During June in this space, our editor – who has written every editorial here for over 20 years – chose the provocative task of promoting the attention paid to the arts in our public schools to that afforded sports. His goal, he said, was not to tout one over the other, but to seek a fairer balance.
Naturally, the editorial provoked considerable public reaction, including some thoughtful “letters to the editor” that were published in the News-Press the following week. Many of the letters, however, reflected a misunderstanding of the point, and so we think the matter bears just a bit more consideration.
Thinking our editor preferred the arts over sports, and the satisfactions derived from the former over the latter, one citizen wrote that he presumed our editor was not personally familiar with competitive sports. To set the record straight, our editor played basketball and baseball in high school and college, was his baseball team’s Most Valuable Player in college, and turned down a pro offer to complete his undergraduate degree on a full athletic scholarship.
But the more important, fundamental misunderstanding related to his proposition of a potentially superior, longer-lasting contribution that focusing on the arts – whether theater, computer, plastic or musical – provides over playing high school sports.
Most respondents to that idea argued that just as low a percentage of artists stand to “make it big” in their fields as do athletes, and they expounded the high level of pleasure and happiness that the student can derive from sports.
The problem is that our editor was not referring to what value the student can derive from his or her extracurricular activities, but what the student is imparted through them to share with others through the course of a lifetime.
Sadly, we live in a consumer-oriented society these days in which everything tends to be interpreted in terms of what it can do for the recipient of a service, a sport or any activity. That’s how many interpreted our editor’s comments.
But it used to be that education and opportunity were thought of not in terms of getting, but of giving. The latin term for education, “educare” means “to draw out,” or to bring forth knowledge and talent from students for contribution to society.
So, the point of the editorial was not how students can gain, for their own edification, from the arts or from sports. But it was about what students can give as a result of them.
The arts can equip a student for a lifetime of entertaining friends and loved ones, and not only if the student makes it to Broadway. The arts train students how to make people laugh, cry, think and appreciate, and they’re often put to work in old folks’ homes whether by the student at age 17, or at age 87.
It was not an “either, or,” but a better balance of focus our editor was talking about.