Schools should protect the power of the pen

High school provides an opportunity to explore your interests and discover what you’re passionate about. Whether you’re into theater, dance or art, there’s a place for everyone. Well, everyone except writers. Hey, you’ll always have English classes, but the creative writing class at NPHS was recently cancelled due to a lack of students. More specifically, only five students enrolled. The same amount as the music appreciation class at NP, and only three fewer than another. In a traditional academic class five students may not be sufficient. However, five people is ideal for an elective class like creative writing. In a specialized class like this, smaller class sizes allow for greater focus to be placed on each student.

I watched the Oscars recently, and was inspired, as always, by those given awards for best screenplay and best song. Imagine what would have happened if these artists had listened to the general consensus that writing isn’t a viable career. That they should just quit. Be more practical. Join chemistry club. Encouraging careers in science and math is wonderful. But on the other end of the spectrum, what is being sacrificed? Newbury Park may be home to great performing arts and academic programs, but writing is an area that is lacking.

The platforms for creative writing that are in place are few and far between, and had to be fought for tooth-and-nail to stay alive. They barely survive through grants and donations.Take the ekphrastic poetry contest, a school-wide contest associated with the art show. In the past, students had the opportunity to win first, second or third place in two categories: free verse or sonnets. The winners received cash prizes. Now, there are only three prizes available–they had to be donated by the PTA (and they’re not cash). It is so important for students to have a space to write outside of an assignment for class. The ability to just write, and express our ideas freely is a beautiful, radical idea, but we take it for granted. And now students are losing a space where they can do that. Creative writing should be considered a legitimate fixture at schools, not an expendable program that has to depend on charity.

Creative writing is an art. It may not be flashy like playing an instrument, singing, or acting, but that doesn’t mean it should be dismissed. Without great writers, what would the actors act in? What songs would the singers sing? Think about how many voices are being silenced without it. A book someone writes could become an anchor for someone in difficult times. It could make their life more colorful, give someone a new perspective, or make them feel less alone. It could even be your book!

We should never be discouraged from sharing these experiences. The world needs compassion and perspective just as much as it needs the quadratic equation–and young writers are the key to that. Think of your favorite movie or song. Or even poem or novel. This is the stuff that makes life worth living. How can we allow that spark to be extinguished? How can we refuse to foster it? These voices need to be heard.

 

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