It’s school budget time throughout the New River Valley, and whether it’s trying to raise teacher pay to the Virginia and U.S. averages to attract and retain the best instructors, or finding funds for renovations to match facilities with 21st-century students, teachers and instruction, there is, indeed, much to decide. One budget item that stands out brightly is the full-time theater teacher for Radford City Schools.
It is exciting to see that student interest in theater has created the need for a full-time instructor. Theater and the arts, of course, are vital components of the school curriculum.
There has been an increased emphasis on STEM instruction in education, which focuses on science, technology, engineering and math. There are also important initiatives to improve Career and Technical Education, an essential avenue for students to access instruction and skills required for the new economy. Some school divisions like Radford, however, have presciently added the arts to the equation, creating a STEAM curriculum.
Yes, students need to be prepared for the “brave new world” they face in a changing economy that will place an increased emphasis on developing technology, but it is also essential that students have a well-rounded education where subjects like English, history, music, civics, art, and yes, theater are also included.
Every student has gifts and interests they should have the chance to explore. Who knows—the next Denzel Washington or Meryl Streep may live right in Radford!
In addition to theater, Radford has discussed instituting humanities courses that would combine history, English and other subjects, with teachers team teaching. This is an excellent instructional concept that will help students see relationships between great literature and the events inspiring it, for example.
George Santayana once said, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” The recent separation of immigrant children from their parents, placing an identification number on their shoulders and housing them in caged areas spark connections with similar past events in Europe for many. Reading “Night” by Elie Wiesel as part of a humanities curriculum might be enlightening. The Great Depression and the Great Recession could be studied through the context of “The Grapes of Wrath.” There are numerous history-literature associations.
Yes, a humanities course is a great idea. So is exposure to art and music. If you are interested in seeing how history, art, literature, theater and probably a couple of other curricular areas come together, check out Radford University’s current offering of “The Tragedy of Macbeth.” See how a brave Scottish general receives a prophecy that one day he will become King of Scotland. Possessed by ambition and goaded to action by his wife, Macbeth—well, enough said—you don’t want to miss this classic tragedy!
Everyone recognizes the importance of making curriculum connections among NRV high schools, New River Community College and Radford University. By the way, congratulations to New River and Radford for signing an agreement where Radford will accept credits from NRCC so that students can seamlessly continue their education. In a similar manner, wouldn’t it be exciting to see Radford High School become a theater feeder program for RU?
In fact, the New River Valley has an outstanding theater tradition. After all, the story of Mary Draper Ingles’ trek from Shawnee captivity to finding her way back home across hundreds of miles of wilderness has been presented in different forms in Radford over the course of many decades.
Look for more information about this summer’s presentation, “Walk to Freedom: The Mary Draper Ingles Story,” in the coming weeks. However, be sure to set aside the performance dates for your family and out-of-town guests to see one of the most renowned outdoor performances in the Mid-Atlantic Region right here in the NRV on July 14, 27, 28 or August 4.
Oscar Wilde once said, “I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.”
Radford City Schools is certainly helping to promote that “greatest of all art forms” by providing more students with the opportunity to experience theater through the inclusion of a full-time teacher in the budget. In doing so, the division is recognizing that a balanced curriculum helps to create well-rounded, informed and critically-thinking citizens.
Steve Frey is a writer and CEO of Ascendant Educational Services based in Radford.