With the news of the latest budget cuts to the fall drama and other extra-curricular activities, I’ve returned to write on the subject of the first article I wrote for the The Herald over a decade ago: the future of the performing arts at New Paltz High School.
The multitude of extra-curricular activities I did in high school have had a profound effect on my life and my career. I am currently pursuing my Ph.D. in computer science, so at first glance, the number of plays I did may seem irrelevant. However, my time in the theatre proved to be quite useful. I study human-robot interaction, drawing inspiration from theatre, essentially trying to teach robots how to “act” better. One of the keys to my work has been my inter-disciplinary knowledge of both the theatrical and the computational, which is just continuing the education that started many years ago. (This is to say nothing of some of my best friends from high school who now pursue the performing arts as a career.) Keep in mind that I never took the dramatic presentation class; all of my theatrical education in high school came on the stage of Otto F. Grassel auditorium. The point is, you never know where these things will lead. Being a well-rounded student doesn’t just help you get into college, it helps you see things from new perspectives and helps you in surprising ways that you never would have expected.
Furthermore, there is inherent value in these extra-curricular activities, even if it doesn’t explicitly become relevant to one’s career. I have found theatre a welcome diversion from my academics, which reduces my stress and gives me the opportunity to create truly fun art with like-minded individuals, traits that are valuable regardless of education level. That is why to this day I still participate in “extra-curricular” activities, including directing and/or conducting four musicals at the med school here.
These cuts are indicative of the continuing decline of education as one of our national priorities. Perhaps we as “adults” cannot solve all of the problems facing the world right now, but unless we prioritize education, we will ensure that the next generation definitely can’t. I’m unable to point to something else that I would cut instead, but I would consider it extremely unfortunate if the next generation of students was not afforded the same experiences I had. My deepest gratitude goes out to those who keep the art drum beating in New Paltz. If the budget cannot support the fall drama, then I look to the community to support the arts, either with dollars or with time. I’ll be first in line to donate to a campaign through DonorsChoose or Kickstarter. The show must go on.
David Lu!!
St. Louis, MO
P.S. Let’s go Mets!