Friday, April 23, 2010

My Letter...

I recently had an assignment in my Education in Society class to write to someone involved in education about an issue I am passionate about. Little did I know, that I would end up emailing my letter to my entire high school school board, school district school board, and the superintendent as requested by my former art teacher. I've already heard back, and while some of the responses may have been vague, they were all relatively (and in some instances overwhelmingly) positive... which makes me feel like in my own little way, maybe I did make a difference. And at the very least, I put some ideas into their heads. Below is a copy of the letter:

To Whom It May Concern;

My name is James Dunn and I am currently a sophomore Printmaking major with teaching certification at Temple University’s Tyler School of Art. I am also a recent graduate of Central Dauphin high school, having graduated in 2008 as part of the National Honor Society, captain of the varsity boys tennis team, Vice president of the art club, and sports editor for the yearbook. I am writing in connection to the proposed budget cuts that are currently being discussed all around the school district, many of which would result in huge cutbacks to the art and music programs. As a future educator, and more importantly someone who not too long ago was still in high school, I urge you to possibly reconsider alternative options or other potential areas in terms of cut backs. I’m currently enrolled in an education class at Temple that is focusing on schooling as an institution in society and the power it has on shaping who a person can become over time. Ever since I was little art has been a huge part of my life, whether it be doodling on the walls with crayon when I was three or sitting in my intro to psych class last week drawing out models of psychological theories because I’m a more visual learner. Art has been an outlet for me to convey things that I otherwise may not have felt comfortable enough expressing. It has unlocked a passion for teaching that I would not have found if not for the art program at Central Dauphin and the opportunity to study film and video my senior year at the Capital Area School for the Arts. But more importantly I felt like the art room was the one place in high school that I could go to and feel safe; feel understood.

Freshman year I had the opportunity to apply for a certification program here at Temple regarding arts in healthcare and community-based settings. I submitted a portfolio of mostly work completed in my senior year of high school and CASA and watched, as I was the only freshman admitted into a program where the majority of my peers were either in their third or final year of undergraduate studies. I strongly believe that the concepts I learned through my time in Central Dauphin’s art program allowed me to compete and learn with people three or four years older than myself. Not to mention the motivational push that I as a student felt after realizing that people had responded so positively to my work; and how that motivation carried on not only in terms of my art, but also in how I perceived my other academic subjects. I began utilizing art in math with geometry and proportioning, illustrating my short stories and essays for English, and even creating projects that centered around the history of art and society when it came to geography or human studies classes. I couldn’t and still can’t get enough of it, and ever since adopting this philosophy of utilizing art in other forms of academia my grades have continued to flourish.

I’ve spoken with educators in both Philadelphia and Harrisburg regarding arts and music in schools and the overwhelming response across the board is that they all view art as a means to enrich and reinforce what is taught in every other class. Art can be a vehicle to gain a deeper understanding of a certain period in history and the actual process of figuring out how to make or create helps students develop problem-solving skills that can be used in other classes as well as every day life.

The school district of Philadelphia has been participating in a test program for the past 4 years called the Philadelphia Arts in Education Partnership or PAEP that utilizes the philosophy I just mentioned above in my own experience, but rather than rely on the student figuring it out on their own, they recognize this need for alternative learning methods and the power that art can have on unlocking a child’s preconceived notions of school and learning as a negative thing. They have begun working with teachers in all subjects and seeing how simple things like writing a short story in English and then illustrating it later in art class can increase class discussion and student comprehension remarkably. The program also utilizes teaching artists, colleges and universities around the city, as well as arts and cultural organizations throughout the region to foster this excellence in arts-in-education practice as well as create a sense of community building. It’s a program that brings arts-based learning experiences into students’ lives, while encouraging this newfound love for education as a whole.

It is this new love for education and this passion to learn based off of art-based learning that I believe could have a monumental affect on the students in our district. I urge you to strongly reconsider the budget cuts to art and music programs across the Central Dauphin school district; looking into alternative measures to save money rather than sacrifice the critical need for departments such as these, that foster creative and academic pursuits both inside and out of the classroom.




  1. Jimmy, this is beautiful! You are beautiful!

  2. Go James!! You tell'em!