have strong creative abilities.

But, while this is not a science versus arts argument, many would argue that we must build into our education system, a wider recognition that there are multiple definitions of success.

"Doing this, bringing it out here, getting them involved, it actually just sparks interest in something it leads them to a career choice one day," said Irvine.

"It is a proven fact that CEO's of companies, 70 % of them have a fine arts background. So it is very important that you learn to communicate and relay ideas," said Reeves.


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