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Laura Seftel: Fluff classes are core of needed knowledge

To the editor:

The proposal to cut the arts at Northampton High School next year has drawn a collective cry of dismay. However, I find the rationales offered in support of the arts often leave out how pivotal the arts are to who we are as a society.

The division between courses labeled “academic” and “arts” is an artificial one. I am referring not just to visual art classes or chorus, but to the range of disciplines, including film and theater studies, graphic design or music history and theory. These courses are anything but fluff — most of these classes are rigorous and students acquire specific information and skills that are highly relevant to their future careers (perhaps even more relevant than some of the “core” classes we have come to expect).

If we cut the arts in our public schools, we relegate arts education only to the rich. I for one am loath to live in a society where most of our citizens know how to watch MTV and play video games, but are cut off from their own history and culture. Remember, what is the first thing a dictator does after killing or jailing his political opponents (think Nazi Germany or the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia)? They outlaw the arts, because they know that the artists and writers are the voice of a vibrant and healthy democracy.

Cutting art education is a dire sign of where we are headed as a society. It doesn’t just hurt today’s students — it ultimately impacts all of us. We must do everything in our power to make sure we preserve these crucial disciplines for the next generation. Treating these course as “elective” or “extras” is a mistake we will pay for in years to come.

Laura Seftel


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