Honoring their gifts

Published 9:32 pm Thursday, February 6, 2014

Creativity and enterprise are fast becoming victims to society’s increasing focus on standardized testing in schools.

While the number of Standards of Learning exams students must take — even the younger ones — seems to keep rising one year to the next, “Teach to the test” is a disappointingly familiar concept.

And it goes beyond the classroom. With the huge emphasis placed on at least meeting the bar of expectation, parents could be forgiven for curtailing any activities that aren’t preparing their children to sit in a room next to their peers and regurgitate.


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But by recognizing and honoring creative talent, the Southeastern District PTA Reflections contest is doing much to foster aspects of learning that are falling by the wayside.

This year, eight students from Suffolk’s public schools advanced to the state level of the contest, representing all five categories — photography, dance, film, music and literature — after the efforts of many more were highlighted at the school level.

Some of these students may also score well in their SOLs, and some might not. But for all of them, by demonstrating the ability to envision something and then create it, they are showing the world that they might have what it takes to become job creators, not mere job takers.

And not just job creators, but industry creators. And, perhaps for some of them, not just industry creators, but contributors to society in ways that only they can imagine.

Another common pursuit of youth other than academics gets much more recognition and money thrown at it than the arts: sports.

Indeed, sports also teach young people many valuable lessons that aren’t screened in standardized testing. Strategy, tenacity and teamwork are three.

But not all youth have the ability or inclination to pursue sports. They might take dance lessons, master a musical instrument, or write screenplays for their siblings and family pets, while not receiving the same recognition and encouragement as our football stars.

Young people often believe the emphasis is on them to conform to the expectations of our institutions, but in reality they are destined to build new institutions, take down some of the old ones, and reform many others to be more efficient and effective.

There’s a huge gulf between, for instance, creating a film about your sister’s ambitions of becoming a pilot — as Northern Shores Elementary School second-grader Isabella Tucker did — and creating an Academy Award-winning masterpiece.

But everyone has to start somewhere.