I want you to think about something. Do you remember a child who surprised you with their ability to interact on an intellectual level? I’ll give you an example. I remember when my family and I were at a lake house on a vacation. Now, soon after we arrived we began looking around. My youngest brother, Topher, and I went down by the dock. Suddenly he started laughing hysterically. It was awkward and it just came out of nowhere. I went over and I asked him “Topher, what is so funny?”
He looked up at me and then pointed at the water. “These fish are not that big. You see, it’s an optical illusion. If you hold up the fish closer to the camera, then it looks humongous.” This kid was a wizard. I was amazed. I didn’t know all of that could come from his young mind. Kids just might surprise you.
That’s how legislators or their aides sometimes respond after meeting high school arts advocates. When they hear well-reasoned arguments supported by solid evidence, they are often surprised that it comes from a source like us. It is astonishing the amount of positive feedback I have felt during multiple meetings with legislators on the state and federal level. Missouri’s Show-Me Arts student advocacy program gave me that chance to make those meetings happen.
However, it is more than an unexpected insight we leave with legislators. We also provide first hand observations into the importance of arts programs in our schools. Our presence in their offices puts a face on the issue of arts education. You have to remember, legislators spend their days with adults worried about infrastructure, healthcare, and taxes, all of which are legitimate concerns. However, the needs of high school students and their right to a well-rounded education are just as important as all those. As Ben Martin, Executive Director of the Missouri Alliance for Arts Education always told me, “They work for you!” So, we have just as much right to meet and express our sometimes surprising insights as anyone else.