Imagine (by John Lennon)
The Staten Island PS 22 Chorus did a fabulous performance, and I am again reminded of the vital importance of the educational value of music and other non-core activities in school. The arts fill in the humanity of the core curriculum kids must learn. Without arts and humanities, they have no context or meaning for all the facts they are taught.
Imagine has always been one of my favorite songs, and I believe the ideas expressed are achievable. I hope it comes to pass sooner rather than later.
I believe the people taking to the streets around the world today to peacefully protest dictatorial governments to the large and growing economic inequality gap between the richest 1% of the population and everyone else has finally started the right conversation.
In the U.S., protesters turned the question of why are the poor so poor into why are the rich so rich? How did that happen? The vast majority of us work very hard at our jobs and we don’t get rich. Why not? Those are better questions.
After the last 30 years of trickle-down economics (the economics of greed), the only thing that trickled down is growing economic stress on the middle class, and the middle class shrinking into poverty with stagnant income as wealth trickles up.
It’s become a crime to be poor in this world. What did the poor ever do to anyone to attract such hatred and wrath? Perhaps remind the non-philanthropic mega-rich just how rich they are and how unfair and unjust that is? Do they see how unsustainable the current condition of our planet and its inhabitants has become?
Could greed be educated out of, or at least tempered significantly, in greed-prone people with strong, mandatory programs in the arts and humanities? (By mandatory, I mean students have to pick at least one thing they like, and they can change their minds if their first choice doesn’t work for them).
Could teaching 4th graders to explore their musical and artistic talents give them something far deeper and more meaningful than any amount of money? Could teaching literature and a love of reading make kids more aware and empathetic of the human condition? Could kids who are talented in writing, painting, drawing, singing, dancing, etc., use their gifts to better the world? Yes.
Perhaps the greedy are greedy because they have nothing to fill some void within them. No amount of money can produce the feeling of sheer ecstasy at playing a piece of music beautifully, or nailing a performance on stage. Nothing beats the deep sense of accomplishment of writing or painting a masterpiece, or performing a character in a play with perfection. All these examples are about deep love, and it is intangible. Money can’t buy the love the arts directly feed our souls.
We still need the laws back that prevent the greedy from chewing up the world and spitting it into oblivion, but putting the arts back in schools might help, too.