Growing up, the old adage that schools should concentrate on the the three R’s’ of reading writing, and arithmetic was commonplace. Whoever came up with these apparently did not care that only one of them actually started with the letter “R.” Well, I have two more that need to be added to list. While no one is disputing the importance of learning to read, write, and complete math equations, in a significant number of ways, I believe these two other R’s may be more important than the original ones. Taking liberty with the alphabet like the creator of the three R’s did, my additions are arts and recreation.
Arts: includes art, music, industrial arts, and similar course work. Life does not operate or exist by words or numbers alone. Numerous professions require artistic ability and skill. Beyond the obvious like painters, photographers, poets, and musicians are careers in architecture, landscape design, fashion, product design, car design, advertising, video game design, website design, and journalism.
My two older sons have both parlayed their artistic skills honed in high school to excel in solar car design at their respective universities. A car is much more than just an engine and a set of wheels, it is a visual statement, a reflection of its owner.
Art may not sound like a big deal to an electrical or mechanical engineer, but just imagine an i-Pad or a MacBook without their attractive (artistic), yet functional designs. Compare video games of today to those of the 1970s and 1980s. The visual images and the sound effects make a huge difference.
And the arts continue to play a huge role in the revitalization of inner cities across the nation, whether it be a dramatic new concert hall on the waterfront, a piece of fine art dedicated in a park, or an artist rehabbing a bungalow on a neighborhood street to use for their new studio. It would be safe to say that artists have done more to revitalize cities than most other professions.
Recreation: includes recess, extra-curricular sports, and clubs. With a national epidemic of childhood and adult obesity, as well as diabetes, this would seem like a no- brainer. Unfortunately, as budgets become leaner and the battle over precious dollars becomes meaner, the time devoted to physical activities gets shortchanged or eliminated altogether. To me physical health and mental health go hand-in-hand.
Unless we want the national symbol to become the coach potato, a re-focus on recreational activities is urgently needed. A mind may be a terrible thing to waste, but so is a body.
Another factor related to recreation time is classroom behavior. The following quote from a 2009 story in the New York Times cities the importance of recess time in improving behavior.
“A study published this month in the journal Pediatrics studied the links between recess and classroom behavior among about 11,000 children age 8 and 9. Those who had more than 15 minutes of recess a day showed better behavior in class than those who had little or none. Although disadvantaged children were more likely to be denied recess, the association between better behavior and recess time held up even after researchers controlled for a number of variables, including sex, ethnicity, public or private school and class size.”
As local school boards discuss budgets and programs, as state legislators discuss school funding, and as the federal government sets mandates, let’s all keep in mind the importance of a complete, well-rounded education. Not everyone is going to be a scientist, an engineer, or a scholar. Furthermore, First Lady Michelle Obama is exactly right in stressing the importance of exercise and recreation in her “Let’s Move” initiative. Recreation paired with a renewed focus on the arts and the original three R’s will offer American students with an education that is far better suited to compete in a global economy because it will be complete and comprehensive, not narrow in its focus. Brilliant new ideas are born of artistry, creativity, and imagination; not of dull conformity and standardization.
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