The Declining Age of Education

When I started this blog, I planned to steer away from topics that may be too politically charged. However, there was an article in the Enterprise Record that made me feel I had to speak out.

In last Thursday’s E-R and article came out entitled “
High School Sports Could be Doomed”. The gist of the article is that the last few years, the Chico unified school district has only been funding about a quarter of the cost of the high school sports teams. The rest, to the tune of about $680,000 per year, has come from fundraising by the school governments, the sports booster clubs, and, in the case of PV High, gate receipts at the football games. With the economy the way it is, and people burning out on having to make large donations year after year, the funds are slipping. With possible further state budget cuts,, it is likely to only get worse. The schools can’t just cut freshman or junior varsity teams, as the varsity teams would soon be full of inexperienced players and would not be competitive.

I can’t begin to tell you how sad this makes me. There are so many positive aspects of high school sports for the students and potential negative ramifications of not having them that it is simply unbelievable to me that this is even being considered for the chopping block. California is one of the wealthiest states in the country, yet we can’t seem to be able to fully fund anything that is truly worthwhile in our state.

Here we are in a country where 35% if children are overweight and 15% are obese. As a pediatrician, I know the ramifications of this. I am routinely seeing 13 and 14 year olds with high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type two diabetes, diseases that seem more fitting for a 40 year old couch potato. It is believed that our current generation of youth may be the first generation in our country’s history to have a shorter lifespan than their parents because of obesity related illness. To further decrease the availability of, and deemphasize the importance of sports and exercise seems to be exactly what we shouldn’t do.

Furthermore, there are many studies that show that children who participate in high school sports are more likely to have better grades and to complete high school, to have less drug and alcohol use, and to be less likely to be involved in a teenage pregnancy. Owing this, we should be encouraging sports, not shutting them down for lack of funding.

The other big cutback that will surely have a negative effect on our children. That is the defunding of our school music programs. This school year, music programs were stopped in all of the junior high schools except for Chico Junior. Interested children had to form 10 there if they wanted to participate in music. This impacted my own family. My son has played piano for several years, and was interested in learning a wind instrument for band. However, he didn’t want to go somewhere other than our local junior high, that he can ride his bike to. So, he had to make the decision to give up that plan and it was not an easy choice for him to make. Furthermore, as many of the children who go to Chico Junior go to Chico High, it may leave PV High lacking band musicians in a few years.

We have a society that is concerned that it is falling behind in math and science. It has been shown that music activates the same parts of the brain that are used in math, and that children who play instruments are likelier to do better in math and science than their counterparts.

I can speak personally as to the benefits of music. I played violin in the schools starting with lessons that started at my public school in third grade. We had a junior high orchestra, I played for the junior high and high school all-city and all-state symphonies. My high school didn’t have an orchestra, but I played with the local public high school’s orchestra, string ensemble and for all of their musicals. I went to summer all-city high school orchestra camp each year.

I cannot even begin to describe how enriching an experience that was. It was a place to have fun, learn self discipline, learn how to perform individually and as a group, have teamwork, compete with others for seat position, be creative, make friends, and generally grow inside. The skills I learned there allowed me to take up guitar when I was younger and the saxophone just two years ago. Music has given me a lifetime of enjoyment and an outlet for creativity for my entire life.

Music is something, that like sports, we should be encouraging, not pruning back as unnecessary. I wish I had the answers as to where the money to fund them can come. Write your state legislators to discourage further education cuts. Write or go to meetings of the City Counsel and the CUSD Board. Think creatively.

These children are our future. I know that sounds a bit cliché, but it is true. I am concerned as to what our country will be like when the current generation of students is running it. Our school systems have suffered so much from budget cutbacks. Cost savings are being put ahead of quality. I fear that the graduates of the future will lack essential skills to make it in the world and to keep America competitive with the rest of the world in times to come. I do believe, though, that if we recognize the problem and take steps bit by bit to fix it at a state and national level, we can hopefully continue to put out well-rounded, skilled, hard working adults to lead us onward.

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