Letters: Arts education helps students succeed

SHARE Letters: Arts education helps students succeed

Students from the South Shore Fine Arts Academy performing a violin piece at the Chicago Board of Education meeting in 2013. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media

As students begin their school years, and we approach the fall in our community, it is important for us to remember the impact of education in our homes, schools, and communities. For decades, research has shown that when students participate in the arts as a part of their education, they go on to succeed in school, work, and life.

Designated by Congress in 2010, the week beginning with the second Sunday in September is National Arts in Education Week: a national celebration of the transformative power of the arts in education. We are celebrating here, and would encourage all supporters of arts, culture, and education-as well as our elected officials and education leaders-to join with us.

Recently, in Washington, D.C., the new Every Student Succeeds Act was signed into law, which replaced No Child Left Behind. This new bill fully supports the arts as part of every student’s “well-rounded” education. It provides the flexibility for students to learn creatively and for local districts and states to create schools that embrace the arts. What we know is simple: students attend school more often when they have access to the arts; parents and families engage with the schools when schools embrace the arts; dropout rates decrease; grades increase; and the halls are filled with artwork, songs, drama, and dancing.

And I’m not alone in this belief. In March, Americans for the Arts released results from its public opinion poll, and 9 out of 10 Americans believe that the arts are essential to a student’s well-rounded education.

However, so often we see gaps in access to arts education in communities across our state and the country. In that same public opinion poll, 67 percent of Americans believed that there is not sufficient access to the arts for students to reap the benefits. Additionally, there is study after study that indicates the opportunity gap in arts education, specifically along racial and socio-economic lines. We must stand together to fight for equity in access and delivery of arts education to the young people in our community, our state, and the nation.

As we celebrate National Arts in Education Week, we should take pause to cheer for our accomplishments, but we should also remember the work we have to do. How can our district help provide equitable opportunities for all of our young people? How can we use the new law to create arts-rich schools? How can we support parents, families, and the community in providing more opportunities for engagement? It’s up to us-the arts education community-to take a stand and lead.

Anne Leiter, Near North Side

Endorsement confustion

The Illinois Education Association recently announced it was endorsing U.S. Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.) over Democratic challenger Brad Schneider for the 10th Congressional District of Illinois in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2014 the NEA endorsed then-Congressman Schneider over then-challenger Robert Dold. In 2012 it endorsed it reversed itself again and endorsed then-Congressman Robert Dold over Brad Schneider.

Confused? You should be. Many voters assume that when an organization is endorsing one candidate over another it is because that candidate is better on the issues that organization cares about. That’s only true some of the time. In fact, many organizations that make endorsements favor the incumbent as long as the incumbent has done “C” work or better on the relevant issues. That’s why the IEA appears to be flip-flopping on the Dold-Schneider race. They keep switching their endorsement to whoever the incumbent is at the time — not necessarily to the one who is best on their issues.

There is a rationale for favoring the incumbent. Organizations who lobby Congress feel that if a legislator goes to bat for them on some key votes, then the organization should reward them with an endorsement. If they don’t, the legislator has less incentive to vote the right way the next time. Besides, they reason, the legislator is the one who stuck their neck out to take the vote. The challenger may or may not if they get into office. So the incumbent usually gets the benefit of the doubt — and the big contribution check that usually comes with the endorsement.

This is why you sometimes see veterans group endorse non-veteran incumbents over veteran challengers. And why pro-choice groups sometimes endorse mildly pro-choice incumbents over very-pro-choice challengers. And why some pro-business groups will endorse the incumbent with no business experience over the challenger who has a lot.

It is also a key part of what could be called the Incumbent Protection Program.

Incumbents can draw the lines of their district — still a common practice in most states. Incumbents get more media coverage because they are the elected representative. And incumbents have the fund-raising advantage because of the way endorsements are made. Is it any surprise that incumbents in the House of Representatives are re-elected more than 90 percent of the time?

This raises one more question. Do endorsements matter to voters? The research suggests that it only matters in some cases, such as when there is little difference on the issues between two candidates. I suspect that’s true. After all, candidates who are significantly different from their opponents (see Trump) have done just fine despite relatively few endorsements.

But I would argue that even in cases where there are differences in candidates, endorsements that bring money with them do matter. They may not influence voters directly, but by filling the incumbent’s war chest with money they give the incumbent a better chance to influence the voter. Money is the life blood of politics. Winning the endorsement game is part of keeping that blood flowing.

Dan Seals, Wilmette

Money had to be paid

In regard to the recent U.S. payments to Iran, what part of, “It was their money” does Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) not understand? We were going to have to give that money back to Iran anyway, with interest, because of the binding arbitration agreement associated with the Iran-United States Claims Tribunal.

Don Anderson, Oak Park

Owners shouldn’t get tips

Tipping is a fascinating, little understood behavior in our country and elsewhere.

Regardless, one aspect of it seems to have been ignored these days. Since when has it become customary for the proprietor of a business, such as a barber or a masseuse, to expect a tip in addition to a fee?

Perhaps I, as a clinical psychologist for decades, have been missing the boat by not having a “tip jar” in my waiting room. Preposterous? Please simply consider the concept and the practice. Traditionally an owner was never supposed to have been tipped. It’s not punishment; it’s a social tradition.

That’s my tip of the day for readers.

Leon J. Hoffman, Lake View

No recommendations

I fail to understand the purpose of “Beyond The Rubble,” other than provide readers with accounts of crime and violence in voucher-subsidized housing. Are we being prodded to rail against the expenditure of millions of taxpayer dollars on the program? At the end of the report, there were no recommendations.

Hosea L. Martin, Bronzeville

Speaking the truth

Error? Hillary began her comment by acknowledging it to be “grossly generalistic,” thus not to be taken literally; what she then proceeded to say was true. The Trump campaign has lifted the rock and exposed the haters who dwell under it. He has given them a veneer of respectability that should be making the rest of us cringe. We used to call them by their names: Nazis, KKK, ad nauseam. Now, we use the more-genteel descriptor, alt-right, as befits their new status in polite society. Donald Trump is allowed to spew any absurdity with no consequence; Hillary Clinton isn’t even allowed to speak the truth.

Marilyn Samson, Deerfield

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