Improving Philadelphia Music and Arts Programs
“Good works is giving to the poor and the helpless, but divine works is showing them their worth to the One who matters.”
― Criss Jami, Author of Venus in Arms
Philadelphia, PA holds a very special place in my heart. After all, I grew up in the north east and I have vivid memories of my old stomping grounds around Rhawn Street! But not only those of us with a personal connection to the city can feel its pull…Others are enticed by the culture, from cheesesteaks to the Art Museum and of course, its rich history. I mean, it is the birthplace of this incredible country, and that alone is worth a second look! If you are ever lucky enough to visit the historical section of the city you will be able to venture down the same cobble stone streets as Thomas Jefferson walked or visit Independence Hall where much of the American government was defined. Philadelphia is home to our Liberty Bell and The Constitution Center as well as The Franklin Institute, The Art Museum and The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia – one of the top rated children’s hospitals in the country! As far as post secondary education is concerned, Philadelphia is home to University of Pennsylvania, Villanova, LaSalle, Drexel, The University of the Arts, The University of the Sciences, and of course Temple to name a few.
The Walnut Street Theater and the Academy of Music have hosted some of world’s best performers, like Samuel L. Jackson and Robert Redford. And many of today’s profound performers like Bill Cosby, Will Smith and Sly Stallone grew up in Philly. Philadelphia is a cultural hub for brilliant scientists, doctors, activists, actors, artists and musicians. There is no question; Philadelphia has made an international name for itself as being a major player along with New York, London and Paris as a progressive force in the arts and music culture.
Yet, for some reason the majority of their public and charter schools are suffering. Due to budgetary cuts, the arts and music programs in schools were the first to go. The consensus is that if you live in Philadelphia, you must send your child to a private school because of the lack of structure and opportunities in the public schools is astounding. The stripped-down curriculum has restricted the potential for amazing teachers and principals to implement a quality education for young learners.
Music and Art programs have been eliminated from the curriculum in many schools across the region. Think about that! The birthplace of our nation, host of incredible artists and musicians and home to the greatest Universities in the world, cannot keep music and arts in their own public schools. What went wrong? Some may argue corruption, misallocation of funds, incompetence or a combination of these things. This blog is not about what went wrong, but how can we fix it.
One solution comes to mind, but it would require the involvement of Philadelphia’s finest art and music establishments as well as her greatest Universities. Our great city deserves better then what is in place right now and the young learners deserve a chance to achieve their dreams. Too many times, prosperous adults from inner cities tell of how they had to overcome poverty, ignorance and violence to achieve success. It does not have to be that way. Would it not be a more wonderful scenario to one day celebrate the highly-educated child from a Philadelphia public school as they proudly accept the Noble Peace Prize? Philadelphia Public Schools can and should be the envy of the country! Just look at the greatness that surrounds these failing schools! Let’s give a nod to one University that saw that potential and did something with their philanthropic values: The University of Pennsylvania.
University of Pennsylvania has partnered with Penn Alexander School (PAS) in West Philadelphia to create a thriving neighborhood public school. With the help of an established university, the PAS school receives a grant of about $1300 per student every year. This grant reduces class size and provides the students and staff with new materials each year. Not only does the university send its student-teachers to the PAS school, but all Penn departments get involved as tutors, after-school club leaders, interns, pen pals and more. The success of the school and students is undeniable. This could be the future of education if our highly educated leaders decide it is worth the investment.
If it is possible for one organization to save one school, why not involve several organizations and several schools? What if an organization like, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia designed a program to support 5 local, failing public or charter schools. The program could offer a structured curriculum, professional development training for teachers, and an emphasis on health and wellness. The principals and teachers would have autonomy to use effective lessons and activities when delivering the PA Core Standards curriculum. Some of these schools may need extra support in the way of technology or literature and some may need administrative personnel or experts in the field to provide information or teaching strategies. A scholarship program and visits from doctors and nurses would be the icing on the cake! This program designed by Children’s Hospital could also help to rebuild outside facilities of the school and incorporate music and art therapies into their “health and wellness” focused curriculum. Remember, health and wellness lends itself to in-depth science and social studies research as well as project-based activities in math, reading and writing being woven in across the curriculum. What does Children’s Hospital get out of the deal? Students engaged in learning, committed to furthering their education and a strong, safe community, forever grateful for the support of a local hospital. The hospital would also benefit from their future highly-qualified researchers and medical staff that have been trained by the best mentors in the field! Every single child is of vital importance in our communities to not only escape the horrors of poverty but, to discover solutions, cure diseases, dance, paint, write, become an athlete or even teach. With this hypothetical solution, our young students could compete in any industry in our global economy with a great start in Philadelphia.
Now, what if The Academy of Music supported 5 local failing schools? Their program would be similar with an emphasis on music and the arts. Still guided by PA Core Standards and still giving principals and teacher autonomy to address the needs of students with effective teaching practices. They too would offer technical or personnel support along with professional development training and rebuilding or maintenance of the schools facilities. A community saved, young learners exposed to some of the greatest musicians and artists yet free to choose a career path in any industry because of their incredible experiences.
What if Temple, LaSalle, Drexel, Villanova and The University of the Sciences supported 5 local failing schools? What if the Walnut Street Theater expanded their Adopt-A-School program? What if Comcast got involved? Could you imagine the potential if a few restaurants began a program? What if they offered their own programs with their own emphasis in art, science, math or health? What if they rebuilt and maintained the schools, supported the principals and offered professional development for the teachers? This shift in how we provide our children with an education can work and can transform our amazing city.
Philadelphia families, it’s time to get involved. Learn about those in charge and how they are spending your tax dollars (or not) on education. Use the power of the vote to end corruption in the Philadelphia public schools. In the meantime, participate in local charities and volunteer your skills to help your local neighborhood public schools.
A few hundred years ago, our leaders believed their children were worth the fight for a better future. Today, I promise you, our children are still worth the fight for a better future and there is no better place to craft the foundation of a dynamic, strong education system, for the people, by the people, then in Philadelphia.
The Teacher’s Academy proudly supports Philadelphia teachers! Our professional development courses are aligned with the PA Common Core and National Common Core standards. We offer cutting-edge teaching strategies as well as high-quality resources in an affordable, convenient, downloadable format so teachers can spend more time in the classroom. Our goal is to provide teachers nationwide with great resources, strategies and ideas that they can use to engage and motivate their students.
Every time a teacher buys one of our courses, a percentage goes to The Unitarian Church of Harrisburg. This charity provides bus tickets (for travel to doctor’s appointments) children’s school uniforms, blankets, sheets, towels, whatever is needed for the families in that area. (Religious affiliation does not matter!) We LOVE this charity because all of the money (every single dime) goes directly to buying the items needed.
The Teacher’s Academy is proud to do a small part in helping communities in need. Three percent of every professional development course you purchase through The Teacher’s Academy goes to these types of charities. Thank you for your support!