School, athletics, and arts

I’ve looked around on the internet, and tried to establish the approximate date of this event I’m describing, and I cannot.  I’m not really surprised, because we didn’t draw any attention from local TV stations or radios, except for open criticism of us for protesting against more money for sports at the cost of the arts programs.  I have watched this situation getting worse for decades — high school sports programs have gutted band, chorus, and art programs, to the point where, in all the local schools, band and chorus are simply after-school activities now, instead of classes in their own right.

I’m remembering a day, I believe in my senior year, when news began to circulate in the school; the art class was being cut in favor of more money for the football team.  The alumni of my high school were solidly behind football, although our team was really awful.  Part of the problem was that  alumni who had benefited from the arts in their high school years didn’t speak up at all; rather they grumbled under their breath and watched the programs being stripped, and cut.

On the day this news hit the school population, I joined a general movement out to the front lawn of the school.  It was a cold, drizzly day, which meant it could’ve been any time of the winter in coastal Maine.  But I think it was late fall — November, maybe.  About 100 students huddled together out there through the morning class periods — I was there with them.  We didn’t shout, we didn’t curse, we didn’t wave our arms at cars, or hold up signs.

And we also didn’t get through to anyone.  Anyone.  We just stood there in the drizzle and shivered, and mourned the loss of what we all felt was a vital program for any teen who wanted to be a well-rounded adult.  I can’t speak for anyone else, but that was the first time I suspected that our national identity was in jeopardy.  I’m not sure why, but I remember sitting on the front step of the school, shivering, and knowing in my heart that the sports boosters had already won, and that our kind of programs would be lost in the feast they made of money from the school board and budget.

How really sad that this situation has turned out exactly that way.