Dear Ms. Smith and Rhode Island Department of Education,
The Womxn Project is a statewide organization focused on leveraging the power of art, activism, advocacy and education to advance the principles of reproductive justice, which demands that we all have the right to determine when and how we build our relationships, families and futures and that we have the ability to live and raise our children with dignity.
We know that art can help raise awareness and transform conversations. It can be used to build community and make people feel affirmed and like they are not alone. It helps give us a voice. This is especially true for young people as they explore the world and their identity and where they fit in it all.
Art in schools gives students the time and space and support for creative expression. It has been shown to lower stress, improve memory and make young people feel more socially connected and empowered to celebrate and be who they are! Art teachers help students become more well-rounded and capable individuals by helping them develop original ideas and harness their own creativity.
The Womxn Project opposes the Rhode Island Department of Education’s proposal to eliminate the arts requirement for high school graduation. This is incredibly short sighted. We are speaking out with the Rhode Island Art Education Association (RIAEA), the Rhode Island Music Association (RIMEA), the Rhode Island School of Design, and other stakeholders to strongly oppose this alarming proposition.
Years of research shows that art classes and exposure to the arts is closely linked to almost everything that we as a nation say we want for our children and demand from our schools: academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable opportunity.
Involvement in the arts is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skill. Some families are able to afford to send kids to a camp or pay for an arts class. For those who cannot, public school support for arts education enables those children from a financially challenged background to have a more level playing field with children who have had those enrichment experiences.
Forty-seven states have arts-education mandates, forty-eight have arts-education standards, and forty have arts requirements for high school graduation. There is a reason for that – arts education is part of a well-rounded, effective curricula that supports the whole person. We should not take steps back.
We should be looking for ways to improve education and the positive experience and development of every young person in our state. That means maintaining – and even expanding – access to many different enrichment opportunities from arts and music to sports and academic support.
Please, do not undermine or take away opportunities for students in our state. Do not take away support for art in our schools. Thank you.
Jocelyn Foye, Director
The Womxn Project
PO Box 335
Wakefield, RI 02880