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I just sent the following letter.
To: The Editor of the Star and Mr. Manneheimer,
A non debatable issue is that reading, writing, and arithmetic are the
basics in education. The basics should win if the circumstances are an
either or situation when it comes to choosing between the basics and art
education on an elementary level. However, that need not and should not be
the situation. I had a learned professor at Butler University propose the
following to a class for discussion. A person earned a set amount of
currency. The costs for food, transportation, clothing, entertainment,
education, and housing were more than what this person earned. The
question proposed to the class was; what then was this person to cut out of
their budget if they were to remain solvent? The suggestions given on what
to cut reduced the person's existence to the barest necessities. The
person would exist; however the quality of their life would suffer. One
positive person in the class suggested that it wasn't necessary to cut out
anything from the budget. The best answer was in finding ways to increase
the set amount of currency needed to live a quality life.
The above should be the issue, however, the issue has changed radically due
to your column. It has now become an issue that Steve Manneheimer; a
professor of art at Herron puts forth. The issue now being one that states
art on the elementary level is dispensable.
I am a secondary art teacher at present. I have taught students art at all
levels in the public schools. I do know which of my students have been
exposed to quality elementary art programs. Yes, it does make a difference
in their lives! However, I am tired of defending the arts as being
necessary. If one is not intelligent or educated enough to understand the
importance of art education to children in our public schools, I doubt that
my theories, beliefs, explanations, or facts will change their minds. The
communist countries believed in offering the arts to only a chosen few. The
rest of their children survived without the arts. Why not in America too?
Right Mr. Manneheimer?
I believe that what is most disappointing to those of us that are advocates
of the arts is to find that with one caustic phrase you can so easily
write "sacrifice the arts" no concern here, your world will go on without
this as part of your education. You continue to say that the art world
complains that they don't have support. You bet we do and particularly when
we have been sold out by someone like you from within the system that you
say isn't working.
You cite the "free speech" law to those that have written you. You say that
because we do not agree with what you say that we are inhibiting you! You
have the right to say what ever you want to pertaining to the arts either
in private or print. What we are objecting to is that you of all people are
writing against rather than for what you should be supporting! It's further
obvious that you do not believe in the importance of elementary art
education or do you have any conception of what takes place in an
elementary art classroom. This does not speak highly of you as a professor
of art in one of our Universities.
Your displeasure on the attacks of Herron because of what you believe and
publicly wrote is no one's fault but your own. Herron is an art school
that educates students as teachers of elementary art. If you do not wish
that your opinions be reflected on to the school where you are a part of
the faculty, then you should not have the footnote that states at the end
of your column that you are an associate professor at the Herron School of
Art. This is a direct link that gives credence to your written words.
What is NOT relevant is whether your opinion is shared by the rest of the
faculty. What is significant is that you as part of the staff does have the
opinion that elementary art education can be eliminated without any
concern. One bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.
It is obvious that you have a mind set. Your opinions are yours and you
have a right to them. What is extremely sad and disappointing is that you
have not chosen to be an advocate of elementary art teachers.
Mary Jane Meyer