I thought about the front-page article I read (School suffers rising chaos) while listening to the students at the Pinellas Youth Symphony’s concert at St. Petersburg College in St. Petersburg, Florida one evening. I watched and listened to students from every race and creed enthusiastically share their passion for music while delighting a capacity audience.
It was such a stark contrast to the events at a local middle school and far too many schools across the nation – behavioral chaos. In a society in which learning to pass tests reigns supreme, programs in the arts are easily cut for lack of funding and we wonder why behaviors escalate in our schools.
We need only look at the work of Jose Antonio Abreu in Venezuela to see how the arts can transform a society by bridging the gap between rich and poor while increasing intellectual and emotional capacities in children. From an original group of 11 impoverished children Abreu built the more than 300,000 student El Sistema, a nationwide organization of more than 100 youth orchestras made up of students from poor and middle-class neighborhoods. As Abreu states: “It is evident that music has to be recognized as an element of socialization, as an agent of social development in the highest sense, because it transmits the highest values: solidarity, harmony, mutual compassion.”
Perhaps it is time to implement a proactive approach to our societal dilemmas by providing all our children means for a better way.
Modified from my original opinion published at http://www.tampabay.com