School Need Not Be Everything to Everyone, but it Must Have Something for Everyone

Our oldest is a 16 year old, straight, white, cis-gendered, native-English-speaking, middle-class, young woman. School isn’t always easy for her, but on the whole, it goes okay. She has to work for decent grades but she doesn’t face serious structural barriers in her education. (I qualify that because she has anxiety and there are some factors there.)

All of that said, I think our kid heads to school each morning right now because of theater. This week her high school’s one acts will be performed and she is the stage manager. She was an assistant stage manager for the fall show a few weeks back. She discovered that she loves, and is good at, theater tech. She is taking it as a class this year. She has stayed after school for it for a significant percentage of days this year. She’s looking at colleges based, at least in part, on such opportunities.

I am grateful to her theater teacher. I am grateful to her school for supporting the theater program. I am grateful to our school district for funding the arts.

Then I think of those kids for whom school is a serious challenge. Often for reasons far beyond their control. Due to structural racism. Due to language or cultural challenges. Due to the ways schools are formed and run that only truly serve a small percentage of students. The rest? They have to adapt and find their way through. If they’re very lucky they have an adult or two on their side.

These students need things like theater tech far more than my kid does. They need school to offer them something about which they can be passionate and successful. When we only see school as being about reading, writing, math, science, and social studies we leave a lot of kids out. Every kid deserves to have a reason to go to school that is positive for them.

I don’t expect schools to teach students to do something like this. But surely we can make sure students who might someday be these artists have school experiences that they love.

* title of this post from Ravi Hutheesing

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