My letter to Dr. Todd Stoltz
superintendent of the West Shore School District
Cumberland and York Counties PA
Final draft, November 9th, 2014 12:57PM-EST

Dear Dr. Stoltz,

As a resident of the West Shore School District, I am writing to you to voice my support for comprehensive arts education in our public schools.

The arts are vital to our lives and our nation and the reasons why are seemingly endless. Visual arts, music, theater, dance, creative writing, handicrafts, and other forms of creative expression enrich our lives. The arts also enlighten us as people and add vibrance and dynamics to our society. To understand and appreciate the arts is to understand and appreciate our culture. Poetry, painting, music and other art forms are important because they are a reflection of the lives we lead.

For example: Knowing the arts are key to understanding our country's history and what makes America "America". This is especially true of creative writing and music which tell stories that get passed from one generation to the next. A prime example of this is "The Star Spangled Banner" by Francis Scott Key. Not only is it our national anthem, it is also a living document and testimonial about a pivotal piece of American history and the resolve of the American people.

Investment in arts education benefits far more people than just visual art and music students. Studies have proven that professional fields of all types are enhanced from a well rounded education. The arts excel in teaching innovation, context, and excellence and strengthens a person's ability to think critically and "outside the box." Learning to draw helps in the development of fine eye-hand coordination and learning to play a musical instrument at a young age aids the development of a child's cognitive function. Other research reveals a strong link between music and visual arts education and higher achievement, both academically and in adulthood. The arts also teach how collaboration and independent thought work together and how to create original ideas that fit within existing frameworks, abilities that are vital in today's technological world.

Investment in the arts generates billions of dollars in economic activity which translates directly into jobs and influence, both at home and around the globe. America's top export is not technology, automotive, agriculture or weapons. It's music, book publishing, cinematography and fine arts. What America creates has a global market and the arts are a key component in the USA's status as the dominant world superpower.

As Americans, we should realize this better than anyone. It is America that created the concepts of free markets and mass distribution, which empowers creators and entrepreneurs by rewarding them. It is America that created the worldwide distribution framework that delivers information and entertainment to a global audience. We created the Walt Disneys and the Warner Brothers of the world, the tastemakers of art as entertainment. The film and TV studios of Hollywood are billion dollar enterprises selling fantasy and adventure to an eager audience. Visual artists such as Norman Rockwell and Andrew Wyeth are known throughout the world; their works serving as a window into American life. And it was America who created the modern record company and the soundtrack of our lives. And these businesses need an educated workforce.

Despite all the evidence of the benefits that comprehensive arts education provides our youngsters and society, there are a sub-set of people on the political right who fail to understand the need for the arts as part of our public school curricula. Some conservatives are outright hostile to the arts both in school and the community at large, and as America looses it's competitive edge and it's status as the dominant world superpower, I find their opposition quite disturbing. The role of the arts in society is of no less consequence than the roles of industry, science, health care, or banking.

Now think about what our lives would be like without our great American musicians, poets, visual artists and architects. How about our writers, photographers, filmmakers, and actors? Our country would lose its edge in a multitude of ways.

Visual arts, music, cinema, radio/TV, book publishing and other art forms create jobs and fills our tax coffers while promoting international good will and enriches our cultural identity and understanding. It's time that those with an axe to grind stop using public school arts programs as political chess pieces. By refusing to invest in arts education, we are in danger of creating a culturally stagnent society, robbing our communities of what makes them vibrant and unique, and creating disincentives towards investing in both our young people and our businesses here at home. And history will judge us harshly for it.

These are just some of many reasons why I encourage you to support music and art education in our public schools.

Best regards - Peter P. Carli II (Goldsboro/Etters PA)

© 2014 - Peter P. Carli II

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